The odds of catching Covid-19 on an airplane are slimmer than you think, scientists say. Sitting squeezed between a number of strangers on board an aircraft might feel like a risky position during these uncertain times. However, some experts point to the very few documented cases of in-flight transmission, all to say that the chances of catching Covid-19 while on board a flight are actually relatively slim. In fact, the chances of catching coronavirus on a flight are less than a lightning strike, says the IATA. Specifically, “Extremely unlikely,” according to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense in collaboration with United Airlines.
Contracting COVID-19 onboard appears very low, says medical advisors
Research published by IATA said that between January and July this year, there have been just 44 cases where coronavirus is thought to have been transmitted during a flight. This number includes confirmed, probable and potential cases.
At the same time, the industry association said that 1.2 billion passengers have travelled by air, representing a one in 27 million probability of catching Covid-19 on a flight – significantly less than the chances of being struck by lightning, which is around one in 500,000 according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr David Powell, IATA’s medical advisor, said: “The risk of a passenger contracting Covid-19 while onboard appears very low. With only 44 identified potential cases of flight-related transmission among 1.2 billion travelers, that’s one case for every 27 million travelers.
“We recognize that this may be an underestimate but even if 90 per cent of the cases were un-reported, it would be one case for every 2.7 million travelers. These figures are extremely reassuring. Furthermore, the vast majority of published cases occurred before the wearing of face coverings inflight became widespread.”
The airline industry adapts to protect its staff and customers
IATA maintains that there are multiple safety barriers against coronavirus on a flight, including high air flow exchange rates and the use of “hospital-grade HEPA filters” that are “less conducive to droplet spread than other indoor environments, or modes of transport.”
Added to this is the fact that the seats provide a solid barrier while passengers are facing forward, which limits face-to-face interactions. It said that these effects are also enhanced by the wearing of masks on board. Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said: “There is no single silver-bullet measure that will enable us to live and travel safely in the age of Covid-19; although, the combination of measures that are being put in place is reassuring travelers the world over that Covid-19 has not defeated their freedom to fly.”
Nothing is completely risk-free. But with just 44 published cases of potential inflight Covid-19 transmission among 1.2 billion travellers, the risk of contracting the virus on board appears to be in the same category as being struck by lightning.”
This article originally appeared on Independent.co.uk here.