Germ Hot Spots: The Plane Edition

    A couple on a planeWondering how to avoid germs, and getting sick, while traveling on a plane? Unfortunately, the risk of contracting a contagious illness is heightened when you are in an enclosed space.

    Studies show that germs can travel easily on an airplane, where people are packed together tightly.

    For example, a woman on a 1994 flight from Chicago to Honolulu transmitted drug-resistant tuberculosis to at least six of her fellow passengers, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study.

    In 2003, 22 people came down with SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, from a single fellow passenger who had SARS but didn’t have any symptoms, according to another New England journal study.

    The surfaces that have tested highest for bacteria and other infection-causing germs include:

    • Security check points
    • Airplane blankets and pillows.
    • Latches for overhead bins
    • Tray tables
    • Tv screens/monitors

    Here are five ways to avoid germs while traveling on a plane, as well as when you first arrive and leave the airport.

    Sit towards the front. Ventilation systems on most commercial aircraft provide better air flow in the front of the aircraft.

    Try to avoid coffee or tea on an airplane. Monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that water in airplanes’ water tanks isn’t always clean — and coffee and tea are usually made from that water, not from bottled water, according to Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for the Air Transport Association.

    The EPA advises anyone with a suppressed immune system or anyone who’s “concerned” about bacteria to refrain from drinking coffee or tea on an airplane.

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