Plane toilets among the ‘high likely’ spots to catch coronavirus, says study

Passengers could risk catching coronavirus by touching contaminated surfaces, it has been found.

The research discovered that places such as the toilet are one of the most plausible ways to be infected during a flight.

A study by the Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine in South Korea looked into ways of passing on the virus between flyers.

The team studied an evacuation flight with 310 passengers from Milan to Seoul on March 31 at the height of the pandemic in Italy.

Eleven symptomatic passengers were removed before boarding, following health checks at the airport.

Then passengers were socially distanced before the flight and given N95 respirators except at mealtimes, as well as in the toilet.

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Then the 299 travellers on the flight self-isolated for two weeks upon arrival in South Korea at a government quarantine facility.

Six passengers who displayed no symptoms tested positive for coronavirus, after checking on day one.

But on day 14, a woman, 28, tested positive, with the study suggesting she caught Covid-19 on the plane.

The study has been released in "early release" form in the CDC medical journal "Emerging Infectious Diseases".

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

"The toilet was shared by passengers sitting nearby, including an asymptomatic patient.

"She was seated 3 rows away from the asymptomatic patient.

"Given that she did not go outside and had self-quarantined for 3 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."

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She reported coughing rhinorrhea, and myalgia on quarantine day 8 and was transferred to a hospital on quarantine day 14.

To conclude, the study believes the most plausible explanation is that she became infected while using the toilet.

It says the airplane's onboard HEPA filters, which all major airlines are using, reduce the risk of being infected during a flight.

And it warns the virus is most likely to be transmitted through a contaminated surface or infected person.

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