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What you, and airlines, can do to protect against bacteria when you fly

My post Monday on the length of time powerful bacteria can survive on surfaces in airline passenger cabins drew strong reaction from flyers, many with suggestions on ways to protect yourself from pathogens. Here is a comprehensive approach, from someone in the business of curbing the spread of microbes that can make you sick.

A new study conducted by researchers at Auburn University found that two harmful and potentially deadly bacteria – MRSA and E. coli – can live for several days on various surfaces in the confines of an airplane cabin. Researchers used actual arm rests, toilet flush handles, tray tables, window shades, seats and seat pockets to test the bacteria, in airplane-like conditions, and found that the bacteria can linger for several days, depending on the surface.

These bacteria come from just about anyone and anywhere, and can be dangerous if contracted by airline passengers. So what can be done?

Seats on a flight from Moscow. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Airlines should be taking certain precautions, implementing strict and detailed cleaning practices to ensure the safety of their passengers. There are obvious cleaning methods that should be followed by every airline after every flight, such as taking out trash, wiping down tray tables, cleaning bathrooms, cleaning out and scrubbing airplane kitchens, restocking pillows and blankets and cleaning seats. But there are a number of other, less obvious practices that airlines should employ when cleaning the airplane.

• Washing down windows after each flight. Passengers tend to lean their heads on windows when trying to sleep, looking at the landscape or relaxing in flight. Bacteria can linger on window surfaces and should not be overlooked when cleaning  the airplane,

• Air vents should be cleaned. Passengers will often reach up and point the vents toward or away from them. Some may move the vent after sneezing or coughing into their hands, a sure-fire way to transfer bacteria.

• Use a disinfectant and sanitizer that kills a wide variety of bacteria in one shot and has a long kill window that can prevent the spread of bacteria for hours, if not days. Our cleanser, PURE Hard Surface disinfectant and sanitizer, an antimicrobial solution made from ionic silver, is one such product. It kills MRSA and E.coli in two minutes.

But passengers should not rely only on airlines’ cleaning practices. They should take precautions against possible lingering bacteria.

• Always wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before eating anything on an airplane and immediately after  disembarking. This will clean your hands of any bacteria that may have been transferred during your time on the plane.

• Carry a travel size bottle of an odorless disinfectant and use it on arm rests and the seat-back tray table in front of you. Your food sits on that tray and you can transfer some bacteria from the tray table to your food. By disinfecting areas around your seat, you can prevent contact with bacteria from those surfaces.

Hank Lambert is the CEO of PURE Bioscience, Inc. (the company that created Silver Dihydrogen Citrate Antimicrobial). He has over 35 years of food industry experience.

Read more: MRSA can live for a week on airplane seat back pockets.

Guess where researchers found the bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease?

Eight things you can do today to help stop the spread of killer superbugs



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Lenny Bernstein · May 22, 2014

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