Skip to main content

Hand hygiene and facemask use to prevent droplet-transmitted viral diseases during air travel: a systematic literature review

Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.

This artice is free to access.


Background: Transmission of viral diseases (e.g., influenza A H1N1) via respiratory droplets takes place mainly in confined spaces, including in aircraft during commercial air travel. The adoption of hygiene measures may help to prevent disease spread aboard aircraft. This review summarizes the evidence on hand hygiene and the use of facemasks as viral disease prevention measures in aircraft. Methods: A literature search was performed in the PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science databases up to 10 June 2020, according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses criteria. A population, intervention, comparison, outcomes, and study design (PICOS) approach was used to define the review question. Results: We included four studies published between 2007 and 2020, all targeting influenza virus disease, in the qualitative synthesis. Three studies used mathematical models to simulate single- or multiple-direction flights, and two of them showed that facemask (e.g., N95 respirator) use considerably reduced infection probability. In the third study, hand cleaning by 20 to 60% of people at any time in all airports (including on aircraft) reduced the measure of airports’ power to spread the disease across the globe by ~ 24 to 69%. The fourth study was a case-control study designed to trace an influenza outbreak in two flights during the 2009 influenza A H1N1 pandemic. The study showed that none (0%) of nine infected passengers compared to 15 (47%) of 32 healthy control passengers in the aircraft cabin during one of these flights wore a facemask (odds ratio, 0.0; 95% confidence interval, 0.0–0.7). In contrast, both case and control passengers appeared to be equally compliant in self-assessed hand hygiene. Conclusions: Facemask use combined with hand hygiene may minimize the chance of droplet-transmitted virus spread by air travelers. Thus, it is necessary that hygiene measures become an integral part of standard procedures in commercial air travel.




De Angelis, G., Lohmeyer, F. M., Grossi, A., Posteraro, B., & Sanguinetti, M. (2021). Hand hygiene and facemask use to prevent droplet-transmitted viral diseases during air travel: a systematic literature review. BMC Public Health, 21(1).

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free