Infection risk on airplanes is probably higher now than it was earlier in the pandemic, according to MIT researcher Dr. Arnold Barnett. Travelers run a considerably greater danger because to the contagiousness and immunity evasion of the BA.5 subtype. Federal mask regulations on airplanes are no longer required, although wearing one, according to experts, can provide protection. According to a study published on July 2 in Health Care Management Science suggests. , there was a one in 1000 chance that passengers on a full 2-hour flight in January 2021 will catch COVID-19.
Modeling the risk of contracting COVID-19 at various passenger capacities during the study time period required researchers from MIT to use infection rates for COVID-19 from June 2020 to February 2021 along with information on the virus’s airborne dissemination. According to the study, the peak risk period for travelers to contract COVID-19 while traveling occurred between December 2020 and January 2021.
Dr. Arnold Barnett, a coauthor of the study, told Insider that the lack of mask regulations and fuller flights are likely to be contributing factors in the current “considerably greater” infection risk on US airplanes.
Studies demonstrate that seat proximity matters. According to Hilary Brueck and Natalie Musumeci of Insider, the Omicron subvariant BA.5 is the predominant COVID strain in the US and that a large percentage of new cases are reinfections.
According to the The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, , people are more likely to contract COVID-19 in enclosed interior environments, particularly if there is inadequate air filtering or no use of masks. However, a 2020 report from the Harvard School of Public Health. states that commercial aircraft, such the Boeing 737 or Airbus 320 utilized in this study, are outfitted with High Efficiency Particle Air (HEPA) filters, which reduce the danger of transmission.
If one individual on board was contagious, a study from the US Department of Defense published in October 2020 revealed that a combination of masks and HEPA filters on commercial flights maintained the danger of spread through aerosols at a minimum. However, this study didn’t examine droplet transfer and utilized mannequins that couldn’t speak or move.
When the mask mandate was still in place, a tiny research monitored 217 passengers on a 10-hour commercial flight, and it revealed 16 persons tested positive in the days after their arrival. The study was published in November 2020 in Emerging Infectious Diseases . According to the assessment, seat proximity scored an large indicator of transmission risk. .
THE RISK OF INFECTION IS NOW CERTAINLY HIGHER According to MIT researchers, while the chance of infection decreased to 1 in 6000 on half-full flights in the summer of 2020, it increased to 1 in 1000 on full flights between December 2020 and January 2021.
According to Barnett, the risk of infection is higher now than it was in the study because of the contagiousness of the BA.5 strain, the lack of requirements for masks on public transportation, and the fact that airlines are currently much more crowded than they were in 2020.
According to him, the risk is probably even higher for travelers on longer journeys or those who have many connecting flights. According to Barnett, taking buses and trains may carry a higher risk due to the fact that passengers frequently have longer exposure times and less air filtration.
He claimed that he frequently takes flights while wearing a N95 mask and makes an effort to remain a safe distance from other passengers.
You should still wear a mask when flying, according to experts. The federal mask law that was in effect as of April 2022 is no longer enforced by the Transportation Security Administration .
The CDC and other public health authorities continue to advise using a mask when flying, nonetheless. According to an earlier Insider interview with Gigi Gronvall, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an epidemiologist, airplane HEPA filters don’t always run while you’re getting on or off the plane and don’t always shield you from exposure.