The Shocking Place You're Less Likely to Get Coronavirus, CDC Says

If you need to travel amid the pandemic, one method is safer than you think.

Coronavirus has decimated the travel industry, with the U.S. Travel Association reporting industry losses to the tune of $505 billion. And while avoiding enclosed spaces filled to the brim with strangers may seem like a smart strategy for reducing your coronavirus risk, there's one place you may be less likely to contract the virus than you think: an airplane.

In a July 27 call with members of the media, Allison Taylor Walker, PhD, of the Travelers' Health branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that the specific conditions on airplanes aren't conducive to viral spread. "Most viruses don't spread easily on flights because of how air circulates," Walker explained.

man wears a medical mask and wipes his hands with disinfectant

That doesn't mean catching coronavirus aboard a flight is impossible, however. Since social distancing may be difficult on airplanes, and there are numerous shared surfaces that could potentially become contaminated, taking adequate in-flight precautions is essential to keep everyone aboard safe. This includes wearing a face mask for the duration of your flight; disinfecting high-touch surfaces, like tray tables and armrests, with an EPA-approved disinfectant; and using hand sanitizer made with 60 percent alcohol before and after eating, after coming in contact with other people, and after touching shared surfaces you haven't disinfected.

So, just how unlikely is it that you'll catch coronavirus on your next flight? According to a July paper from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the chances you'll contract COVID-19 on a plane in which every coach seat is filled are approximately 1 in 4,300. However, there's an easy way to dramatically reduce that number. According to predictive modeling, were the plane to leave every middle seat empty, the risk of transmission would drop to approximately 1 in 7,700.

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If you choose to travel by other means, including buses, trains, or shared cars with individuals outside your household, social distancing may be next to impossible, which could put you at risk of contracting the virus. In addition to wearing masks, John Brooks, MD, the Chief Medical Officer of the CDC's COVID-19 response team, recommended opening windows to dilute the amount of potentially-infected droplets in the air.

"We're not saying you can't travel, but we want you to do it safely," Brooks explained. However, whenever possible, it's best to err on the side of caution. "If you can defer travel, we recommend that," said Brooks. And for more on flying amid the pandemic, These 3 Airlines Are Handling Coronavirus the Worst, Experts Say.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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