Researchers Say Woman Likely Infected with COVID-19 After Using Airplane Toilet

August 27, 2020

    Many people have been avoiding getting on a plane amid the coronavirus pandemic out of fear that they’ll contract the novel virus.

    And that reportedly happened to one 28-year-old woman.

    According to CNN, researchers at Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine in Seoul found evidence that a woman caught the virus after using the plane's bathroom.

    In the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, the researchers noted that the woman was among 300 South Koreans evacuated from Italy at the height of the pandemic in March.

    "On the flight from Milan, Italy, to South Korea, she wore an N95 mask, except when she used a toilet," researchers wrote.

    They added: "The toilet was shared by passengers sitting nearby, including an asymptomatic patient. She was seated three rows away from the asymptomatic patient.”

    Everyone was tested before they boarded. Additionally, all passengers and crew members were quarantined when they arrived in South Korea.

    A total of six passengers tested positive upon arrival.

    The publication notes that the unnamed woman developed symptoms of COVID eight days after returning home and was hospitalized.

    "Given that she did not go outside and had self-quarantined for three weeks alone at her home in Italy before the flight and did not use public transportation to get to the airport, it is highly likely that her infection was transmitted in the flight via indirect contact with an asymptomatic patient," the researchers added.

    There hasn’t been much evidence about the risks of catching the novel virus on a flight, however, many airlines have been taking precautionary measures and limiting the amount of passengers allowed on board, blocking off middle seats, and making face masks mandatory.

    "This study was one of the earliest to assess asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 on an aircraft. Previous studies of inflight transmission of other respiratory infectious diseases, such as influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome, revealed that sitting near a person with a respiratory infectious disease is a major risk factor for transmission similar to our own findings," the researchers explained.

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