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December 18, 2002

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections Among Airline Passengers

Author Affiliations

Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior Editor


Copyright 2002 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2002American Medical Association

JAMA. 2002;288(23):2972. doi:10.1001/jama.288.23.2972-JLT1218-3-1

To the Editor: Dr Nutik Zitter and colleagues1 found no evidence that the recirculation of cabin air in commercial jet aircraft increased the risk of upper respiratory tract infection (URI) among passengers. However, they also stated that 20% of passengers reported URI symptoms within 5 to 7 days of flying. This represents an infection rate of 12.2 URIs per person per year. In contrast, Reid et al2 reported that among London commuters, traveling by either bus or train, the rate was only 2.2 URIs per person per year. Similarly, the National Institutes of Health states that a healthy adult should expect between 2 and 4 URIs each year.3 The data of Nutik Zitter et al suggest that flying as a passenger in a commercial jet aircraft appears to increase the risk of URI by a factor of approximately 4.

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