Do You Really Have to Worry about MRSA on Planes?

A new and provocative article from the Washington Post is scaring the pants off a lot of travelers. We think it’s time to add a little perspective.

The subject is MRSA or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – the staph infection superbug that is resistant to some antibiotics.

Is MRSA on Planes a Problem?

Can MRSA live on planes? It can. According to the article, researchers discovered it can live as long as 168 hours on surfaces like the fabric of an airplane seatback pocket. So – could you, will you get infected? Anything’s possible but we do not hear about massive outbreaks (at least not that we could discover).

What to do to avoid getting sick on a plane

Getting and Preventing MRSA

What should a flyer know? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have some answers:

  • MRSA can be spread through direct contact with an infected wound
  • It can also be spread by sharing personal items like towels or razors

What should a flyer do? The CDC has some answers for that, too:

  • Wash hands often (for at least 20 seconds with soap and water), and clean body regularly – especially after exercise.
  • Keep cuts, scrapes, and wounds clean and covered until healed.

See more CDC information on MRSA here.

This May Ease Some Fears

Before you start worrying about your next flight, consider the following:

  • As the Washington Post readily admitted, the researchers involved in the study “did not test the cleaning protocols employed by the airlines.” Would that have made a difference? We don’t know but it probably couldn’t have hurt.
  • Do you worry about getting MRSA in a movie theater? On an airport shuttle bus? From a cushioned pew in church? From fabric chairs or couches in hotel lobbies or tablecloths in restaurants?
  • Do you wash your hands much?

If the answer to that last one is no, maybe it’s time you started. We know we will.


Published: May 21, 2014