A mathematical model for moving bottlenecks in road traffic
Pike Research forecasts global NGV sales to hit 3.2M units annually by 2016

Exploratory study finds statistically significant association between acute respiratory infection and bus or tram use

A study by researchers at the University of Nottingham (UK) found a statistically significant association between acute respiratory infection (ARI) and bus or tram use in the five days before symptom onset. The risk appeared greatest among occasional bus or tram users, but this trend was not statistically significant.

Their findings have been published in an open access paper in the online journal BMC Infectious Diseases.

This is a small exploratory study whose findings require confirmation by a larger study. However, the findings justify the need to practice good respiratory and hand hygiene when using public transport during periods when winter viruses are circulating and where possible to avoid situations where you might spread your germs to others when you have a respiratory illness.

—Jonathan Van Tam, Professor of Health Protection in the School of Community Health Science and Director of the Health Protection Research Group

The relationship between public transport use and acquisition of ARI is not well understood but potentially important during epidemics and pandemics.

The research, funded by the Health Protection Agency, showed that recent bus or tram use within five days of symptom onset was associated with an almost six-fold increased risk of going to the doctors for ARI.

The case-control study, by University of Nottingham medical student Joy Troko, was carried out during the 2008/2009 influenza season. The study ran during a local flu outbreak between December 2 2008 (week 49) and January 15 2009 (week two) which peaked in week 51.

One hundred and thirty eight patients (72 cases of ARI and 66 control patients) from a Nottingham GP practice were asked to fill in a questionnaire on bus or tram usages in the five days preceding the onset of their illness or the five days before consultation.

We found a statistically significant association between ARI and bus or tram use in the five days before symptom onset. The risk appeared greatest among occasional bus or tram users. These data are very plausible when we think about the greater likelihood of developing protective antibodies to common respiratory viruses if repeatedly exposed. The findings have differing implications for the control of seasonal acute respiratory infections and for pandemic influenza. In the latter case we don’t have an opportunity to build up any immunity beforehand because it’s, by definition, a new virus.

—Professor Van Tam


  • Joy Troko, Puja Myles, Jack Gibson, Ahmed Hashim, Joanne Enstone, Susan Kingdon, Chris Packham, Shahid Amin, Andrew Hayward and Jonathan Nguyen-Van-Tam (2011) Is public transport a risk factor for acute respiratory infection? BMC Infectious Diseases 11:16 doi: 10.1186/1471-2334-11-16



The same thing, and even worst, happened on large long range airplanes before additional air treatment equipment was installed.

It's about time for bus operators to do the same. Plain common sense (non-profit) improvement to benefit the users.

Since operators don't really benefit, it may have to be mandated.

The Goracle


Use common sense - don't take government transportation - drive your car or ride your bike. Problem solved and you get to go places that the government won't take you, when you want to go!



To change acquired routines are not easy and even very difficult for inflexible minds. We had a neighbor who insisted using his horse and buggy until a high speed truck ran over him. He was not unhappy but a bit set in his ways.

Taking a high speed e-train to go downtown is much faster, cleaner, more relaxing and cheaper than using as gas guzzler. Downtown parking at $4/hour in many places may convince a few more to use the e-trains.

Henry Gibson

Yes when people mingle diseases are transferred. What about the use of escalators or church pews. The common cold is rare in South Pole research stations until new people come in that carry a new variant. What a wonderful study to be done for the benefit of oil speculators in order to keep the demand high. ..HG..


A lot of pollution in the UKs town centres are on routes devoted for buses with huge Diesel engines spewing out soot and with many having at off peak times having around only five passengers (from my own observations). And that's meant to be "sustainable" transport...hmmm.

The comments to this entry are closed.