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Holiday Travel Tip: Be Vigilant On Planes

John Foxx/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Airplanes are notoriously germy places. Studies have shown that airplane bathrooms harbor a number of different types of bacteria and viruses, and the recirculated air in planes can also contain many infectious agents. Germs also lurk on tray tables and on seats and seat backs.

"If you're in a plane, wipe down seats, seat backs and tray tables," said Dr. Lisa Bernstein, associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. Travelers should also, as always, wash their hands whenever possible.

A 2009 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that passengers on two lengthy flights into Australia were at increased risk for getting a flu-like illness after the flight if they sat up to two rows away from a person who had flu symptoms before the flight. They were at even higher risk if a symptomatic passenger sat within two seats in front, behind or to the side.

While it may be difficult to control who sits in nearby seats or rows, if a person is sneezing or coughing, try to stay away from that person and disinfect surfaces and hands regularly.

"Also, don't touch your eyes, mouth or nose, since there are only so many times you may be able to wash your hands," said Dr. Michael Perskin, assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Spreading germs is a two-way street, so people who may be coughing or sneezing should be careful to avoid coughing or sneezing into other people's faces and should use tissues or hold their mouths when possible. They should also, of course, wash their hands.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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