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This Simulation of a Sneeze on an Airplane Might Have You Asking to Be Reseated on Your Next Flight


"Transplanted all over the cabin."

While Ebola is not an airborne virus, the flu and some colds are, giving these pathogens the ability to spread throughout the nearby area with a simple cough or sneeze.

A simulation of sneeze particles on an airplane shows you just how far they could go. Check it out:

The video by the simulation company ANSYS shows how potentially infectious particles spread from the sick person seated in the middle of the cabin to as far as two rows ahead and behind him. The most concentrated particles were, of course, in the vicinity of those sitting in the same row or directly in front of or behind this person.

"The particles are colored to show you where the stuff goes," Robert Harwood with ANSYS told Popular Science. "Those droplets get picked up by the airflow and get transplanted all over the cabin. They actually spread quite far."

ANSYS has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration and Purdue University to better understand how pathogens can move throughout a cabin.

"Every two minutes, there’s a whole new set of air in the aircraft," Harwood said.

Not just that but the direction people turn their personal fans and the movements of flight attendants impact the air flow as well and thus how pathogens could spread.

Harwood told Popular Science ANSYS is considering all these different scenarios to make recommendations for the FAA and airplane's air flow systems.

"Airlines are constantly fighting this trade off: The more systems you put in the aircraft, the more weight you have and the more money it costs," Harwood told the science website. "They want the cheapest flight but also for their passengers to be healthy. Our technology is useful because they can see how they can achieve that and improve performance without sacrificing cost."

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the flu vaccine for most individuals to help prevent the flu, it does offer other tips that can help you avoid this sickness and others like it as well:

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

  • If you are sick with flu–like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.*

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

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