It’s hard to be believe we are only 9 days to Christmas and 15 days to the end of the year. I’m not sure where the year has gone, except to say a good portion of it was spent on 45 flights around North America. At least according to my most recent update from Air Canada, that’s where they say I’ve been! In fact, my last two flights of the year were on Monday – a quick day trip from Toronto to Pittsburgh.
Travelling is a double-edged sword. Most of the time it’s gruelling, but there are times when it can be fun. You have to be prepared to entertain yourself during long layovers or flight delays. I generally catch up on reading and keeping current with newly published science (I know….yawn…), but admit I spend my fair share of time people watching. Not to sound snobbish, but I can spot a “traveller” from a “non-traveller” a mile away. I will also have you know there is a distinct difference between a “business traveller” and a “vacation traveller”. Business travellers are far more organized and efficient!
To while away the hours on Monday, I was catching up on some of my reading and came across a new study published in the journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infection that looked at the ease of which antibiotic resistant bacteria like MRSA could be transmitted from frequently touched surfaces in airports. In essence, they were trying to determine how easy it was for these bacteria to hitch a ride with travellers. The researchers focused on the inside of the toilet stall doors making the assumption that as these are frequently used by multiple people and touched after “potentially unhygienic activities” they would be expected to be filthy and most likely contaminated with bacteria commonly found on our skin and gut (aka fecal contamination).
The study looked at 400 bathroom door handles at 136 airports in 59 countries. Of interest is that 60% of the samples were from the men’s room….which is rather interesting as we know from previous blogs on hand hygiene, that men wash their hands less frequently them women. While gross to think of, a variety of bacteria commonly associated with fecal contamination was found on the handles. Staphylococcus aureus was the most commonly found bacteria. Stenotrophomonas maltophilia was the next most commonly found bacteria followed by Acinetobacter baumannii. The strain of MRSA found in one airport in Paris matched a community-acquired MRSA found in India. The conclusion of the study being that antimicrobial resistance is no longer a national problem, but a global challenge as these resistant bacteria do not respect boarders, have no qualms on hitching rides and when entering a new country, do not feel the need to declare themselves! Basically, germs are making trips we never thought possible. Thankfully, I have a few weeks off from travelling over the Christmas holidays. Mid-January will be my first flight of 2017 and after reading this study, I’m not sure I am ever going to be able to look at or use a public toilet again!
If you’re not so lucky I hope you check out our new Bah-Hum-Bug education campaign for tips on how to keep you healthy over the holidays!