Infectious Patients on Flights May Raise Influenza Risk

Transmission on international flights clustered around symptomatic or infectious passenger

THURSDAY, June 16 (HealthDay News) -- Influenza-like illness (ILI) may be transmitted during a flight, with disease incidence being clustered closely around a passenger who was symptomatic or infectious during the flight, according to a study published online June 16 in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

A. Ruth Foxwell, Ph.D., from the Department of Health and Ageing in Canberra, Australia, and colleagues examined in-flight transmission of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 and ILI. Survey responses were collected from 319 passengers of two long-haul flights entering Australia during May 2009.

The investigators found that 2 percent of passengers had an ILI in-flight and 5 percent developed an ILI during the first week post-arrival. Passengers who sat in the same row or within two rows of individuals who were symptomatic preflight had a 3.6 percent increased risk of contracting pandemic (H1N1) 2009. The risk for post-flight disease increased to 7.7 percent in a closer exposed zone (two seats in front, two seats behind, and two seats on either side).

"Further research on transmission of ILI in aircraft and into the effects of exit screening at international airport hubs to restrict travel of passengers with symptoms before flying would be of particular interest for respiratory disease of greater severity than pandemic (H1N1) 2009," the authors write.

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