Mask Up! Recent Study Shows COVID-19 Present in 96% of Airplane Flights

A recent study has found that COVID-19 is present in over 96% of airplane flights. With SARS-CoV-2 still a threat, how can we keep ourselves and our communities safe? Especially with so many people travelling unmasked and without pandemic precautions in place?

The new study conducted in Malaysia tested wastewater from 29 flights for COVID-19 particles. Researchers found the COVID-19 virus in 28 samples, and testing on the 29th sample has yet to be completed at the time of this article (January 18th, 2023). However, the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on planes does not guarantee transmission between passengers, as particles can be found in waste regardless of whether or not the infected are symptomatic, asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic or recovered. But without mask requirements or pandemic restrictions in place, it’s important to take this information into consideration when preparing for travel or spending time with those who have travelled recently.

Canadian scientists are now focusing more on wastewater testing at the country’s biggest airports in an attempt to gain early insight into potential new variants or the intensity of the current variants of concern. Wastewater testing started back in January of 2022 and will continue to take place at Pearson International Airport in Toronto and Vancouver International Airport.

Lawrence Goodridge, a University of Guelph professor who is one of the researchers involved in this testing, specialized in food microbiology and used wastewater surveillance to detect food-borne diseases before the COVID-19 pandemic. When discussing the current wastewater testing efforts in Canada he says, “The airports really, you know represent a large proportion of people - many of whom are international travellers coming into the country. The variants that are major public health concerns thus far have all originated outside of Canada. So it's a great way to understand what's coming in and that data then can be used to make public health decisions."

There are many ways we can protect ourselves and others from not only COVID-19 but other respiratory illnesses such as RSV and the flu while travelling or commuting. It’s important to keep these things at the top of our minds, especially with the new and highly transmissible XBB.1.5 variant beginning to spread throughout several countries.

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CONSIDER THESE THINGS BEFORE FLYING

• Ensure you are up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.

• Look into the current COVID-19 situation at your destination.

• Make sure you understand and follow all state, local and territorial travel restrictions (mask-wearing, proof of vaccination, testing or quarantine requirements), as these can vary from region to region.

• Take an at-home test as close to your time of departure as possible and no more than three days before travel. Here at PPE Supply Canada, we have a variety of at-home test kits for you to choose from! Travelling with the whole family? Our BTNX Rapid Antigen Test comes in boxes of 5 tests, making them a great purchase to make before travelling! Perhaps you’re travelling solo and only need one or two tests, which makes our FlowFlex Rapid Antigen Test a great option as well, as these tests come individually packed. If you’re looking for PCR test accuracy but only have time for an at-home test, the Lucira Check-It COVID-19 is the perfect fit for your needs.

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COVID-19 SAFETY TIPS FOR AIR TRAVEL

Pack masks for all travellers. Luckily, we offer a variety of masks and packaging options to suit your needs! Our Individually Sealed KN95 Mask is an exceptional option for travellers and commuters, as the individual seal allows for easy portability. Store a few in your carry-on, purse or pocket without compromising the integrity of the mask! Alternatively, we offer our CA-N95 Masks in slim, compact boxes of 10 masks. Easily slip one or two boxes into each person’s carry-on and ensure they’re masked up before their flight! As per the CDC, children 2 years and over are recommended to wear masks in travel and public transportation settings. Experts recommend KN95 and N95 masks, as they offer the best levels of protection.

Wear your mask the entire time! When in the airport, waiting to board, on the flight and in your destination’s airport. Make sure both your nose and mouth are covered and the mask has been fitted onto your face correctly. Eat and drink prior to your flight so you can avoid taking off your mask while up in the air.

Avoid contact with commonly touched surfaces such as handrails, elevator buttons, door handles, payment machines and so on. Wash and sanitize your hands frequently, especially after you’ve touched one of these surfaces.

Avoid contact with your eyes, nose or mouth. 

This newest variant has been detected in 29 countries (as of today, January 5th) including Canada, the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Australia, Singapore and India, according to WHO.

Further, Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick University said, “The XBB.1.5 variant is highly infectious and is driving increased hospital admissions in New York, particularly among the elderly.”

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Current expert advice and the most recent news surrounding the virus proves that COVID-19 is not over. We still need to take precautionary measures, such as proactive requirements at the border, masking with a high-quality mask, social distancing, testing frequently and staying up to date on our vaccinations. 

The masks we should be donning are high-quality N95/KN95 masks that allow for a more reliable facial seal, hindering harmful aerosols from escaping while protecting ourselves and those around us.

At-home rapid test kits are great for staying on top of our health status, without breaking the bank or taking up a ton of time. 

Stay safe, be mindful and keep abreast of the newest information surrounding the highly transmissible XBB.1.5 COVID-19 strain so that you’re aware of how it is affecting your region.

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RESOURCES

https://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/news/the-global-hunt-for-new-covid-variants-reaches-airplane-bathrooms/ar-AA16orpO

https://infotel.ca/newsitem/covid-airplanes-wastewater-explainer/cp1627653235

https://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/tips-for-flying-during-coronavirus-47635806

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2023/01/08/covid-19-coronavirus-found-in-samples-from-28-of-29-airplane-flights/?sh=1afd5096a24b