“Many air travelers are concerned about the risks of catching a disease from other passengers given the long time spent in crowded air cabins,” notes Kiril Vaglenov of Auburn University. “This report describes the results of our first step in investigating this potential problem.”
For disease-causing bacteria to be transmitted from an airplane surface to a person, it must endure the environmental conditions in the airplane cabin. Researchers examined the ability of two bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli O157:H7 to endure on airplane surfaces. They inoculated six different surfaces (armrest, plastic tray table, metal toilet button, window shade, seat pocket cloth and leather) with the bacteria and exposed them to common airplane conditions.
The found that MRSA lasted longest on seat pocket cloth while E. coli O157:H7 endured the longest on 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,” posits Vaglenov.
If you are prepared to be completely grossed out, read Jaunted’s “The Top Ten Gross Things Flight Attendants Have Seen Passengers Do on Airplanes.” It includes experiences like finding adult diapers (used) and discovering breast milk drippage.