A study of a flight of 290 passengers found someone wearing a facemask all but for eating and drinking still contracted COVID-19 from one of six asymptomatic passengers on the flight.
The findings of a South Korean study, published by the CDC, identify possible dangers of air travel and the ease of transmission, Business Insider reported.
The study of the evacuation flight from Milan, Italy, to Seoul, South Korea, was done in March by Dr. Sung Hwan Bae.
In the research done under strict controls:
- 310 were scheduled to fly, but 11 showed symptoms and did not board.
- Each passenger was given an N95 mask.
- Staff followed strict protocols.
- 299 passengers and staff from the flight were quarantined in Seoul for two weeks after the flight and then regularly tested.
Six asymptomatic passengers tested positive at the start of quarantine. By the end of the quarantine, one who had tested negative ultimately tested positive.
The passenger sat three rows ahead of the asymptomatic carriers and wore her mask throughout the flight except to eat and drink or use the restroom. The carriers used that same restroom, according to the report.
The conclusion of the researchers was she contracted the virus from the asymptomatic passengers on the flight.
"Further attention is warranted to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 on aircraft," the researchers wrote, per BI. "Our results suggest that stringent global regulations for the prevention of COVID-19 transmission on aircraft can prevent public health emergencies."
The study did find it surprising COVID-19 was spread to just one passenger, pointing to the effectiveness of facemasks, disinfecting surfaces, social distancing, and washing hands.
"First, masks should be worn during the flight," according to the study researchers. "Second, because contact with contaminated surfaces increases the risk for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among passengers, hand hygiene is necessary to prevent infections. Third, physical distance should be maintained before boarding and after disembarking from the aircraft."
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