Nav: Home

Study reveals COVID-19 transmission rate on trains

July 31, 2020

A study by scientists from the University of Southampton has examined the chances of catching COVID-19 in a train carriage carrying an infectious person.

Based on high-speed routes in China, researchers from WorldPop found that for train passengers sitting within three rows (widthwise) and five columns (lengthwise) of an infected person (index patient) between zero and ten percent (10.3) caught the disease. The average rate of transmission for these 'close contact' travellers was 0.32 percent.

The study, in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Academy of Electronics and Information Technology, and Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, also showed that passengers travelling in seats directly adjacent to an index patient suffered the highest level of transmission, with an average of 3.5 percent contracting the disease. For those sitting on the same row, the figure was 1.5 percent.

The 'attack rate' for each seat - the number of passengers in a given seat diagnosed with COVID-19, divided by the total number of passengers travelling in the same seat - increased by 0.15 percent for every hour that a person travelled with an index patient. For those in adjacent seats, this rate of increase was higher at 1.3 percent per hour.

Interestingly, the researchers found that only 0.075 percent of people who used a seat previously occupied by an index patient went on to contract the disease.

Details are published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The WorldPop team, experts in population mapping, used sophisticated modelling to analyse anonymised itinerary and infection data relating to train passengers on China's high-speed G train network. This included those who had COVID-19 at the time of travel and their close contacts (who showed symptoms within 14 days of travel). The data, covering a period between 19 December 2019 and 6 March 2020, included 2,334 index patients and 72,093 close contacts. Their travel times ranged from between less than an hour to eight hours.

Lead investigator, Dr Shengjie Lai, comments: "Our study shows that although there is an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission on trains, a person's seat location and travel time in relation to an infectious person can make a big difference as to whether it is passed on. The findings suggest that during the COVID-19 epidemic it is important to reduce the density of passengers and promote personal hygiene measures, the use of face coverings and possibly carry-out temperature checks before boarding."

The researchers conclude that given the attack rates estimated for passengers in the same row as an index patient, a safe social distance of more than one metre is required for one hour spent travelling together. After two hours of contact, they consider a distance of less than 2.5 metres may be insufficient to prevent transmission.

Director of WorldPop, Professor Andy Tatem adds: "Our research is the first to quantify the individual risk of COVID-19 transmission on public transport based on data from epidemiological investigations of disease cases and their close contacts on high-speed trains.

"It shows that the transmission risk not only relates to the distance from an infected person, but also the time in their presence. We hope it can help to inform authorities globally about measures needed to guard against the virus and in-turn help to reduce its spread."
-end-
Notes to Editors

1) For interviews please contact, Peter Franklin, Media Relations, University of Southampton. p.franklin@southampton.ac.uk 07748 321087.

2) The paper The risk of COVID-19 transmission in train passengers: an epidemiological and modelling study is published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and can be viewed here: https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciaa1057/5877944

3) Epidemiological investigations of COVID-19 patients and close contacts were conducted by the Chinese and local Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in China. Itinerary information was from the China State Railway Group.

4) More about WorldPop can be found here: https://www.worldpop.org/

5) Further information about Geography and Environmental Science at Southampton can be found at: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/geography/index.page

6) The University of Southampton drives original thinking, turns knowledge into action and impact, and creates solutions to the world's challenges. We are among the top 100 institutions globally (QS World University Rankings 2019). Our academics are leaders in their fields, forging links with high-profile international businesses and organisations, and inspiring a 22,000-strong community of exceptional students, from over 135 countries worldwide. Through our high-quality education, the University helps students on a journey of discovery to realise their potential and join our global network of over 200,000 alumni. http://www.southampton.ac.uk

University of Southampton

Related Disease Articles:

Viewpoint: Could disease pathogens be the dark matter behind Alzheimer's disease?
In a lively discussion appearing in the Viewpoint section of the journal Nature Reviews Neurology, Ben Readhead, a researcher in the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center at the Biodesign Institute joins several distinguished colleagues to discuss the idea that bacteria, viruses or other infectious pathogens may play a role in Alzheimer's disease.
Tools used to study human disease reveal coral disease risk factors
In a study published in Scientific Reports, a team of international researchers led by University of Hawai'i (UH) at Mānoa postdoctoral fellow Jamie Caldwell used a statistical technique typically employed in human epidemiology to determine the ecological risk factors affecting the prevalence of two coral diseases--growth anomalies, abnormalities like coral tumors, and white syndromes, infectious diseases similar to flesh eating bacteria.
Disease-aggravating mutation found in a mouse model of neonatal mitochondrial disease
The new mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variant drastically speeds up the disease progression in a mouse model of GRACILE syndrome.
Human longevity largest study of its kind shows early detection of disease & disease risks
Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI) announced the publication of a ground-breaking study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
30-year study identifies need of disease-modifying therapies for maple syrup urine disease
A new study analyzes 30 years of patient data and details the clinical course of 184 individuals with genetically diverse forms of Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD), which is among the most volatile and dangerous inherited metabolic disorders.
Long-dormant disease becomes most dominant foliar disease in New York onion crops
Until recently, Stemphylium leaf blight has been considered a minor foliar disease as it has not done much damage in New York since the early 1990s.
Inflammatory bowel disease appears to impact risk of Parkinson's disease
Amsterdam, NL, November 14, 2019 - Relatively new research findings indicating that the earliest stages of Parkinson's disease (PD) may occur in the gut have been gaining traction in recent years.
Contact sports associated with Lewy body disease, Parkinson's disease symptoms, dementia
There is mounting evidence that repetitive head impacts from contact sports and other exposures are associated with the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and dementia.
In kidney disease patients, illicit drug use linked with disease progression and death
Among individuals with chronic kidney disease, hard illicit drug use was associated with higher risks of kidney disease progression and early death.
Despite reductions in infectious disease mortality in US, diarrheal disease deaths on the rise
Deaths from infectious diseases have declined overall in the United States over the past three decades.
More Disease News and Disease Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Biology Of Sex
Original broadcast date: May 8, 2020. Many of us were taught biological sex is a question of female or male, XX or XY ... but it's far more complicated. This hour, TED speakers explore what determines our sex. Guests on the show include artist Emily Quinn, journalist Molly Webster, neuroscientist Lisa Mosconi, and structural biologist Karissa Sanbonmatsu.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#569 Facing Fear
What do you fear? I mean really fear? Well, ok, maybe right now that's tough. We're living in a new age and definition of fear. But what do we do about it? Eva Holland has faced her fears, including trauma and phobia. She lived to tell the tale and write a book: "Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Wubi Effect
When we think of China today, we think of a technological superpower. From Huweai and 5G to TikTok and viral social media, China is stride for stride with the United States in the world of computing. However, China's technological renaissance almost didn't happen. And for one very basic reason: The Chinese language, with its 70,000 plus characters, couldn't fit on a keyboard.  Today, we tell the story of Professor Wang Yongmin, a hard headed computer programmer who solved this puzzle and laid the foundation for the China we know today. This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler with reporting assistance from Yang Yang. Special thanks to Martin Howard. You can view his renowned collection of typewriters at: antiquetypewriters.com Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.