How to Avoid Coronavirus on Flights: Forget Masks, Says Top Airline Doctor

Bloomberg.com | 2/6/2020 | Kyunghee Park
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Forget face masks and rubber gloves. The best way to avoid the coronavirus is frequent hand washing, according to a medical adviser to the world’s airlines.

The virus can’t survive long on seats or armrests, so physical contact with another person carries the greatest risk of infection on a flight, said David Powell, a physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association. Masks and gloves do a better job of spreading bugs than stopping them, he said.

Concern - Mounts - Scale - Outbreak - Carriers

As concern mounts about the scale of the outbreak, carriers from United Airlines Holdings Inc. to Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. have scrapped thousands of flights to China. Here is an edited transcript from an interview with Powell. IATA represents about 290 airlines and more than 80% of global air traffic.

Q: Is there a risk of becoming contaminated with the virus on a plane?

Risk - Infection - Aircraft - Air - Supply

A: The risk of catching a serious viral infection on an aircraft is low. The air supply to a modern airliner is very different from a movie theater or an office building. The air is a combination of fresh air and recirculated air, about half each. The recirculated air goes through filters of the exact same type that we use in surgical operating theaters. That supplied air is guaranteed to be 99.97% (or better) free of viruses and other particles. So the risk, if there is one, does not come from the supplied air. It comes from other people.

Q: What are the chances of getting the virus by touching the seats, armrest or any of the objects on a plane?

Viruses - Microbes - Living - Surfaces - Just

A: Viruses and other microbes like to live on living surfaces like us. Just shaking hands with somebody will be a greater risk by far than some dry surface that has no biological material on it. The survival of viruses on surfaces...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Bloomberg.com
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