How dangerous are airplanes

How great is the risk of infection with corona on the plane?


The lockdown, which has now been tightened again, is likely to tempt many people to make travel plans. The following conclusions can be drawn for air traffic safety based on previous study results ...

The lockdown, which has now been tightened again, is likely to tempt many people to forge travel plans in order to be able to bridge the current period of deprivation at least with anticipation of a nice future vacation as soon as travel should be possible again. But how dangerous is traveling by plane in times of Corona? Virologists from the University Hospital Frankfurt questioned and tested travelers on a passenger plane (see JAMA Network Open, published online 8/18/20), which flew with 102 passengers on board from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt (flight time: 4 hours and 40 minutes) at the beginning of March 2020, when there were no special safety precautions to protect against transmission, such as wearing a mouth-nose Protection. 24 people belonged to a tour group who had risk contact before departure (with a hotel employee in Israel who later fell ill with Covid-19). After arriving in Frankfurt, 7 members of this travel group tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, so they were already infected at the time of the flight. In addition, a SARS-CoV-2 infection was found in two other passengers who did not belong to the travel group, for whom the causal infection on the plane is considered very likely.

Air filter system can reduce transmission, but not completely prevent it

Based on these study results, the following conclusions can be drawn for air traffic safety. “With regard to 7 infected initial patients, the observed number of virus transmissions was lower than assumed with only two people. This indicates that the air filter systems in the aircraft reduce virus transmissions, but cannot completely prevent them, ”explains Prof. Adrian Gillissen, Deputy Chairman of the German Lung Foundation and Director of the Department of Internal Medicine and Pneumology-Pneumology
Respiratory and pulmonary medicine (pulmonology) is a branch of internal medicine that deals with the prevention, detection and specialist treatment of diseases of the lungs, bronchi, mediastinum (middle skin) and pleura (pleura and lung).
from the Ermstalklinik Reutlingen-Bad Urach. “The 7 infected people in the tour group sat in one of the last rows of seats. The two additionally infected people sat in their immediate vicinity - in the same row as the SARS-CoV-2 positives, but on the other side of the aisle. This shows that transmission in the immediate vicinity of the infected is most likely. "

Mouth and nose protection is also strongly recommended on the plane

Air conditioning systems in the aircraft ensure that fresh air flows from openings in the ceiling and from front to back. “If the tour group with the infected had been sitting further ahead, there might have been more infections. From previous SARS epidemics (with SARS-CoV-1 viruses) it is known that airborne pathogens can lead to infections in aircraft even beyond the usual two-row safety distance, since the range of aerosols is greater than that of Droplet. Therefore, additional protective measures - such as wearing mouth and nose protection - are urgently recommended. A current negative corona test or wearing a higher quality mask (e.g. FFP2) would be options for further minimizing the risk of infection, ”emphasizes Prof. Gillissen. The preventive influence of ventilation systems in the various types of aircraft, vacant seats or modifications to the boarding and alighting procedures was not investigated in the study.
Author: äin-red

This is a press release from the Deutsche Lungenstiftung e.V. This press release or parts of the article can be printed under the following source: In the case of publication in online media, this source is required (in the form of an active link either to the home page or to a subpage of the Pulmonary Doctors-on-the-Net website); in the case of publication in print media, a reference to this web address is also required.