Medicine

Airport security trays carry more diseases than toilets

Airport security trays carry more diseases than toilets

Researchers found more viruses that can cause respiratory infections on the plastic trays than they did on the airport's toilets.

The researchers collected swabs on 90 commonly touched surfaces in the airport and four air samples to test for numerous respiratory viruses.

Plastic security trays harbour the highest levels of viruses at airports, a study has found.

Respiratory virus germs were also found on surfaces in the children's play area, payment terminals, stair handrails, and a desk and divider glass at the passport check area. But some swabs also picked up the Influenza A virus.

At the conclusion of the study centered on Helsinki Airport, the researchers concluded that airports should offer hand sanitizer to travelers before and after each security checkpoint, and that the baggage trays should be cleaned and disinfected more frequently. A 2015 study found that airplane tray tables had the most bacteria - with an average of 2,155 colony-forming units per square inch - of any surface in the cabin.

The study was published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases.

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Ironically, they could not find any evidence of viruses on the toilet surfaces.

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 worldwide spread", the researchers note.

Toilets, on the other hand, were completely free of respiratory viruses in the 28 samples taken, as were the buttons of an elevator, the trolley handles for luggage and the touch-screen on the check-in machine.

"Although this would not eliminate all viruses on hands, (e.g. alcohol gels have been found to be less effective than hand-washing for rhinovirus), it is effective for many viruses, including influenza", they added.

"These simple precautions can help prevent pandemics and are most important in crowded areas like airports that have a high volume of people traveling to and from many different parts of the world", said Jonathan Van Tam, a professor of health protection at the University of Nottingham's School of Medicine, in a statement.


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