• 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

  • News

    Float plane flipped on Naknek Lake

    by Hannah Colton/KDLG on Jul 06, 21:02

    Three passengers and a pilot were rescued unharmed from a PA-22 float plane that flipped in Naknek Lake around 12:30 Sunday afternoon. The Piper was piloted by Mark Romo of Aleknagik. Katmai Chief Ranger Tom Betts says the plane landed on rough waters with strong winds from the east. “Generally on an east wind day […]

  • News

    Berkowitz writes to Secretary of the Army in effort to keep troops at JBER

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 06, 17:19

    As one of his “first official acts” as Anchorage’s new mayor, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz wrote a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, emphasizing the importance of the Fourth Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division (4-25) to the city and state’s economic and strategic futures. Anchorage’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), where […]

  • News

    Human jawbone discovered at South Anchorage park

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 06, 15:33

    The Anchorage Police Department is investigating the discovery of a human jawbone found in South Anchorage on Sunday. Around 6:45 p.m., APD was contacted by a woman who claimed to have found a human jawbone in “a wood line at a park,” along the 9400 block of Brayton Drive. According to the woman, it was […]

  • News

    Firefighter Combat Challenge comes to Anchorage

    by Jacquie Slater on Jul 06, 14:53

    For the second time in its 25-year history, the Firefighter Combat Challenge made its way to Alaska as part of the Fourth of July festivities in Anchorage. Challenge founder Dr. Paul Davis first brought the challenge here for the 50th anniversary of statehood. This year, he says he brought it here to celebrate the city’s […]

  • News

    Cosby said he got drugs to give women for sex

    by Associated Press on Jul 06, 14:11

    Bill Cosby admitted in a 2005 deposition that he obtained Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to young women he wanted to have sex with. He admitted giving the sedative to at least one woman. The Associated Press went to court to compel the release of the documents, and they were made public Monday. […]

  • News

    Starbucks says some drink prices to go up by 5 to 20 cents

    by Associated Press on Jul 06, 13:34

    Starbucks says it’s hiking prices again starting Tuesday, with the increases ranging from 5 to 20 cents for most affected drinks. The Seattle-based company also raised prices nationally about a year ago. A small and large brewed coffee will each go up by 10 cents in most areas of the country, Starbucks says. That would […]

  • News

    Operation Doghouse delivers 30 new homes over the weekend

    by Makayla Clark on Jul 06, 12:56

    On Sunday, 30 sled dogs got new houses, courtesy of the volunteer group Operation Doghouse. The Sockeye Fire swept through the Willow area in June, destroying homes in the area — including those of local mushers. Megan Ashe and a group of fellow Alaskans started Operation Doghouse, created to help the hundreds of the Willow-based dogs […]

  • News

    Missing couple found dead off Denali Highway in ‘dilapidated trailer’

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 06, 12:37

    A death investigation is underway after a couple was found deceased in a trailer off the Denali Highway Sunday. Friday evening, Alaska State Troopers received a report of a man and woman missing from a campsite near Mile 79 of the Denali Highway, near the Susitna River Bridge. “Initial responding troopers found evidence suggesting an […]