Travellers' health and infectious diseases on aircraft

Infectious diseases on aircraft

As increasing numbers of people travel by air, the potential risk of introduction and spread of infectious diseases by travellers is on the rise. Figures from Eurostat reveal that around 900 million passengers annually are carried on flights within the European Union (EU) alone.

The transmission of influenza viruses is facilitated in closed/semi-closed settings through direct person-to-person contact or from contaminated surfaces. At the beginning of the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic in 2009, air travel was the cause of the introduction  of this new virus into countries not primarily affected, and aeroplanes are likely to be a major vector when the next pandemic occurs.

The outbreak of influenza A(H1N1) in 2009, illustrated how infectious diseases can suddenly appear, spread and even threaten the health, economy and social lives of citizens in countries that are not or not yet directly affected by the epidemic itself.

When flight passengers and/or crew members become exposed to an infectious or potentially infectious person on a journey, early recognition of disease and coordinated risk assessment between authorities in departure and destination countries is needed to initiate an appropriate public health response without unnecessarily alarming the public or disrupting air traffic.

In 2007, ECDC initiated the Risk Assessment Guidance for Infectious Diseases transmitted on Aircraft project. The objectives were to assist national public health authorities in the evaluation of risks related to the transmission of various infectious agents on board aircraft, and to help in determining the most appropriate, operationally possible public health measures for containment (for example whether to contact-trace air travellers and crew in case of exposure).

Risk assessment guidance for influenza transmitted on aircraft 

The risk assessment guidance for influenza transmitted on aircraft provides viable options for decision-makers when faced with the choice of whether to contact trace air travellers and crew that were potentially exposed to infectious diseases during a flight.

Risk assessment guidelines for infectious diseases transmitted on aircraft (RAGIDA): Influenza

This report which is part of the RAGIDA project (Risk Assessment Guidance for Infectious Diseases transmitted on Aircraft) provides viable options for decision-makers when faced with the choice of whether to contact trace air travellers and crew that were potentially exposed to infectious diseases during a flight.

More about the topic

Disease / public health area

Travellers' health

Information for travellers and public health authorities about health issues related to specific destinations. These issues may arise from disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, natural disasters, or other conditions that may affect travellers’ health.

Infectious diseases on aircraft

As increasing numbers of people travel by air, the potential risk of introduction and spread of infectious diseases by travellers is on the rise.