Assessing the Risk of SARS-CoV-2 Transmission During Air Travel
A systematic review called “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 associated with aircraft travel: a systematic review” focusing on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, in the context of air travel has offered important insights into the spread of the virus aboard aircraft.
Here are the key findings from this review:
- Scope of the Study: The review analyzed data from 18 studies on in-flight SARS-CoV-2 transmission across 130 unique flights and 2 studies on wastewater from aircraft, spanning the period from February 2020 to January 2021.
- Quality of Evidence and Findings: The quality of evidence from most of the studies was found to be low. The studies included a total of 273 index cases, with 64 secondary cases reported. Notably, the secondary attack rate varied between 0 and 8.2% among studies that followed up with more than 80% of passengers and crew.
- Transmission Dynamics: The studies considered SARS-CoV-2 transmission from asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic, and symptomatic individuals. The definition of an index case varied across studies, highlighting the heterogeneity in approaches to identifying and tracing contacts.
- Viral Cultures and Genomic Analysis: Two studies performed viral cultures, resulting in 10 positive outcomes. Genomic sequencing and phylogenetic analysis were conducted on individuals from four flights, offering further insights into the transmission dynamics.
- Conclusion and Implications: The review concludes that while there is evidence to suggest the possibility of SARS-CoV-2 transmission during air travel, the current data does not allow for a conclusive assessment of the likelihood and extent of such transmission. The variation in study design and methodologies makes it challenging to compare findings across different studies. The authors emphasize the need for standardized guidelines for conducting and reporting future studies on transmission in aircraft settings.
This review underscores the complexities of assessing virus transmission risks in air travel and highlights the need for more rigorous and standardized research methods to better understand and mitigate these risks.