Are Airplane Seats a Ticket to Infection?

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The sneezing passenger in seat 5B. The coughing, hacking child seated between you and the aisle.

Catching something during a flight in one of these situations is something that many of us have worried about. But a new study suggests that there are other ways to catch nasty bugs from planes.

The study found that certain types of bacteria can survive for up to a week on the inside surfaces of aircraft cabins — including your armrest, your plastic tray table, the metal toilet button, the window shade and your seat pocket.

To determine this, researchers at Auburn University took samples of all of these materials and contaminated them with two disease-causing germs — the superbug MRSA, which causes nasty wound and soft-tissue infections, and E.Coli O157:H7, which can lead to diarrhea and other more dangerous illnesses.

MRSA, the researchers found, survived a week on the seat-back pocket, while E.Coli survived four days on the armrest.