Worried about getting sick on your next holiday or work trip? Know this: It matters where you sit.
You’re fine and healthy when you got on the plane, only to catch a bug during the flight. Not to mention, travelling during a pandemic can be risky too.
In order to lessen your risk of getting sick or exposed by Covid, according to a new study reported by The New York Times, a lot depends on who’s sitting in your row, and the rows in front of and behind you.
How virus transmission works
So, in case you didn’t know, here’s how flu works – it’s transmitted by small respiratory droplets that go aerosol when someone ill sneezes, coughs or talks. The droplets go about three to four metres, and can be picked up from something the flu-riddled person had touched as well.
Similarly, Covid-19 is spread through close contact from person to person, about 6 feet apart. However, Covid-19 spreads quicker and easier than regular influenza.
According to the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers recorded the movements of 1,540 passengers and 41 crew members. They found that 38 percent of people never left their seats and 38 percent got up just once. Only 43 percent of people sitting by the window seat got up, but 62 percent of middle seat occupants and 80 percent of those on the aisle got up at least once.
Sounds about right, but what does this mean? Using the data they collected, and estimating one metre or 6 feet as the distance required for direct transmission of the flu virus, the researchers constructed 1,000 simulated flights based on two scenarios: If a person in an aisle seat in the middle of the plane had the flu, and if the flight had an infected cabin crew.
The result? The 14 people closest to the fellow in the middle of the plane have the highest likelihood of being affected. Folks sitting on aisle seats also are more at risk. But, then the risk shrinks quickly beyond that.
And, exactly how dirty are planes after a flight? The researchers found – based on samples from airplane surfaces before and after passengers boarded – that of the 229 samples collected, not a single one showed any evidence of the 18 common respiratory viruses, which means they’re usually pretty clean.
How to prevent the spread of a disease
Those who have yet to get a Covid-19 vaccine are recommended to keep travelling, especially international travel, to a minimum. Always consult the travel restrictions and laws of your country and others before deciding to travel.
If you are travelling, make sure to wear masks at all time during travel. Don’t forget to regularly wash your hands or use sanitiser. Try to not touch your face as this will also transmit bacteria and virus. Tip: bring extra masks for longer flights.
Some text adapted from www.menshealth.com.sg