A new research finding has shed a light on the case of getting infected with the coronavirus from asymptomatic patients at an airplane lavatory. The unprecedented revelation sounds the alarm on the need for a safety guideline for using bathrooms on airplane.
According to an academic paper titled “Asymptomatic Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 on Evacuation Flight,” which was announced by a team of researchers led by Yeon Dong-geon on Monday, a total of seven passengers, who flew from Milan to Incheon on Korean Air, were infected with the coronavirus on March 31. Six of them were tested positive right after entering a period of self-quarantine. Those were so called “asymptomatic patients” who didn’t show any symptom before boarding the plane, which means their infection had most likely been originated from Italy.
But the other patient, who was tested positive on April 15, had been sitting alone onboard, separate from the six other patients. The patient kept the mask on during the flight except in the lavatory, which was used by other symptomless patients. Researchers noted that the patient in question had been isolated for three weeks before the flight, never used any public transportation, and was under strict quarantine before and after the flight, which means that the infection may have occurred at the lavatory. Researchers are suspecting another case of lavatory infection with the patient who flew from Milan to Incheon on April 3 and tested positive of the coronavirus on the 14th day of quarantine.
Experts say that airborne infection is unlikely to occur on an airplane since it has an air circulation system and HEPA filters. The real cause of infection comes from contact with carriers of the virus, either direct or indirect“The contagion can occur from an asymptomatic patient or the splashes of saliva from the lavatory,” explained Professor Yeon. “A stricter hygiene control must be put in place like putting down the lid cover before flushing.” Yeon’s team are working on an additional research project on the coronavirus infection at lavatories in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and their work will be published on the November issue of CDC journals.