Patients without symptoms of the coronavirus can transmit COVID-19 to other people during air travel. This is according to a new study. South Korean medical experts worked on the study, which was based on a flight from Milan, Italy, to Seoul, South Korea, at the end of March this year.
All 310 passengers were thoroughly inspected before the flight, of which 11 passengers with symptoms were not allowed on board. Each passenger was given an N95 face mask, while aircrews took strict precautions to prevent COVID-19, which was monitored by the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
When the plane arrived in Seoul, the 299 passengers on board were transferred to quarantine by the government for two weeks and tested COVID-19 several times. Six of the passengers were diagnosed with COVID-19 before the start of the quarantine, and at the end of the quarantine, one of the passengers was confirmed to have coronavirus, which had previously tested negative.
The passenger was sitting three lines ahead of the asymptomatic patients and was wearing an N95 mask throughout the flight. The same toilet was used by asymptomatic patients during the flight. Due to strict precautionary measures and quarantine after the flight, the researchers concluded that the deadly virus was transmitted to the woman during the flight.
To confirm the result, a study conducted on the second flight found a similar result, in which three asymptomatic patients possibly infected another passenger with COVID-19. The study did not elaborate on why and how the virus was transmitted because the aircraft would have been fitted with filters for particles, making it difficult to transmit coronavirus through the air.
According to the researchers, it is more likely that only one passenger was affected during the flight, while all the passengers were wearing N95 masks, which protected them. They said the virus may have been transmitted during the boarding through touching contaminated surfaces.
Scientists say adapting more safety measures during and after the flight could further reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 being transmitted during the flight. Airlines are taking a number of steps to protect passengers from coronavirus diseases, such as the mandatory use of face masks and the provision of hand sanitizers.
The study suggests that there is room for improvement, especially for asymptomatic patients who may contaminate the surface of various objects during the flight. It is important to use face masks at all times in flight. The scientists involved in this study have given three suggestions to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease during the flight.
- Number one, a face mask should be used all time onboarding and during the flight.
- Number two, ensure to clean hands.
- Number three, Strict adherence should be taken to ensure social distance.