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Flying might just be safer than grocery shopping, finds Harvard study

Flying might just be safer than grocery shopping, finds Harvard study

Flying might just be safer than grocery shopping, finds Harvard study
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By CNBCTV18.COM  Oct 29, 2020 7:06:59 PM IST (Updated)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also noted that "most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on the planes."

As unlocking the economy gathers pace, flying domestically is picking up. Now, a Harvard University study has come as an assurance to those who are about to start travelling.

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The study has found that specialized onboard ventilation systems filter out 99 percent airborne viruses. The researchers found that even though the air is recirculated back into the cabin, it goes through high-quality air filters, making it safer to breathe. Moreover, the downward direction of airflow prevents the virus from droplets from one passenger to affect another.
The study used computer models to review the airflow in the airliner cabins. Even though the study was funded by airlines, airline manufacturers, and airports, Harvard researches insisted on its objectivity.
The air inside the flight is clean due to the following reasons:
  1. The air flows in a downward direction, and it is sucked from the bottom of the floor,
  2. Air filtered using HEPA filters, which has proven to show a high level of filtration and efficiency.
  3. Air is recycled every 2-3 minutes. Moreover, the air is a combination of outside and recycled air. Outside air is contamination-free, and recycled air is filtered.
  4. This effective ventilation system is further complemented by everyone on board wearing masks. According to researchers, a mask formed a critical part of keeping travelers healthy and credited the role of disinfection and passengers' self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms.
    Various studies from around the world have proven masks to be effective against further transmission of coronavirus.
    A study by the US Department of Defense supports the Harvard conclusions. According to its research, the ventilation systems on aircraft are effective enough to filter the air and eliminate the particles that can transmit the virus.
    However, this study did not consider other ways people could catch the virus, like someone coughing or breathing directly on them, especially in confined spaces such as restrooms.
    The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also noted that "most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on the planes."
    However, it also added that the lack of social distancing for prolonged periods might increase passengers' risk of catching the virus.
    Can it go wrong?
    On the other hand, Irish found through contract tracing techniques found 13 cases linked to a single passenger on a seven-hour international flight.
    In that case, the passengers were all wearing masks and sitting with a gap of five seats between them.
    Researchers attributed the reason for this spread to the passengers who were infected before they boarded the flights. One of the passengers in that flight had contracted the virus from a family member, while two others spent multi-hour layovers in the airport lounges.
    In another case, a woman had removed mask only during her time in the restroom, and she was later tested positive.
    To avoid such cases, Harvard University suggested the travelers minimize the time they spend without wearing masks. At the same time, they are focusing their attention on the parts of the travel experience where there is no ventilation system, such as airport lounges and security lines.
    Airports are looking at measures to avoid transmission through these touchpoints as well. There is an increased focus on sanitizing the aircraft after every trip and then again at the end of the day.
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