Saturday, October 4, 2008

Do You Feel Ill a Few Days After Flying?

Do you often suffer a sore throat, a cold, headaches, fever or flu a few days after flying? If so, you are not alone. Various studies have identified an increased risk of respiratory symptoms among airline crew in passenger aircraft, as well as cases of in-flight transmission of infectious diseases, such as TB, among passengers sitting up to several rows away from the infection source.

Apparently, it is not the recirculation of air that causes the spread of disease in aircraft. Rather it is more likely the direct transmission of disease between persons even up to several rows apart, either through air transmission or mutual contacts. Why could this transmission be by the air route and why is it so noticeable after flying? There are several reasons:
  1. The diversity of sources and lack of immunity to the various pathogen exposures encountered in aircraft with the intermixing of persons from different population centers and continents is uniquely high for air travel in comparison with other venues such as theaters or classrooms where the occupants come from one geographic region.

  2. The filtered air supply rate to aircraft passengers is low (e.g.1/6th that provided to office workers).

  3. The volume of air surrounding passengers for buffering contaminant spread is relatively low (e.g. 1/30th that of the buffering zone for office workers and 1/10th that available in classrooms).

  4. The relative humidity on flights is lower than in most other environments (e.g. it is less than 20% on overseas flights versus 30-40% in buildings in winter and 50-60% in summer), and lower humidity has been shown to favor the airborne transmission of certain pathogens including influenza A virus.
A new type of ventilation device is being developed for use by aircraft passengers to address this disease spread concern and also the problem of gasper (personal air outlets) draftiness. Known as PEACE, this device will use the gasper pressurized air supply to entrain local air, filter and purify it and then send it right back to the occupant along with the original air supply. In this way this device will supply three to five times the current gasper air supply, improving user area thermal comfort and air circulation while removing pathogens and other airborne particulate matter. The device will be either built-in or portable. The portable version will be designed to clip on to the current gasper for use during flight, and to be easily removed to take along to your next flight.

I would be interested in your thoughts on the above so feel free to leave a comment. If you are interested in trying the PEACE device let me know by filling out the VEFT Aerospace Inquiry Form so that you can be informed when it is available.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a complex solution, but feasible and maybe effective against infections. As I'm an asthmatic and susceptible to chest infections, I have for many years taken a saline spray on planes which I use frequently on my nose and around my eyes. I try to sleep with a damp cloth near my mouth/nose also. I haven't had a rebound infection for years of international travel, after my first trips to Europe resulted in me having to visit hospitals for Xrays and antibiotics- even oxygen, due to bad asthma and pneumonia/bronchitis.

TCP said...

Oil from the engines can, and on some aircraft types, regularly does contaminate the cabin air supply. The oil contains organophosphates, used as an anti-wear agent. Unfortunately it is also a highly poisonous neurotoxin. This may explain a lot of ill health. has some good information on the subject.