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The flu and airports: Here’s how to stay healthy in these disgusting germ havens

The flu and airports: Here’s how to stay healthy in these disgusting germ havens
[Photo: Rowan Heuvel/Unsplash]

The CDC says this year’s flu season is on track to either rival or dethrone 2009’s swine flu. Three thousand people across the U.S. have died as a result of the flu in the first 20 days of 2018, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and that number has likely risen.

If you want to avoid the flu (and of course you do) the National Institute of Health says orange juice won’t cut it. Instead, the best flu prevention is a vaccine, and it’s not too late to get one. Pair a flu shot with frequent handwashing, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth so you don’t transfer any virus from your hands, and you just might manage to avoid the flu.

When you’re at an airport, however, the chances of running into some flu-carrying humans are high. Here’s how to avoid catching their germs:

  • A recent study by insurancequotes.com tested 18 surfaces inside airplanes and terminals at three major U.S. airports, and there was one item that was more disgusting than any other: self-help ticketing kiosks. Those screens contained far and away the highest germ count of any surface tested, coming in at 253,857 colony-forming units (CFUs). By comparison, the flush button on airplane toilets only had 95,145 CFUs.
  • According to a 2015 Travelmath study, other places to avoid in the airport include drinking fountain buttons (1,240 CFU/sq. in.) and the locks on the bathroom stalls (70 CFU/sq. in). In general, though, bathrooms were cleaner than many other places in the airport, probably because they’re regularly swabbed down. Still, wash your hands when you’re done in there.

As for once you’re on the plane, there’s no shame in bringing antibacterial wipes and wiping down tray tables, screens, armrests, and air vents as germs are all known to loiter in those areas.

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