Health Care

Seriously, wash your hands before you go through airport security

Seriously, wash your hands before you go through airport security”

Researchers with the University of Nottingham and Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare found plastic trays used at airport security checkpoints host the highest level of viruses at airports.

Pandemic experts also found evidence of viruses on 10% of airport surfaces tested - which also included shop payment terminals, staircase rails, passport checking counters and children's play areas.

"Our main findings identify that respiratory virus contamination of frequently touched surfaces is not uncommon at airports; and that plastic security screening trays appear commonly contaminated", the authors wrote.

A study uncovered the airport destination with the most germs, and it's not the bathroom.

But the most popular hotspot for infections like rhinovirus (the common cold) and influenza was the plastic security bins where passengers dumped their shoes, phones, and carry-on bags.

Surprisingly, their swabs didn't detect respiratory viruses on the toilet surfaces.

In order to combat the germs all around you at the airport, the study's researchers recommend vigilant hand washing and practicing "careful coughing hygiene".

The airport study was carried out during and after peak passenger density at the airport by a method which detects genetic material from viruses on surfaces and in the air.

Comparatively, none of the samples taken from the public toilets - the toilet bowl lid, the flush and the lock - contained any detectable respiratory viruses.

Viral contamination of standard passenger pathways and procedures in an airport - such as security screening trays - "have the potential to be especially problematic if a severe pathogen with an indirect transmission mechanism were to pose a threat for global spread", the researchers note.

"Many cleaning agents, household (antibacterial) wipes and anti-viral tissues are able to rapidly render influenza virus nonviable, offering multiple simple possibilities and opportunities for reducing the risk of indirect contact transmission", the scientists said.

Professor of Health Protection Jonathan Van Tam, from the University's School of Medicine, said in a statement that the results will help to raise awareness of how viral infections are spread.

"The presence of microbes in the environment of an airport has not been investigated previously", said Niina Ikonen, a virology expert at the Finnish institute, who was involved in the study.

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