Air carrier and professional corporate aircrews provide a unique and highly distinct population in which to examine potential transport and transmission of infectious diseases (ID). This study sought to assess frequency of flying while acutely ill, identify clinical triggers in self-grounding, determine employer support for self-grounding, examine rates of influenza vaccination, and identify unmet needs for current information on ID issues related to extensive travel required of professional aircrews.
Anonymous questionnaires were completed by select European mainline, U.S. regional airline, and professional corporate aircrews on ID topics such as flying while ill, flying with ill crewmembers, receipt of influenza vaccination, disinfection, and other aviation medical issues. Data were analyzed and reported as composite and stratified by airline vs. corporate aviation respondents.
Aircrews often flew while ill (or with ill crewmembers); 52% flew until fever reached 38 degrees C (100.4 degrees F) and an additional 37% flew up to 38.89 degrees C (102 degrees F). Rate of annual influenza vaccination was quite low for all groups, but especially so for airline crews (21-27%), even given potential occupational exposure risk. Crews also had strongly differing perceptions of employer views on self-grounding, depending upon employment setting.
There were sizable disparities between aircrew flying for U.S. regional, European mainline, and large corporate aviation departments with respect to self-grounding when ill and routinely receiving a seasonal influenza vaccination. All study groups reported a pressing need for enhanced anonymous access to current ID and medical information.