Inflight transmission of COVID-19 based on experimental aerosol dispersion data.

An issue of concern to the travelling public is the possibility of in-flight transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) during long- and short-haul flights. The aviation industry maintains that the probability of contracting the illness is small based on reported cases, modelling and data from aerosol dispersion experiments conducted on-board aircraft.
Using experimentally derived aerosol dispersion data for a B777-200 aircraft and a modified version of the Wells-Riley equation we estimate inflight infection probability for a range of scenarios involving quanta generation rate and face mask efficiency. Quanta generation rates were selected based on COVID-19 events reported in the literature while mask efficiency was determined from the aerosol dispersion experiments.
The MID-AFT cabin exhibits the highest infection probability. The calculated maximum individual infection probability (without masks) for a 2-hour flight in this section varies from 4.5% for the 'Mild Scenario' to 60.2% for the 'Severe Scenario' although the corresponding average infection probability varies from 0.1% to 2.5%. For a 12-hour flight, the corresponding maximum individual infection probability varies from 24.1% to 99.6% and the average infection probability varies from 0.8% to 10.8%. If all passengers wear face masks throughout the 12-hour flight, the average infection probability can be reduced by ~73%/32% for high/low efficiency masks. If face masks are worn by all passengers except during a one-hour meal service, the average infection probability is increased by 59%/8% compared to the situation where the mask is not removed.
This analysis has demonstrated that while there is a significant reduction in aerosol concentration due to the nature of the cabin ventilation and filtration system, this does not necessarily mean that there is a low probability or risk of in-flight infection. However, mask wearing, particularly high-efficiency ones, significantly reduces this risk.
AuthorsZhaozhi Wang, Edwin R Galea, Angus Grandison, John Ewer, Fuchen Jia
JournalJournal of travel medicine (J Travel Med) Vol. 28 Issue 4 (Jun 01 2021) ISSN: 1708-8305 [Electronic] England
PMID33615383 (Publication Type: Journal Article)
Copyright© International Society of Travel Medicine 2021. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: [email protected].
Chemical References
  • Aerosols
  • Aerosols
  • Aircraft
  • COVID-19 (transmission)
  • Humans
  • Masks

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