Air travel linked to greater chance of contracting H1N1

The Gaea Times reports that a published study in the British Medical Journal links long-haul flights to possibly contracting the H1N1 virus.

The risk, according to the report, is small but documentable.

The study is based on research regarding New Zealand's battle against the virus, which os sometimes referred to as the swine flu.

The report states that a flight that landed in Auckland in the spring of 2009 contained several children infected with H1N1 during a trip to Mexico. Nine passengers onboard the plane were confirmed to have contracted H1N1 and showed symptoms during the flight. Two more showed symptoms after landing.

“The pandemic gave us a unique opportunity to investigate the risk of influenza transmission on a flight," Michael Baker, a public health epidemiologist with the Auckland Regional Public HealthService, told the British Medical Journal. "Because this was an entirely new virus to New Zealand, we know that the only place it could come from was from other passengers on this flight.

“That suggests transmission by small droplets produced by coughing and sneezing rather than via fine aerosols carried through the plane’s air-conditioning system."

“An important lesson from this study is that airlines and health authorities need to consider how they can prevent sick people getting onto flights in the first place,” Craig Thornley, a medical officer with Auckland Regional Public HealthService said, according to The Gaea Times.