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What About Airport Germs?

As if X-rays weren't enough, we have to take our shoes off in an airport. Do we pick up dangerous germs if we've forgotten to wear socks? And what about those bins--is the TSA line going to replace hospitals as the new place to catch a superbug?

In the August 21st edition of the Wall Street Journal, Heidi Mitchell quotes infectious-disease specialist William Schaffner as saying, "If we went down to Times Square and began culturing people's noses, something like 10% to 20% of them carry the antibiotic-resistant staph infection MRSA." That's not what concerns us when it comes to the TSA, but Schaffner is reassuring: He says that And we all have immunities to most of the germs we encounter, and our daily shower--along with frequent hand washing--are enough to protect us most of the time.

He also thinks that the risk of catching athlete's foot or another fungus from fellow travelers is very low. Mitchell quotes him as saying, "It's in prolonged dampness that a toe fungus can get a foothold, so to speak, so unless you're in the middle of a monsoon and the airport has flooded, you're not going to be sloshing through a sea of water and spreading foot germs."

According to Schaffner, "There is nothing in the medical literature about catching hand, foot and mouth disease or anything else from airport security" and "there is a growing body of research that says that all of us benefit from exposure to the germy world."

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