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Modeling the Fate of Expiratory Aerosols and the Associated Infection Risk in an Aircraft Cabin Environment

Taylor & Francis Inc.
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  • Ecology
  • Geography


The transport and deposition of polydispersed expiratory aerosols in an aircraft cabin were simulated using a Lagrangian-based model validated by experiments conducted in an aircraft cabin mockup. Infection risk by inhalation was estimated using the aerosol dispersion data and a model was developed to estimate the risk of infection by contact. The environmental control system (ECS) in a cabin creates air circulation mainly in the lateral direction, making lateral dispersions of aerosols much faster than longitudinal dispersions. Aerosols with initial sizes under 28 m in diameter can stay airborne for comparatively long periods and are favorable for airborne transport. Using influenza data as an example, the estimated risk of infection by inhalation are at least two orders of magnitude higher than the risk of infection by contact. An increase in the supply airflow rate enhances ventilation removal and the dispersion of these aerosols. It reduces the risk of infection by inhalation for passengers seated within one row and one column from the index patient but it increases the risk for passengers seated further away. The deposition fraction increases with aerosol size. The ECS supply airflow rate has insignificant impact on the deposition behavior of these large aerosols, making the impact on the risk of infection by contact insignificant. Comparatively, the contact behavior of passengers is highly influential to the contact infection risk. Passengers seated within one row from the index patient are subject to contact risks that are one to two orders of magnitude higher than are passengers seated further away.

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