- A new study looked at 10,000 passengers who were tested flying from the US to Italy between December 2020 and May 2021
- Not being tested was associated with an estimate of the spread of COVID-19 infection by 0.2% or one in every 500 people on flights
- A nasal swab test up to 72 hours before flight and one test at the airport resulted in a 0.05% prevalence, or one in every 2,000 passengers.
- Researchers say findings suggest preflight test programs could help dramatically reduce the risk of cases and lead to safer flights
A new study has found that testing for COVID-19 before flight can significantly reduce the number of infected passengers.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic, the Georgia Department of Public Health and Delta Air Lines looked at different testing strategies for passengers traveling by air.
They found that the number of infected customers decreased by about 0.05 percent with nasal swab tests up to 72 hours before the flight.
This equates to about one in every 2,000 people who test positive for the virus.
The team says the findings suggest that preflight testing programs can help dramatically reduce the risk of infection and lead to safer flights.
A new Mayo Clinic study looked at 10,000 passengers who were tested for flights from the US to Italy between December 2020 and May 2021. Image: A man takes a COVID-19 test for nasal swelling at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. , December 2020
Not being tested was associated with an estimate of the spread of COVID-19 infection on flights of 0.2%, or one in every 500 people. A nasal swab test up to 72 hours before flight and one test at the airport resulted in a 0.05% prevalence, or one in every 2,000 passengers.
for study. published in Mayo Clinic ProceedingsIn this, the team oversaw Delta’s preflight test program running from December 2020 to May 2021.
The program allowed people to travel internationally and avoid quarantine if they tested negative before arrival.
Data from 9,853 people traveling to Rome or Italy from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta or John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City were examined.
There were five different test options: a 72-hour pre-flight molecular test and an airport molecular test; 72-hour pre-flight molecular testing and an antigen test at the airport; Antigen test only at the airport; airport molecular testing only; or no test.
Molecular testing, also known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, is considered the gold standard in COVID-19 testing.
They are considered highly accurate because they detect the genetic material of the coronavirus in a patient’s mucus or saliva.
However, they are expensive and take a long time to change because the sample needs to be submitted to a laboratory and analyzed by a professional.
Results usually take at least two days to come back, making it difficult to use PCR tests for widespread monitoring.
Meanwhile, the rapid test looks for antigens or proteins found on the surface of the coronavirus.
This screening method is faster, returning results in 15 minutes, but less accurate with patients more likely to have false negatives – even if they are actually infected, receiving negative results.
Of the nearly 10,000 passengers who tested, there were four – 0.04 percent – who tested positive by both molecular testing and rapid antigen and were not allowed to board the flight.
There were no false-positive rapid antigen tests.
This means that only one out of every 2,000 people who fly Delta Air Lines has COVID-19. likely to be infected with
‘This is a very small number,’ said lead author Dr. Aaron J. Tande, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic. CNBC.
The no-testing option – for those who opted to quarantine abroad – had the highest chance of being infected at 0.2 percent, or one in every 500 people onboard.
The authors say there are limitations including those who suspected they were not infected by flying and that people were more careful about wearing masks and social distancing because they knew they could not fly if they contracted the virus. .
“I can’t say that’s why the number of positive tests is so low — or it was really the 72-hour test that was so good,” Tande told CNBC.
‘But … the end result is that it’s a safe flight for people, and that’s what we want.’