Germs on Planes
Before you take your next flight, you may want to make sure you have hand sanitizer readily available. New research shows bacteria can linger on airplane surfaces for more than a week.
Wednesday, May 21st 2014, 12:12 PM PDT
Monday, November 3rd 2014, 2:53 PM PST
Airplane cabins are known to be a hotbed for germs. Now researchers from Auburn University have discovered just how long certain bacteria can last on common airplane surfaces.
"Our findings indicate that MRSA and E. coli remain on these surfaces for over a week," says Kiril Vaglenov.
In a lab, researchers exposed six airplane surfaces to both bacterias - the arm rest, the leather seat, the plastic tray table, the seat pocket where magazines are kept, the window shade and the toilet handle. MRSA lasted longest on the seat-back pocket. E. coli survived longest on the armrest.
"I'm not surprised I try not to focus on that stuff otherwise I wouldn't go anywhere," says Anneke Hiatt.
Experts say the dry air in the cabin helps the bacteria survive. Researchers advise passengers to follow good hygiene as a precaution.
"They should use some kind of alcohol type, sanitizer," says Dr. James Barbaree.
Traveler David Urban adds, "just make sure to wash my hands, I don't touch my face, my mouth my nose."
The FAA partly funded this study. Researchers say the airlines are working on strategies to minimize the risk.
The researchers plan to look at effective cleaning and disinfecting strategies for future studies.