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Car trips deadlier than flights

Canberra, Nov. 3 (Reuters): Long-haul air travel does increase the chance of a person suffering from deadly deep vein thrombosis (DVT) but the risk of dying in a car remains 100 times greater, according to an Australian study released today.

The study, conducted by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, found there was a small but heightened risk of developing DVT — or so-called “economy class syndrome” — in the two weeks after a long-distance flight. DVT involves the formation of blood clots, potentially up to 30 cm in length, which can cause death if they invade the lungs or the brain.

“The report showed that normally healthy people were at very low risk of DVT after long-haul flights while passengers with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer or who are pregnant, would be at slightly greater risk,” Australia’s chief medical officer John Horvath said in a statement.

Horvath said the study, based on anonymous data about passenger arrivals and hospital admissions in Western Australia, found a 12 per cent increase in the background risk of suffering from DVT after travelling on one long flight per year.

“For an average middle-aged traveller, this means DVT would occur only once in 40,000 flights, with a death about once in two million flights,” he said. “For young people, the average risk would be much smaller.”

He concluded that the annual risk of dying in a car accident was 100 times greater than the extra risk of dying from complications of DVT. But he said airlines and prospective passengers should be alerted to the findings of the study.

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