How to Avoid Germs While Traveling This Summer

How to Avoid Germs While Traveling This Summer

It’s summer — so it’s time to take a vacation! Whether you’re taking a road trip or jetting on an airplane, most of us don’t want to think too much about what all we could be exposed to when we travel, especially when it comes to the super-scary contaminant king E.coli. But it’s everywhere – on transportation, at schools, and even in the sanctuary of our own (seemingly clean) home.

In truly disturbing news, two researchers recently discovered that certain pathogens – of which E.coli is one – can linger on airplane surfaces for days. Considering the number of people who could be exposed in a single day, their findings are cause for concern.

James Barbaree, associate director for research at the Auburn University Center for Detection and Food Safety in Auburn, Alabama, and his colleague Kiril Vaglenov presented their study at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. They analyzed both MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and E. coli O157:H7.

What they found was that the plane’s more porous surfaces allowed the pathogens to linger the longest. Specifically, the E. coli O157:H7 survived longest – 96 hours – on material from an airplane armrest. “The porous surfaces…are more protective for the bacteria – cloth, like the pocket cloth on the back of the seat, something like that has a lot of crevices where bacteria can get in,” Barbaree said.

And it’s not just on airplanes; it’s indoor environments, too. So if you’re renting a beach house or sharing lake lodge this summer, keep in mind what germs could be lurking, just waiting to ruin your summer fun!

“People think that the bathroom is the dirtiest place in [a] house,” Cheryl Luptowski, a Home Safety Expert at the National Sanitation Foundation International (NSF International) told Epicurious.com. “…but kitchen[s] [have] the most germs,” she said.

Lupotowski along with University of Arizona-Tucson Professor and Microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba revealed to Epicurious the 10 dirtiest spots in the average home kitchen. #1 offenders on the list? Sponges and dishcloths. According to the NSF, “more than 75 percent of dish sponges and rags have some sort of coliform bacteria–a family of bacteria that includes Salmonella and E. coli and is an indicator of potential fecal contamination.”

Other places most likely to be teeming with e.coli? The sink, the refrigerator meat compartment, blender gaskets, kitchen countertops, can openers, and rubber spatulas. Running items through a dishwasher, or cleaning with hot, soapy water is key. A bleach and water mixture can also be helpful, as can disinfectants designed for kitchen use.

And ladies? Careful where you set those handbags. Dr. Gerba told ABC News he found the unthinkable on the ubiquitous fashion staple. “We found fecal bacteria you normally find on the floor of restroom,” he said. “We found bacteria that can cause skin infections on the bottom of purses. What’s more amazing is the large numbers we find on the bottom of purses, which indicates that they can be picking up a lot of other germs like cold viruses or viruses that cause diarrhea.” When at all possible, place handbags on a hook or in an adjacent chair rather than on the floor. It’s worth nothing that leather and vinyl purses are less susceptible than ones made of cloth.

Vigilance and a little simple hand washing can go a long way in warding off E.coli-based illness. For a more thorough approach, using specially-designed air purifiers, fabric protectants, and microbial barriers can add an extra layer of protection to your home.

 

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