If there is any culprit, experts say, it's proximity. "Planes don't make people sick; other people do," said Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst at the Teal Group Corporation. "Being around other people, whether it's in the context of a jet, an airport, a hotel, that's going to increase your likelihood of picking up something."
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Although people often suspect that the recirculated air they breathe in the cabin spreads germs, Mr. Aboulafia said that's not the case. "It's nothing to do with the aircraft or the way the air is treated."
Air in a plane's cabin is a mixture of compressed air drawn in from outside and filtered, or recirculated, air. "It all goes through HEPA filters, which are really good at getting particles," Mr. Aboulafia said. "The objective is to filter out all particulate matter," he added, since germs can be transmitted by hitching a ride on airborne particles.