Have plans to travel over the summer months? There are a few things you need to know about germs before you take off in a car or airplane – or even a cruise ship. Summer vacations are supposed to be the perfect time to unwind from the stresses of everyday life, whether it is work, school or both. You don’t want to get sick during your vacation, do you? I didn’t think so. If you happen to be taking a trip, it’s wise to do some research on how you can protect yourself from spreading or contracting germs.
E. Coli and MRSA can survive for how long?
Researchers at Auburn University saturated armrests, toilet flush handles, tray tables, window shades, seats and seat pockets with bacteria, which were provided by Delta Airlines. They then stored them in conditions meant to simulate a pressurized cabin. According to CNN.com’s May 20, 2014, post “E. Coli, MRSA can survive for days on planes,” by William Hudson, bacteria lived longest on the most porous surfaces. MRSA lasted anywhere from four to seven days on each of the airplane surfaces; E. Coli survived two to four days on those same surfaces.
“‘We have efficient cleaning specifications that are standardized across our entire operation before all departures and on aircraft that remain on the ground overnight,’ Delta Airlines said in response to the study. ‘This includes removing all trash, wiping down all countertops, surfaces and seats, cleaning floors and replacing and restocking pillowcases and blankets among several other procedures.'”
What you can do to fight germs
In an article published on WebMD.com, “How to Avoid Germs When You Travel,” reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on December 7, 2013, there are a number of precautions you can take to protect yourself:
- Sanitize “high touch” areas. Germs linger longer on nonporous materials like plastic. Wipe down surfaces such as tray tables, seat armrests, and lavatory door handles with an alcohol-based wipe or gel before you use them. With the short cleaning time between flights, these areas do not always get cleaned and disinfected.
- Avoid touching restroom surfaces. When washing your hands in an airplane or other public restroom, turn off the faucet with a paper towel. Then use another paper towel to dry hands and open the door.
- Bring your own blankets and pillows. If airplane blankets or pillows aren’t delivered to you in a package, chances are they’ve been used. Having a familiar blanket and pillow to curl up with may also make you more comfortable during air travel.
- Drink bottled water. In water quality tests on 158 airplanes in 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered coliform bacteria and E. coli in some water samples. In 2009, the EPA established tougher rules for airplane water. Generally, however, the numbers of food- and water-borne illnesses from airplane travel are low.
Not all bacteria are created equal
It’s important to know that not all bacteria are bad, despite the reputation they have. Researchers continue to find new ways where they can be helpful and typically harmless. “Where the Germs Are: A Scientific Safari,” by Nicholas Bakalar, explains how some bacteria can be positively delightful: “…like the ones that make grapes into wine, give yogurt its tang, assure cheese their multitude of flavors, and lend sourdough bread its pleasant sour taste… .our own bodies protect us from them unless we are for some reason susceptible (the very young, the very old, the unhealthy, or those with weakened immune systems.”
In other words, if you enjoy wine, yogurt, cheese or sourdough bread, you still have nothing to worry about if you plan to indulge on them during your vacation.
What other ways can you keep yourself safe from germs while traveling? Let us know in the comments.