Dr. Michael Zimring, director of the Center for Wilderness and Travel Medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, said the two biggest risk factors for getting the flu while flying are proximity to the sick passenger and the length of the flight.
The longer the flight, the greater the risk, he said. It is not the airplane air per se that ups the risk for flu transmission as airplanes do use air filters, which minimize the spread of germs.
"Infectious diseases such as the flu can pass via sneezing and/or coughing directly into someone's face or onto an object someone will come in contact with," Zimring said.
For example, "if someone coughs and the droplets land on a headrest or armrest, the next person touches that object and then eats with that same hand or touches ones face, the virus or bacteria passes from one to another," Zimring explained.
"The further you are away from the ill person, the less chance you will get the illness, and the shorter time you are exposed, the less chance you will contract that illness," he noted.
"Wash your hands frequently on the flight, especially if you are about to eat something, and remember the germs on the bathroom doorknob and the germs on the back of the seats as you hold on while you walk back to your seat," Zimring said.
"If you are in good health, got a good night's sleep and eat healthy, there is also less of a chance that you will get sick," he added.
Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, agreed. "If you are worried, wear a mask," he said. "You will never see these people again so who cares if they think you are sick."
Viral particles can live on surfaces for 24 hours. "Always wash your hands before touching your face," he advised.
The air jets above the seats can also propel viral pa
All rights reserved