Chapter 16 : Infectious Risks of Air Travel

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This chapter focuses on the current knowledge about transmission of infectious diseases in the context of both transmissions within the aircraft passenger cabin and commercial aircraft serving as vehicles of worldwide infection spread. Ventilation of enclosed spaces is a key determinant of infection spread, and the chain of infection is influenced substantially by the ventilation conditions specific to the aircraft cabin. Although flight crews are legally obliged to report potentially infectious passengers, they receive no training on infectious disease control, and anecdotal evidence suggests that in many instances flight crews fail to recognize or report potentially infected passengers. Most pandemic preparedness plans do not address the issue of commercial air travel. The International Air Transport Association, in partnership with the WHO and other stakeholders, recently established guidelines for the aviation industry for operations during pandemic influenza outbreaks in order to minimize commercial air travel spread. Prevention is the most important means of control and requires a proactive approach. For individual air travelers, practicing hand hygiene remains the most effective means of minimizing risk of infection. Governmental, public health, aviation, and medical stakeholders should better educate the general public on health issues related to air travel and infection control.

Citation: Mangili A, Gendreau M. 2009. Infectious Risks of Air Travel, p 359-366. In Schlossberg D (ed), Infections of Leisure, Fourth Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815950.ch16

Key Concept Ranking

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
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Determinants of risk of infection within a confined space.

Citation: Mangili A, Gendreau M. 2009. Infectious Risks of Air Travel, p 359-366. In Schlossberg D (ed), Infections of Leisure, Fourth Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815950.ch16
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Image of FIGURE 2

Risk-based border screening of airline passengers during a novel-agent pandemic. Risk-based border screening of arriving passengers during a worldwide infectious outbreak involves a visual screening, brief interview, and travel history. Individuals considered to have low or no risk of being contagious are allowed access into the country with no restrictions. Individuals who do not pass the initial screen undergo more extensive evaluation, to include a physical exam and testing. Individuals deemed low risk after being tested are allowed access, whereas high-risk individuals are either isolated or quarantined in addition to receiving antiviral treatment or prophylaxis.

Citation: Mangili A, Gendreau M. 2009. Infectious Risks of Air Travel, p 359-366. In Schlossberg D (ed), Infections of Leisure, Fourth Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815950.ch16
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