US study shows low risk of contracting COVID-19 while flying

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(NEXSTAR/WHNT) — As the battle against COVID-19 continues, many people are still wondering whether or not it’s safe to again visit the airport and travel by plane.

United Airlines and the Department of Defense tested the overall exposure risk from pathogens that travel by air, including COVID-19, according to the United States Transportation Command.

According to the test, the chances of catching the virus while traveling by plane are low.

The testing, which spanned eight days, was done both on in-flight and grounded Boeing 777-200 and 767-300 airplanes.

Mannequins with and without face masks were placed in seats throughout the plane.

Fluorescent tracer particles were released in two-second intervals to simulate breathing for a minute.

The USTRANSCOM says the test showed that the released aerosol was quickly diluted.

“While the tests did have some limitations, specifically it only considered a single infected passenger and did not attempt to gather data reflecting passenger movement about the cabin, the results are encouraging,” Cmdr. Joe Pope, USTRANSCOM operations directorate liaison for the testing, said in a statement.

Airborne particles were detectable within the cabin for an average of under six minutes, the study showed.

“For both the 777 and 767 airframes, the calculations show about 54 flight hours are required for cumulative inhalation of an assumed infectious dose,” Pope said.

Researchers compared that to a home where they say it takes around 90 minutes to clear the same types of particles from the air.

“This data will help us develop strategies for cabin loading and seating configurations to mitigate potential risk of person-to-person transmission of the aerosol particles,” Pope said.

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