Your chances of getting sick in the air soar if your neighbor is ill

Story highlights

  • Getting sick on a flight is unlikely unless you sit near or are served by someone who's sick
  • While flying, practice good hand hygiene, and don't touch your face

(CNN)Not all of the 3 billion people who fly the friendly skies each year around the world are in tip-top health. Conventional wisdom says that you're more likely to catch a cold (or some other illness) if you're stuck on a long flight packed tight with possibly sick passengers.

A new study found that, at least on intercontinental flights, what may make all the difference between getting sick and avoiding possible infection is where you sit and who is close to you.
Passengers within two seats or one row of someone with a respiratory illness have an 80% or greater possibility of getting sick than passengers farther away, according to the study, published Monday in the journal PNAS.