A woman may have caught coronavirus on a flight through the jet’s restroom, researchers recently wrote in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

What happened:

The researchers said a 28-year-old women was among 300 South Korean people who were evacuated from Italy at the beginning of the pandemic in March.

  • The researchers wrote: “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 three rows away from the asymptomatic patient.”
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According to CNN, the South Korean officials who organized the flight tested everyone for COVID-19 before they boarded the plane. The passengers were quarantined when they got home to South Korea.

Six passengers tested positive for COVID-19 after they arrived in South Korea. The aforementioned women developed symptoms eight days later.

  • “Given that she did not go outside and had self-quarantined for three 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,” researchers at Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine in Seoul wrote.
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Why it matters:

  • “This study was one of the earliest to assess asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 on an aircraft. Previous studies of inflight transmission of other respiratory infectious diseases, such as influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome, revealed that sitting near a person with a respiratory infectious disease is a major risk factor for transmission similar to our own findings,” the researchers wrote.


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There have been few examples of people getting COVID-19 while on a plane. Airlines have instituted social distancing measures, face masks policies and testing procedures to help stop the potential spread of the virus while in the air.

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