A single sneeze emanating from the middle of an airplane can spread particles over the entire cabin, a new computer simulation shows.
The people seated next to and behind the sneezer are most at risk of any potential infection, but the simulation shows everyone on the plane has cause for concern.
The simulation was done primarly with influenza and other airborne viruses in mind. Modeling infectious scenarios such as this one is the job of ANSYS, a company that specialises in simulation software.
"The particles are colored to show you where the stuff goes," ANSYS' Robert Harwood told Popular Science. "Those droplets get picked up by the airflow and get transplanted all over the cabin. They actually spread quite far."
ANSYS uses "computational fluid dynamics to simulate the pattern of airflow in airplanes", according to Popular Science, to help airlines predict how germs spread up in the air.
While Ebola may come to the forefront of many minds, ANSYS says it's important to remember that Ebola is not an airborne disease - you can't catch it from a sneeze.
Ebola has killed around 10,000 people in West Africa to date, whereas the flu kills around 50,000 every year in the US, according to the Centre for Disease Control.
Figuring out how flu particles spread on airplanes has been a concern of the US Federal Aviation Administration since the outbreak of SARS in 2002, Popular Science reports.