Can flying really give you the flu?

Are germs spread through a plane’s air conditioning?
Many airline passengers think that planes’ air conditioning and recycled ventilation spreads germs and that they can end up with a cold or the flu after a flight. Finnish airport operator Finavia recently investigated this claim to see if it’s fact or fiction.
You can breathe more easily, Finavia says, as there are no studies backing up the idea of germs spreading through planes’ air conditioning. Inflight air is cleaner than that of many offices.
In fact, inflight air is only partially reused. Between 10% and 50% of the air is circulated to save fuel; the rest is fresh air drawn into the cabin from outside. The air is filtered with highly efficient HEPA filters, which catch around 99.9% of small particles, including bacteria and viruses, Finavia points out.
The circulated air also does not flow around the whole cabin, as the ventilation is divided into sections of a few rows. A more likely cause of any infection is people sneezing and coughing in your immediate vicinity.
Another possible cause is the presence of bacteria on different surfaces, like the seats or trays or in the bathroom. Also the lack of humidity in cabin air – a result of the dryness of air at high altitudes – can, according to some sources, make you more susceptible to infectious diseases.
Finavia recommends washing your hands regularly, trying to avoid touching your face and staying hydrated. It posts a series of physician’s tips here.
TTG Nordic


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