Teen solves air travel's germ problem

Infectious diseases can be spread through air travel. Photo / 123RF
Infectious diseases can be spread through air travel. Photo / 123RF

If you've ever worried about a fellow air passenger's hacking cough, there could be good news ahead.

A teenager has outlined his plan for a filtering system that would stop the flow of airborne germs around the cabin of an aircraft.

In his recent TED Talk, 17-year-old Raymond Wang said he was inspired to find a solution to the problem of disease transmission in planes after hearing about the Ebola outbreak.

He started at looking at cases where disease had spread through air travel, including a case where a man infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) passed on the virus to 22 other people.

Mr Wang explained that although some air was filtered out, it would first mix in the centre of the cabin.

"When we sneeze, the air gets swirled round multiple times before it has a chance to go out through the filter," he said.

Using high resolution simulations, he conducted multiple experiments before coming up with a solution.

His specially designed filters could fit into existing air design and offer passengers "personalised breathing zones", no matter where they were sitting.

They could be implemented over night and would improve fresh air inhalation by up to 190 per cent, he said.

In 2013, 26 passengers on a Qantas flight from Chile to Sydney were quarantined after an outbreak of norovirus on the 14 hour flight.

The Centre for Disease Contol (CDC) recommends cabin crew combat in-flight infection by minimising other passengers' exposure to the ill traveller, keep interactions brief and wear rubber gloves and face masks when necessary.

- NZ Herald

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