• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
1m 47s

Deadly germs can live in aircraft cabins for a week

By Jessica Firger / CBS News 1:10 PM May 20, 2014

Some of the most harmful and resilient bacteria on airplanes aren’t necessarily the ones from the sneezing old lady sitting next to you. They’re the germs that live on the upholstery of the chair, the tray table where the flight attendant places your lunch and on the metal buttons you press to move your seat or flush the toilet, according to new research just presented at the American Society for Microbiology’s annual meeting.

The researchers found bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli can live for up to a week on airplanes that aren’t sufficiently cleaned. The study was partially funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

For the study, a team of microbiologists and engineers at Auburn University in Alabama, simulated travel in the friendly skies. They obtained various parts of an aircraft cabin — seats, upholstery and leather, metal items such as the toilet flusher button, armrests, window shades — in order to test the life of various types of bacteria and see how long it could survive on those surfaces.

All together researchers tested six different types of bacteria. They found MRSA could last for up to 168 hours on the back pocket of an airplane chair, while E. coli survived on average for about 96 hours on the material from the armrest. Experts say the dry air found in airplanes means they’re an especially hospitable place for bacteria to live.

Several frequent flyers told CBS News it makes sense.

“I’m not surprised. I try not to focus on that stuff otherwise I wouldn’t go anywhere,” passenger Anneke Hiatt told CBS News.

Health experts recommend passengers always carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer and use it frequently. Many germ-conscious travelers such as David Urban already take precautions to remain as germ-free as possible.

“I just make sure to wash my hands, I don’t touch my face, my mouth my nose,” Urban told CBS News.

In the future, the researchers plan to study the effectiveness of various methods for cleaning and disinfecting airplane surfaces and test out other materials that may have antimicrobial properties, which could help limit the presence of bacteria in aircraft cabins.

CBSNews.com

Latest Stories

  • On-Air

    Event offers free wedding gowns to military brides

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 30, 11:00

    Getting married? It’s no secret that wedding gowns can break the bank. But if you’re a soon-to-be military wife, it could come at no cost. Star Boushell with Anderson’s Bride and Brides Across America joined Daybreak on the couch with all the details on “Operation Wedding Gown.” Anderson’s Bride and Brides Across America are collaborating […]

  • Weather

    Daybreak weather, Oct. 30

    by Brett Shepard on Oct 30, 8:36

    More of the same in Southcentral with partly cloudy skies and cool conditions. In the Southeast rain gear will be needed with rain on and off throughout the day. In the Interior skies will be mostly cloudy with flurries possible. On the North Slope skies will be mostly cloudy with a few show showers. Out […]

  • News

    Former Guard commander describes working with ‘the three-headed monster’

    by Emily Carlson on Oct 30, 7:24

    They are the documents that led to local schools banning military recruiters from campus. Now, the four men named in those documents are suing the U.S. Army after their confidential investigations were leaked to the media. Lt. Col. Joseph Lawendowski, Sgt. Shannon Tallant, Master Sgt. John Nieves and Master Sgt. Jarrett Carson say they are […]

  • News

    After blaze in Bethel, alcohol addiction counselors soldier on

    by Kate McPherson on Oct 29, 23:10

    Reaching out for help to overcome alcohol addiction can be hard. Experts in Bethel say finding someone who can help can be even harder, especially in rural Alaska. People travel to Bethel from all over Alaska for treatment at the Phillips Ayagnirvik (or Alcoholism) Treatment Center, whose renovated building went down in flames on Monday […]

  • Lifestyle

    Families in Alaska concerned over proposed Medicaid reforms

    by Bonney Bowman on Oct 29, 21:05

    One year ago, Gov. Sean Parnell announced Alaska would not accept billions in federal dollars to expand the state’s Medicaid system. Instead, he set up a committee to reform it and make it sustainable and easy to use for providers and recipients. In a meeting with the committee today, dozens of Medicaid recipients and service […]

  • News

    Mountain View revitalization continues with another new restaurant

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 29, 19:10

    The smell of fresh sauerkraut and schnitzel wafts in the air at West Berlin. The new restaurant, located at the corner of Mountain View Drive and North Park Street, just opened for business on Monday. Owner Bill Hoopai is no stranger to the restaurant world; he’s operated the three Hula Hands locations since 2000 but is […]

  • Sports

    UAA Volleyball No. 2 in division rankings

    by KTVA Sports on Oct 29, 18:29

    After splitting its matches last week, the UAA volleyball squad entered the season’s initial Division II West rankings in second place. The Seawolves came into the week with a 17-4 overall record (11-2 GNAC). Northwest Nazarene, who, so far, beat UAA twice this season, sits at the top of the standings. Along with the Seawolves […]

  • Lifestyle

    Self-expression through art helps student veterans at UAA

    by Hope Miller on Oct 29, 18:24

    Two counselors at the University of Alaska Anchorage are using an unconventional method to help student veterans who may be having a tough time. It’s called “Operation: Self Expression” and the mission is to use art to get student veterans to open up about their emotions. “It’s theraputic, but we’re not trying to push it […]