“Many air travelers are concerned about the risks of catching a disease from other passengers given the long time spent in crowded air cabins,” says Kiril Vaglenov, of Auburn University who presented the data. “This report describes the results of our first step in investigating this potential problem.”
In order for disease-causing bacteria to be transmitted from a cabin surface to a person, it must survive the environmental conditions in the airplane. In the study Vaglenov and his colleagues tested the ability of two pathogens, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA) and E. coli O157:H7 to survive on surfaces commonly found in airplanes. They obtained six different types of material from a major airline carrier (armrest, plastic tray table, metal toilet button, window shade, seat pocket cloth, and leather), inoculated them with the bacteria and exposed them to typical airplane conditions.
MRSA lasted longest (168 hours) on material from the seat-back pocket whileE. coli O157:H7 survived longest (96 hours) on the material from the armrest.
“Our data show that both of these bacteria can survive for days on the selected types of surfaces independent of the type of simulated body fluid present, and those pose a risk of transmission via skin contact,” says Vaglenov.
“Our future plans include the exploration of effective cleaning and disinfection strategies, as well as testing surfaces that have natural antimicrobial properties to determine whether these surfaces help reduce the persistence of disease-causing bacteria in the passenger aircraft cabin,” says Vaglenov.
The society is currently conducting trials with other pathogens including those that cause TB. Let’s hope that this research stretches to emerging diseases such as MERS and killer influenza viruses such as H5N1.
When travelling by plane it makes sense to carry hand sanitizing gel and to minimize touching your face with your hands. If the germs don’t get into you, they can’t harm you and entry via the nose and mouth are the most common ways of passing on disease.
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Contributed by Chris Carrington of The Daily Sheeple.
Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up!