June 2017

Many of us traveled for business or vacation this summer. As the season comes to a close, we can reflect on the need to protect ourselves from the microbes we encounter on our trips.

A study carried out by the travel site TravelMath exposed which surfaces on planes are the most contaminated.

Although one may expect dirty restrooms, frequent cleaning makes these some of the cleanest places on the plane. After swabbing, the toilet flush button was shown to have 265 CFU/in2 while the stall lock showed 70 CFU/in2. The most contaminated location was the tray table at 2,155 CFU/in2.

Airlines set their cleaning schedules with efficiency, not hygiene, in mind. Typical cleaning between flights does not include disinfection. In addition, the popularity of carry-on luggage means most travelers bring with them microorganisms from home and from surfaces touched by their luggage during travel. These factors, along with diverse traveler origins makes for an interesting and sometimes dangerous mix of microorganisms.

What should you do to protect yourself? According to Dr. Mark Gendreau, it is a good idea to carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you and clean your hands after touching any surfaces and before eating or drinking. Dr. Gendreau even suggests protecting yourself from airborne microorganisms by positioning the overhead vent to blow between you and your neighbor.