A recent study reveals that one passenger on an international flight was reportedly responsible for infecting 15 other people with COVID-19.
Researchers reportedly used contact-tracing to track the infections back to this individual, who flew with Vietnam Airlines earlier this year.
The infections occurred on a flight carrying 217 people on March 1, the New York Post reports. Before boarding the flight, a 27-year-old businesswoman reportedly had a sore throat and a cough. She tested positive for coronavirus four days after the flight, according to the study.
The study also found that 14 other passengers and one crew member on the flight later tested positive for coronavirus as well. During this time period, the airline reportedly did not require passengers to wear face masks.
Researchers noted that, of the other passengers, seating proximity seemingly played a roll in the infection rate, Forbes reports.
"The risk for on-board transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during long flights is real and has the potential to cause COVID-19 clusters of substantial size, even in business class–like settings with spacious seating arrangements well beyond the established distance used to define close contact on airplanes," the researchers noted. "As long as COVID-19 presents a global pandemic threat in the absence of a good point-of-care test, better on-board infection prevention measures and arrival screening procedures are needed to make flying safe.”
This study was released as reports emerged of a small cluster of infections traced back to a March 9 flight from Boston to Hong Kong, during which researchers found that four passengers all became ill with the same strain of the virus, suggesting they were infected by the same source, Forbes reports.
The studies suggest that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 could occur long flights. Both studies, however, researched flights that did not yet require passengers to wear face masks.