In a rare case, the unnamed Japanese traveler contracted meningococcal disease while on a 12-hour flight from Japan to Germany.
It has been revealed that an unnamed female passenger contracted a serious bacterial infection while on a 12-hour flight from Japan to Germany back in 2015, Live Science reports.
The woman was eventually diagnosed and hospitalized with meningococcal disease, which is caused by the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. Usually transmitted through close contact, the woman’s infection is only the third known instance of this illness being transmitted in the cabin environment.
The woman’s case has been studied by Yushi Hachisu, of the Chiba Prefectural Institute of Public Health in Japan, who presented the scientific findings in a report at IDWeek, a conference on infectious diseases held in San Diego earlier this month.
It has been revealed that both the woman and her husband were seated near but not directly next to a group of Scottish boy scouts returning from a jamboree on August 8, 2015. Some of the scouts were reportedly coughing throughout the flight’s duration and it was later confirmed that six developed meningococcal disease as a result of their attendance at this gathering.
Upon arrival in Germany, the couple, both said to be in their 50s, took another flight to Spain. At this point, both fell ill, with the man experiencing a sore throat and fever while the woman developed a cough, sore throat and fatigue.
While they improved slightly upon their return to Japan later that month, the female traveler suddenly developed a high fever, joint pain and chills. The woman tested positive for the N. meningitidis bacteria, was treated with antibiotics and made a full recovery. Her husband also tested positive for the bacteria, but his symptoms remained mild.
In his findings, Hachisu concluded that the risk of contracting this disease in a plane environment is low. In the report, researchers commented that this case, “strongly suggests that N. meningitidis was transmitted from the Scottish scouts to the Japanese couple during their international flight.”