Behaviors, movements, and transmission of droplet-mediated respiratory diseases during transcontinental airline flights – (PNAS)

With over 3 billion airline passengers annually, the inflight transmission of infectious diseases is an important global health concern. Over a dozen cases of inflight transmission of serious infections have been documented, and air travel can serve as a conduit for the rapid spread of newly emerging infections and pandemics. Despite sensational media stories, risks of transmission of respiratory viruses in an airplane cabin are unknown. Movements of passengers and crew may facilitate disease transmission. On 10 transcontinental US flights, we chronicled behaviors and movements of individuals in the economy cabin on single-aisle aircraft. We simulated transmission during flight based on these data. This data-driven, dynamic network transmission model of droplet-mediated respiratory disease is unique. With over 3 billion airline passengers annually, the inflight transmission of infectious diseases is an important global health concern. Over a dozen cases of inflight transmission of serious infections have been documented, and air travel can serve as a conduit for the rapid spread of newly emerging infections and pandemics. Despite sensational media stories and anecdotes, the risks of transmission of respiratory viruses in an airplane cabin are unknown. Movements of passengers and crew may facilitate disease transmission. On 10 transcontinental US flights, we chronicled behaviors and movements of individuals in the economy cabin on single-aisle aircraft. We simulated transmission during flight based on these data. Our results indicate there is low probability of direct transmission to passengers not seated in close proximity to an infectious passenger. This data-driven, dynamic network transmission model of droplet-mediated respiratory disease is unique. To measure the true pathogen burden, our team collected 229 environmental samples during the flights. Although eight flights were during Influenza season, all qPCR assays for 18 common respiratory viruses were negative.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/03/13/1711611115

About Robert Zinn

Robert Zinn, M.D., Ph.D. is a medical doctor, physician, and web entrepreneur, who, for over 15 years was employed by academic and research institutions and focused his clinical practices on very specialized patient populations, such as those with rare genetic diseases or rare cancers. He shares his knowledge through his website, NutritionTheory.org

View all posts by Robert Zinn →