Places Where Germs Breed in an Airplane:

Although not necessarily a construction law-related subject, since all of us spend a fair amount of time in air travel, this topic seemed appropriate for the Ahlers & Cressman blog.

One of the advantages of being over the age of 55 is that I now get copied on AARP (American Association of Retired People) articles. A recent story on places where germs breed on an airplane struck a chord and I thought would be of interest to all of you. Here are the six most common places where germs can be found on an airplane.

  • Water (E. coli culprit behind some stomach cramps)

Random sampling of unnamed domestic and international aircraft water samples tested positive for E. coli. The AARP recommends purchasing bottled water and bringing it on board. If offered beverages, stick to soda, juice or prepackaged liquids minus the ice. (Some planes rely on their own ice making capabilities that come from the airplane’s contaminated tank water).

  • Seat pocket (Cold and influenza A, B, and C viruses.)

Reaching into that pocket is “akin to putting your hands into someone else’s purse and rummaging among their used tissue and gum wrappers.” The AARP recommends that you avoid stashing your things in any seat pocket and if you must, keep your magazines and other things in a plastic bag for protection.

  • Tray table (MRSA, a deadly super bug)

Research has confirmed that the airplane’s handy tray table is a “petri dish” for all kinds of health hazards, including the super bug Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) which is often fatal once contracted. A University of Arizona researcher found an alarming 60% of the airlines’ tray tables tested positive for the super bug. The AARP recommends bringing Lysol disinfectant wipes on board to clean the tray table before use.

  • Airplane meal (Lysteria, a microbe known to cause gastrointestinal illness and meningitis)

In 2009, many airlines made headlines when the FDA inspections of the Denver location of LSG sky chiefs found the kitchens crawling with roaches too numerous to count and employees handling the food with bare hands or unwashed gloves. The AARP recommends that you eat before you get on the plane and bring your own snacks.

  • Airplane pillow and blankets (germs like aspergillus niger that cause pneumonia and infections).

Unless visibly soiled, pillows and blankets are often re-used and not cleaned between flights. A Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that airlines cleaned their blankets every five to thirty days and just because the blanket is wrapped in plastic don’t assume the blanket has been cleaned. Although the AARP acknowledges that there have been no documented reports linking airlines to infections from blankets, the AARP recommends wearing layers and thick socks and bringing your own travel pillow which will help you sleep in comfort.

  • Airplane lavatory (a “smorgasbord” of threats like E.coli or fecal bacteria)

The airplane’s biggest germ zone is the lavatory, with hundreds of people using the commode daily, this small boxy space is a “haven” for all kinds of germs and viruses, especially the door handle. The CDC cited the airplane lavatory as a major danger area for the spread of disease during the H1N1 flu and SARS epidemics. The AARP recommends using a paper towel lip before flushing and leaving the toilet without washing your hands! The sink water comes from the airplane tank which is (see above) contaminated. The AARP contends that you will come away cleaner if you skip the sink and reach for the hand sanitizer.

Articles like this and the over the top airport security measures (See Blog: sure make flying an experience to relish. . . . .!

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