Germ-Filled Airliners Fail TV Station’s Swab Test

Tuesday, 20 Nov 2012 04:23 PM

By William Dennings

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A Texas television station did an investigative white-glove inspection of the cleanliness of commuter airplanes and the results are bit hard to stomach.

Researchers working for the CBS station in Dallas-Fort Worth randomly swabbed 10 different surfaces on two different flights, finding nearly 3,000 kinds of germs breeding on both planes. CBS DFW’s conclusion is simple: Airplanes aren’t cleaned enough.

Filth was found on almost every surface, with various bacteria found on bathroom door handles, tray tables, and elsewhere. The most disturbing amount of filth came from inside the seatback pocket of one seat.

“Actually all of the bacteria we generated from this [area] were associated with the human gut,” said microbiologist Karen Deiss while explaining the results.

Influenza, MRSA, and diarrhea were all found by another doctor, Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiology professor known as Dr. Germ. For years, he’s been warning travelers to use hand sanitizer and to avoid airplane bathrooms altogether. Over the last six years, he’s taken germ samples from dozens of planes and always come up with large amounts of bacteria.

“Some of the bacteria that I’ve looked at here are consistent with what we found in urine or stool in normal people,” Dr. Cedric Spak, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor University, told CBS DFW.

Despite the implication of the reports, Spak told the television station there was no reason to panic, even if the whole thing sounds “kind of sick.”
“It is all the same type of bacteria that lives down under the belly button,” Spak explained. “I don’t want someone to think I’ve got feces all over my front side, but that bacteria is there and that bacteria is found in some of these reports which means someone was scratching their belly button and then scratching their tray table.”

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