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Epidemiol Infect. 2009 Aug;137(8):1057-61. doi: 10.1017/S0950268809002398. Epub 2009 Mar 19.

Risk of transmitting meningococcal infection by transient contact on aircraft and other transport.

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  • 1Health Protection Agency, London, UK.


Contact tracing of persons with meningococcal disease who have travelled on aeroplane or other multi-passenger transport is not consistent between countries. We searched the literature for clusters of meningococcal disease linked by transient contact on the same plane, train, bus or boat. We found reports of two clusters in children on the same school bus and one in passengers on the same plane. Cases within each of these three clusters were due to strains that were genetically indistinguishable. In the aeroplane cluster the only link between the two cases was through a single travel episode. The onset of illness (2 and 5 days after the flight) is consistent with infection from an unidentified carrier around the time of air travel. In contrast to the established risk of transmission from a case of tuberculosis, it is likely that the risk from a case of meningococcal disease to someone who is not identified as a close contact is exceedingly low. This should be considered in making international recommendations for passenger contact tracing after a case of meningococcal disease on a plane or other multi-passenger transport.

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