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How to Handle Air Travel During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Worried about air travel amid the current epidemic? Wash your hands.

Health experts say the best protections you can undertake are the same prescribed for avoiding flu, common cold and other viruses: washing hands frequently and using hand sanitizers.

Though much of the focus of the novel coronavirus outside of China has been on travelers, riding on airplanes doesnt expose you to any greater risk than other situations where you are in close contact with possibly sick people: subways, movie theaters, lines at the grocery store.

But flying does put you in close contact with people, and studies have shown that travelers have a higher risk for getting sick. One study pegged the increased risk of catching the common cold at 20% if youre on a plane.

Research in 2009 tracing H1N1 flu transmission on a flight found that 2% of passengers had the disease during the flight and 5% came down with the disease within a week after landing. Coach passengers were at a 3.6% increased risk of contracting H1N1 if they sat within two rows of someone who had symptoms in-flight. That increased risk for post-flight disease doubled to 7.7% for passengers seated within a two-seat hot zone in any direction.

Another study modeling risk between economy class and first class concluded with the obvious: the chances of exposure are lessened if there are fewer people around you. If a flight is full, there would be less chance of getting infected in first class compared with coach. But the odds could be flipped if first class is full and economy class isnt.

Coronavirus is a respiratory virus that is thought to be transmitted through tiny droplets excreted by coughing and sneezing. Research on other viruses has shown that on an airplane, you are at risk if you are within two or three rows of an infected personbasically the distance a droplet might travel.

Air on airplanes is generally isolated to specific zones. In addition, most aircraft flying today pass recirculated air through a series of filters 20 to 30 times an hour. The filters used, called High-Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filters, are hospital-operating-room grade and capable of removing 99.9% of particulate such as bacteria, fungi, larger viruses and virus clumps, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The cabin air environment is not conducive to the spread of most infectious diseases, the CDC says in a briefing on air travel.

The World Health Organization says its general recommendations for travelers apply to coronavirus:

* Frequently clean your hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

* When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue, throw that tissue away immediately and wash hands.

* Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough.

* If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health-care provider.


(Source: Wall Street journal, cankaoxiaoxi)

(Translated & edited by yaning)

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