SARS Transmitted on Airplane

Dec 19, 2003 -- Travel on airplanes has been found responsible for the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), according to a report in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.

A careful study was done based on interviews of passengers and crew members on three flights that carried patients with SARS. Infection in a single passenger on one flight resulted in illness in 22 of the 119 other passengers. The 22 persons who contracted SARS from their fellow passenger became ill an average of four days after the flight. The risk was highest among the passengers seated within three rows in front of the person with SARS.

The study led by Sonja J. Olsen from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concludes that SARS became a global crisis because infected persons traveled on aircraft to many countries. It is now clear that measures to reduce the risk of transmission of SARS on aircraft are warranted.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com

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Last Editorial Review: 12/19/2003