Melbourne, June 10 : You need not worry about catching an infectious disease or bug next time you climb on board an aeroplane packed with people, for a study suggests that the quality of air filtered through a modern aircraft cabin is far better than in other crowded places.
Experts at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) say that they undertook the study considering the public concern that aircraft cabins may increase the risk of transmission of infectious disease.
They say that they have reviewed current literature on the potential risk as part of the study.
"Despite the popular view that the risk of contracting an infectious disease during air travel is high, the available evidence suggests otherwise," theage.com.au quoted them as saying in the report.
"Many passengers might be concerned that the high recirculation rates of cabin air on modern aircraft poses a particular risk for infection. However, outside air entering an aircraft cabin at altitude is essentially sterile, and the high airflow rates, laminar airflow pattern and frequent air exchanges of an aircraft cabin ventilation system minimises the spread of infection on board aircraft," the report added.
The report emphasises that air particle filtration systems installed in aircraft these days should remove the possibility of the transmission of infection, which would otherwise exist in aircraft cabins using recirculatory ventilation systems.
"Considering the large number of flights that occur each day, reported cases of transmission of infection in an aircraft cabin have occurred relatively infrequently," the report said.
"The evidence suggests that passengers' health is not greatly at risk through air travel and widespread infections are unlikely," it added.
As regards the reported incidence of infection transmission in an aircraft cabin, the report says that the occurrence had required close contact with an infected passenger.
"This suggests that the risk of transmission within an aircraft cabin is no greater than in other crowded and confined spaces, provided circulation and filtration systems are working properly," the report said.
While many are afraid that the rise in international air travel may facilitate the spread of a future influenza pandemic, the report says that aviation industry will take all necessary measures to ease the impact of any such event.
"Australia will prevent or minimise the spread of an emerging pandemic through border control measures and also possibly through travel restrictions," the report said.
"Although, the overall risk of transmission of infection in an aircraft cabin is low, passengers need to give sufficient thought to their fitness to fly - not only for their own health, but also for that of the other passengers who will be travelling with them," it added.
It also suggested that information to assist passengers to make more responsible decisions about whether or not to travel be made more prominent.