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I recently flew through LAX and was one of many people who put on a facemask. I realize that this only reduces my chances of contracting any disease somewhat, but any reduction is beneficial in my mind.
What we currently know about coronavirus is limited, but we do know that it is far more severe ( estimated 30 times ) than the flu which has already claimed over 8200 peoples’ lives, just in the US. Some experts fear that 100k-350k people may be infected with the coronavirus in the Wuhan area alone.
While nothing is definitive at this moment, it’s not only contractable by inhaling a droplet dispersed by the infected, but also by that droplet landing on you, or landing on something that you ultimately touch, which is why I also carry antibacterial gel and wipes. You really should be wiping down your tray table, window, armrest, etc anyways, but that’s even more important now.
So, whether you take the following information as a means to reducing your chances of contracting the flu, a cold, coronavirus, or any transmittable disease, I found a National Geographic article that highlighted research on plane transmission of disease.
It’s fascinating, and also refutes claims by the WHO that say it’s only contractable by people sitting within 2 rows of the infected.
Windows are best
I don’t have means by which to reproduce their images ( they’re copyrighted), but if you go to this link, you’ll find they’ve created an example of an infected patient sitting in the exact middle of the plane.
Passengers within a couple of rows are most likely to contract the disease, along with the flight attendant, as they are in “direct” contact, or within 6 feet of that individual. The further away you move, the lower the odds get.
The biggest variable is the non-static nature of passengers. They move, stretch, etc and in order to calculate odds, you need to understand how much exposure each passenger may have to the diseased individual. Fascinating stuff.
Middle and Aisle seats are in close contact up to 50 or 60 times during a flight
The first two seats in a row are within a meter to the aisle, meaning, if that sick individual gets up and goes to the bathroom, voila – you’re in contact.
The article references data that indicated those seated in window seats only come into contact with other passengers 12 times during a flight; whereas those in a middle or aisle are racking up 50 to 60 points of contact.
Another piece of information that was eye opening is that a single sick flight attendant can infect 4.6 people per flight. I didn’t see what flight time they were using as an assumption, but I’d guess it isn’t a 15 hour flight from China – you could could probably increase those numbers for ultra long haul flights.
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