Worried About Germs on Planes? New Study Will Ease Your Mind

If you're the type of traveler who worries about catching the flu or another dreaded disease from a fellow airline passenger, a new study should put your mind at ease.

If a plane takes off with one infected flier, it is likely to land on the other side of the country with only 1.7 infected fliers, researchers found.

What you really need to watch out for is a flight attendant with a cough or runny nose. A single one of them can infect 4.6 passengers during a transcontinental flight.

A group that dubbed itself the FlyHealthy Research Team came to these conclusions after flying back and forth from Atlanta to the West Coast on 10 flights and paying extremely close attention to the movements in the economy-class portion of the cabin.

Ten researchers boarded each flight and spaced themselves in pairs five to seven rows apart, sitting in seats on opposite sides of the aisle. From these prime vantage points, they took copious notes on who went where. Then they recorded each step in an iPad app.

Over the course of the 10 flights -- which lasted between 3 hours and 31 minutes and 5 hours and 13 minutes -- several patterns emerged:

--Passengers seated along the aisle were much more likely to move about the cabin than passengers seated next to a window. Overall, 57% of those in window seats stayed put for their entire flight, compared with 48% of those in middle seats and 20% of those in aisle seats.

--There were two main reasons for people to get up during the flight -- to go to the lavatory or to access the overhead bin.

--Among all 1,296 passengers on all 10 flights, 84% had "close contact" with another passenger seated more than 1 meter away. The typical number of such contacts was 44, and they...

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