Scientists Have Learned How Public Transport Affects The Spread Of Influenza And SARS

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Scientists Have Learned How Public Transport Affects The Spread Of Influenza And SARS
Scientists Have Learned How Public Transport Affects The Spread Of Influenza And SARS
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Scientists have learned how public transport affects the spread of influenza and SARS

Although the link between colds and regular travel by public transport is widely recognized, scientific evidence has never been presented as to exactly how they affect the spread of airborne infections.

Scientists have learned how public transport affects the spread of influenza and SARS
Scientists have learned how public transport affects the spread of influenza and SARS

Photo: Wikimedia Commons /

Although the link between colds and regular travel by public transport is widely recognized, scientific evidence has never been presented as to exactly how they affect the spread of airborne infections.

A new study of the London Underground, published in Environmental Health, has confirmed this link. This will contribute to the justification of measures to control the spread of infectious diseases.

Comparing route information and statistics on respiratory viral infections (ARVI) and influenza, Dr. Lara Goscé and Dr. Anders Johansson of the University of Bristol found higher rates of airborne infections in those Londoners who take longer tube rides through busier terminals.

Lara Gosce explained: “Higher SARS rates can be observed in areas served by few metro lines: passengers starting their journey in these areas usually have to change lines one or more times in crowded places such as King's Cross, in order to to reach their final destination. On the other hand, lower rates of influenza are found in areas where the population either does not use public transport as the main mode of transport for commuting to work, or in areas served by more metro lines, which guarantees faster travel with fewer stops and contacts with fewer people."

For example, it was found that infection rates among Islington residents, who often change lines in the crowded Kings Cross area of ​​St. Pancreas, were almost three times higher than among Kensington passengers, who mainly travel on direct trains.

The researchers hope that these results will serve as a basis for public policy in the field of epidemic prevention. Consideration should be given to the role of public transport and crowded events in the spread of the epidemic, and should not be encouraged to be in such conditions during epidemics.

“These results are preliminary due to data set limitations. Empirical studies combining aerobiological and walking simulations will be important to improve model accuracy and develop non-pharmaceutical control strategies to reduce threshold density to minimize infection and optimal ventilation in a variety of crowded environments,”said Lara Gosce.

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