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Transmission of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 in Long Flight

September 19, 2020

Nguyen Cong Khanh1, Pham Quang Thai1, Ha-Linh Quach, Ngoc-Anh Hoang Thi, Phung Cong Dinh, Tran Nhu Duong, Le Thi Quynh Mai, Ngu Duy Nghia, Tran Anh Tu, La Ngoc Quang, Tran Dai Quang, Trong-Tai Nguyen, Florian Vogt2, and Dang Duc Anh2

Abstract

To assess the role of in-flight transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), we investigated a cluster of cases among passengers on a 10-hour commercial flight. Affected persons were passengers, crew, and their close contacts. We traced 217 passengers and crew to their final destinations and interviewed, tested, and quarantined them. Among the 16 persons in whom SARS-CoV-2 infection was detected, 12 (75%) were passengers seated in business class along with the only symptomatic person (attack rate 62%). Seating proximity was strongly associated with increased infection risk (risk ratio 7.3, 95% CI 1.2–46.2). We found no strong evidence supporting alternative transmission scenarios. In-flight transmission that probably originated from 1 symptomatic passenger caused a large cluster of cases during a long flight. Guidelines for preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection among air passengers should consider individual passengers’ risk for infection, the number of passengers traveling, and flight duration.

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/11/20-3299_article

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