Flu Swine Airplane Safety

The swine flu, or H1N1 influenza virus, has already been declared a pandemic strain, affecting people throughout the world. We live in a period where international travel is common, and the threat of spreading disease to unaffected parts remains high. In this article, we’ll explain how the swine flu can spread quickly and also the importance of airline H1N1 safety.

The Spread of Swine Flu

The swine flu is an infectious disease, meaning that it can spread easily from one infected person to another. The virus is shed in respiratory secretions lining your airways, throat, and nasal passages. If an infected person produces an uncovered cough or sneeze, then the viral particles can be breathed in by a nearby person. That person acts as the new host for the virus, and the infectious cycle begins again. The virus can quickly spread within a community. With a busy holiday travel season coming up, the virus can affect many parts of the world.

Proximity plays an important role in viral transmission. Usually, one has to be within a few feet from an infected person to acquire the virus via respiratory droplets. However, objects such as doorknobs and utensils, can harbor the virus and be transferred into the body when one touches the eyes, nose, or mouth. As you can see, proper hygiene is paramount in staying disease free.

Airline Travel and Country Restrictions

The initial reports of swine flu in Mexico prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that U.S. travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico. Since that time, many countries have temporarily suspended flights to specific locations with swine flu outbreaks. However, travel restrictions can negatively impact the tourism industry, so they are enforced sparingly. As of early Dec. 2009, the World Health Organization recommends no restrictions on international travel, trade, nor border closures.

Airplane H1N1 Safety

Ultimately, a traveler must be responsible, especially in this modern age of mobility. Some passengers are reluctant to postpone flying when sick, so they attempt to board. Airline crew members are trained to look for sick passengers and recommend that they do not fly. Some countries, especially Asian, have an infrared camera mounted at the gate to screen out people with fevers suggestive of a flu infection.

Even if you are not sick, you may be flying with someone who is ill. Airline cabins utilize HEPA filters that are 99 percent effective at filtering out particles greater than 0.3 microns, enough to catch clusters of viruses and bacteria. To minimize your chances of catching an infection, you should wash your hands frequently, cover your cough and sneeze, and stay away from sick people.


Centers for Disease Control Staff. (2009). Key facts about swine influenza (swine flu). Retrieved December 7, 2009, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/key_facts.htm.

Foust, D. (2009). Will you catch swine flu on your next flight? Probably not. Retrieved December 7, 2009, from the Business Week Web site: http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/travelers_check/archives/2009/05/will_you_catch.html.

Sullivan, B. (2009). Airline travel and the spread of flu: Implications for the swine flu outbreak. Retrieved December 7, 2009, from the Aircrew Buzz Web site: http://aircrewbuzz.com/2009/04/airline-travel-and-spread-of-flu.html.

U.S. Department of Health