A new computer simulation (above) shows the yucky truth about the spread of potentially infectious germs when someone sneezes on a crowded airliner.
"The particles are colored to show you where the stuff goes," Robert Harwood of Ansys, the Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based engineering firm that created the video, told Popular Science. "Those droplets get picked up by the airflow and get transplanted all over the cabin. They actually spread quite far."
For the video, engineers simulated the airflow inside an airliner, Popular Science reported. The simulation may help airlines and public health officials gain a better understanding of how to curb the spread of influenza and other infectious diseases that can be spread through the air.
That's the good news. Even better is the fact that the risk of catching the flu or similar infections during an airline flight may not be as high as you think.
"There have been a number of incidents in which diseases are transmitted but many more in which they're not and we don’t really know why that is the case," Dr. Eric Toner, a senior associate at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Health Security in Baltimore, told The Huffington Post. "Obviously it’s possible to get sick from someone else on an airplane, but given the number of people who fly and the relative infrequency of it, I don’t think it’s something you should worry about obsessively."
Achoo, and phew.