NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Results from a new study showed high levels of the coronavirus in airplane wastewater, which has a lot of people leery of traveling on crowded planes in what is a busy vacation season.
Throughout the pandemic, COVID wastewater surveillance has been an effective way to track outbreaks and new strains of the virus.
Tests on 29 flights recently in Kuala Lumpur found COVID in 28 of the samples, according to the National Public Health Laboratory in Malaysia.
Yale Medicine Physician Arjun Venkatesh is not concerned about the study results but noted that it is still possible to contract the virus while traveling on an airplane.
“Flying is absolutely safe. There have been a lot of changes made to airplanes and airplanes have always had an excellent amount of air exchange and so that’s why you haven’t seen or heard of covid outbreaks on airplanes,” Dr. Venkatesh said.
Dr. Venkatesh said that just because covid is detected in a plane’s wastewater does not mean people are actively infectious.
“Sitting twenty rows away from someone on an airplane is not really considered a real COVID exposure to somebody,” Dr. Venkatesh said.
New reports say that the CDC may be considering some sort of wastewater covid surveillance on some U.S. planes. That is already being done in many communities.
Dr. Venkatesh pointed out that one of the reasons air travel has been so safe over the last few years is that masking remained in place for many travelers.
He advises travelers to prepare for their trip ahead of time and to set expectations upfront. He shared the steps his family takes to prepare for their trips.
“We mask up for a week before we travel, and then we all know and the kids know we’re going to wear a mask when we’re on the airplane,” Dr. Venkatesh said.