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Flying and Coronavirus: Can you catch it during flights?

Are you putting yourself at an increased risk of catching the coronavirus if you go flying during the coronavirus outbreak? Is it safe to fly? Medical experts admit they don’t have the full knowledge of how the coronavirus spreads yet.

With the summer flying season around the corner, the coronavirus outbreak has created problems for airlines and passengers alike.

An airplane cabin is indeed a confined space with lots of passengers sharing breathing space and surfaces with extremely close proximity to one another.

Therefore, one big question on the minds of most passengers now is whether or not it is safe to go flying during the coronavirus outbreak.

flying and coronavirus, are flights safe
Flying and coronavirus. Photo: Pexels.

What medical experts know

According to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor,

  • It is unknown if the Coronavirus can be passed through the air.
    Generally, a safe distance from a virus patient is three to six feet away.
  • And, how long can a virus remain active on a surface? Research shows that other coronavirus types indicated the virus can survive a time frame between two hours to nine days!
flying and coronavirus, ABC News Medical Editor with David Muir
Screenshot: David Muir interviews Dr. Jennifer Ashton about the coronavirus on ABC News Tonight.

Is it safe to fly during the coronavirus outbreak?

The questions of whether to fly or not, or whether to avoid flights or not during the outbreak is a huge dilemma all around the world right now.

Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse is a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious disease specialist who has some tips to stay healthy when flying. Mayo Clinic/YouTube.

How airlines combat Coronavirus on a surface

Since the outbreak, many airlines are taking additional disinfectant measures to try to ensure a possible presence of the virus does not remain on cabin surfaces after a flight. Some airlines have specific measures in place for international flights only, such as United. 

Detailed attention is focused on areas such as air outlet surface areas, tray tables, and other areas.

Some international airlines, Asian airlines in particular also incorporate disinfectant fogging of surfaces as well as passengers disembarking the airplane after flights.

Here are Southwest Airlines Aircraft Cleaning Procedures. Video: Southwest/YouTube.

What if the Coronavirus can be spread through the air?

The possibility of the coronavirus being spread through the air is outright scary, considering the unknowns behind a combination of a flying and coronavirus scenario !

Again, in an airplane cabin, you are sitting in extremely close proximity to other people.

How does an airplane cabin air system work?

Cabin air enables us to breathe in a pressurized airplane cabin. The air is a recirculating air system.

Fresh air is produced and distributed to the cabin, initially produced by the engines. Once delivered to the cabin the air goes back into a filtering system in the air cycle machine before being redistributed throughout the cabin.

The recirculated air stays in the cabin for a few minutes before leaving the airplane to be replaced by fresh air again. 

So, if the Coronavirus can be passed through the air, how much risk are you exposing yourself to when flying?

How do we best protect ourselves from the coronavirus on an airplane?

Dr. Harald Dobloug, M.D. is a medical expert spokesperson for the newsmedia in Norway, a country hit hard by the coronavirus. He said,

  • Try to limit contact with other people as much as possible.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Frequently clean surfaces.

Interestingly, Dr. Dobloug did NOT recommend a mask for the following two reasons:

  1. Wearing a mask usually causes you to touch your face frequently to readjust the mask, increasing your chances of catching the virus from your hands.
  2. Wearing a mask for longer periods of time creates moisture build-up where the virus could possibly attach.
Airplane disease transmission research. National Science Foundation/YouTube.

So, what’s the answer, is it safe to fly during the coronavirus outbreak?

Not even the best medical experts appear to know the answer to a possible increase in the risk of contracting the virus if you fly. The coronavirus has added critical urgency to a solution to a possible health risk of flying.

For the airline business, the outbreak has already been devastating financially. We are all hoping for a return to normal again as soon as possible, without a situation where the virus not only has the potential to kill people but airlines as well!

Please send your comments here.

Featured Image: Airplane cabin. Pexels.

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