When people complain about air travel. they often include this fear: The chance of picking up a life-threatening illness. It does happen.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released information about how close you have to be sitting to an infected passenger to be at the most risk.
Here's their release:
Air travel is one of the fastest ways to spread infectious diseases around the globe; the rapid spread of pandemic flu in 2009 was a prime example. Preventing the spread of infection among air passengers involves contacting those who sat near symptomatic passengers. However, the definition of “near” varies according to how infectious the virus is and how much the passengers and crew move around. It also depends on the length of the flight and how good the air circulation is. A study of flights to Australia found that for flu, the risk zone is smaller than previously thought. On long flights, risk was higher for those sitting in a smaller square zone around a symptomatic passenger (2 seats to either side and 2 seats in front and behind) than in the larger linear zone previously used (2 rows on either side). Narrowing the zone, and thus the number of potentially exposed passengers, may speed the contact process so exposed passengers can get preventive health care sooner.