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Coronavirus: Best Seat On My Flight?

Posted on | February 5, 2020 | 4 Comments

Mike Magee

Flights of US air carriers Delta, American and United to China have been cancelled until further notice, and travelers who have been in China within the past 2 weeks have had their entry into the US curtailed. But for the rest of us who are going to fly, what’s the the best spot to seat yourself?

Let’s put this specific virus aside for a moment, and share a few facts:

There are now more than 3 billion airline passengers a year worldwide, and spread of communicable diseases has been well-scrutinized including specific studies of SARS and H1N1 Influenza. Those studies revealed that coach-cabin passengers were at a 3.6% to 7.7% increased risk of contracting the virus if they sat within two seats of someone actively infected. Sitting in the first class lowers the risk, but only slightly.

Since these viruses are transmitted through the air primarily in droplets, or through touching contaminated surfaces, confined locations – whether crowded restaurants, subways, theaters, grocery store lines – all represent an increased risk. But one thing to note: Viruses prefer low humidity, and when you fly at 30,000 feet, you’re in a low humidity environment.

Most air travelers perceive the risk to be greter than it actually is because of misperceptions regarding air circulation. Modern planes utilize High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, and compartmentalize their air return delivery system. That means that air collected in your immediate vicinity, after collection and filtration, is distributed back to your section. Translation, you are not continuously exposed to the germs of all the passengers. And your regional air is filtered 30 times per hour, removing 99+% of bacteria, fungi, larger viruses, and virus clumps.

So if you do decide to fly, what preventive steps make sense?

1.General: Clean hands, cover mouth when you cough or sneeze, avoid close contact with large groups. (Note: one study found that part of the risk of flying was in the queuing for boarding and disembarking; and after the doors have been secured but the ventilation system has not yet been turned on.) Facial masks are not currently recommended.

2. Limit movement: As much as possible, limiting movement limits exposures. Studies show that window seats are safer than aisle seats primarily because only 40% of window sitters get up from their seat during flight while 80% of aisle sitters are up and about. On the average flight of 3 to 4 hour flight, ½ of passengers never use the lavatory, and 40% use it once.

3. Your seat: Keep your hands clean and hydrate. Avoid seat back pockets that have stored tissues and who knows what else. If you are going to use your tray table, clean it with a disinfectant. Open your air vent fully and direct the flow to hit in front of your face. This creates air stream away from you.

4. Travel advisories: Check WHO and CDC sites for travel updates

5. Novel Coronavirus cases are fast approaching 25,000 with approximately 500 deaths or a case fatality rate of approximately 2%. Compare that with the 2003 figures for 8422 cases of  SARS and a case fatality rate of around 10%, and you can see why we’re not yet in a full blown panic.

6. Diagnosis and Treatment: Below is the best advice on surveillance and diagnosis from JAMA today adapted from the CDC. As for treatment, their is no vaccine as yet, and the effectiveness of anti-virals is as yet unknown but is being actively studied.

Comments

4 Responses to “Coronavirus: Best Seat On My Flight?”

  1. adish zacharia
    February 6th, 2020 @ 5:10 am

    Thanks for sharing very nice blog

  2. Bloomington Chiropractic
    February 9th, 2020 @ 7:47 am

    Nice article. I like your tips for preventive measures as these are overlooked by many. Thanks

  3. ZenOnco Healing Center
    February 10th, 2020 @ 2:46 am

    Hello Sir, Your blog was very good, we got to know a lot from it. This is useful information.
    Thanku.

  4. Mike Magee
    February 12th, 2020 @ 9:42 am

    Many thanks!

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