In its investigation, the U.S. Infectious Diseases Agency (CDC) has found nearly 11,000 people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus on flights, the Washington Post reported. The assessment was reached when the CDC investigated the case of 1,600 potentially infectious plaintiffs on flights.
According to the agency, some of these 11,000 passengers have since become ill, but due to incomplete monitoring data and a virus that sprouts over several days, it has not been able to confirm that there have been infections on the plane.
– The absence of reported and identified cases is not evidence of the absence of cases, CDC spokesman Caitlin Shockey commented to WP.
The authorities have thus become aware of cases in which exposure on board and subsequent illness have occurred, but are unable to prove scientifically and fully that the infection occurred specifically during the flight. There are problems with the flow of information, the collection and testing of personal information.
According to experts, most viruses and bacteria do not spread easily on airplanes due to their conditioning. Admittedly, the CDC also notes that keeping social distance on machines is difficult.
– Sitting for a few meters from another person for hours may increase the risk of COVID-19 infection.
The study is not complete, as there is no information on how many of the carriers have flown.
The Washington Post has requested data from a total of nearly one hundred state and larger local health agencies, and most of them were unable to provide any estimates of documented coronavirus cases related to air travel. Some don’t even try to collect that kind of data. Six agencies said they detected a total of more than 500 cases. Also, not all of the locally identified cases ended up with the CDC.
Airlines of America, a U.S. airline advocacy association, communicated to WP through its spokesperson that there are still no documented infections on flights and that flying is safe in their view.
A business traveler infected at least a dozen
However, studies in other parts of the world have shown that the coronavirus can also be transmitted in a machine. The CDC’s own peer-reviewed publication, Emerging Infectious Diseases, has a recently published study in Vietnam, according to which at least 12 people became infected from one carrier on a ten – hour flight.
The flight, which departed from London to Hanoi on 1 March, had 201 passengers, including one business passenger with a coronavirus. In the previous two weeks, he and his sister had traveled twice from London to Milan, Italy, the European center for coronavirus infections at the time. From Milan, the siblings still attended Paris Fashion Weeks before returning to London.
The day before the flight to Hanoi, that 27-year-old woman started with a sore throat and cough. However, he worked normally and went on a flight. At that time, the world was only gradually waking up to the coronary situation, but in Vietnam, body temperature was taken from all passengers from the Korona areas and required to report possible coronary symptoms.
When she got home, the woman isolated herself in her private home and was in close contact only with her household staff. Three days later, he was admitted to the hospital, where a positive sample was taken. A couple of days later, three people in her home also fell ill, as did one of the contacts she met in London the day before she left. Her sister had also been diagnosed with coronary infection.
By March 10, the Vietnamese authorities had reached all 16 cabin crew members and 84 percent, or 168 passengers. They were interviewed and quarantined. Their close contacts were also told to isolate themselves.
All were corona-sampled as soon as they were reached, a new sample after 3–5 days, and a third after 13 days, if they had no symptoms by then. Symptoms such as fever were asked twice a day.
There were a total of 21 passengers in the business class, one of whom was a woman wearing a crown. The majority became infected. Eight survived without infection and 12 became ill. In addition, two passengers sitting in economy class and one cabin crew fell ill.
According to the researchers, all 12 people in the business class were likely to get it on the fly, as no strong evidence of other exposures was found. Eight of this group traveled as a couple. Three of the pairs, or a total of six people, received a positive test result at the same time, i.e., six days after arrival in Vietnam.
The researchers state that they cannot completely rule out alternative routes of infection. The situation at the time, however, was that there were only 23 confirmed infections in Britain on the day of departure of the flight and the 27-year-old woman who was on the flight was the only one with symptoms and had been in close contact with the sick person, this sister. Infections from Vietnam are also considered unlikely by researchers, as on March 1, 16 infections had been reported in the country and 17 days had passed since the previous positive test result. More than 10,000 people who came to the country from abroad were in preventive quarantine.
The business and tourist classes are practically separated on Vietnam Airlines’ planes, ie passengers should not have contact between the classes. Researchers suspect possible close contact before boarding the plane or at the luggage strap as the cause of the infection in economy class.