Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

Airport security trays carry more germs than toilets, study finds

Airport security trays are rarely disinfected and pass through several hundred hands each day Airport security trays are rarely disinfected and pass through several hundred hands each day Credit ROBYN BECK AFP
Melissa Porter | 08 September, 2018, 13:12

You probably wash your hands after using the airport bathroom-but what about after going through the security line?

"We found the highest frequency of respiratory viruses on plastic trays used in security check areas for depositing hand-carried luggage and personal items".

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.

Surprisingly, samples from the public toilets all returned a negative reading for any of the tested respiratory viruses.

Viruses were found on 10 per cent of all of the surfaces - but they were most commonly identified on the plastic trays passed among travellers to X-ray hand luggage.

Results revealed that of the eight samples, four contained rhinovirus or adenovirus.

Scientists from the University of Nottingham monitored the most frequently touched surfaces at Helsinki airport, Finland, and discovered traces of germs that lead to the common cold and the influenza A virus within the trays.

A new study finds airport security bins are a hotbed for germs that can cause illnesses in humans, such as the flu and the common cold.

Other germ hotspots included the likes of duty-free tills, staircase rails, children's play areas and the passport check counters.

"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. "To our knowledge, security trays are not routinely disinfected".

Researchers said that global and national travelling has made the rapid spread of infectious diseases possible but little information is available on the role of major traffic hubs, such as airports, in the transmission of respiratory infections, including seasonal influenza and a pandemic threat.

Researchers say that trays may be particularly bad for transferring disease because they are used by several hundred people a day, are non-porous which helps the viruses survive longer, and they are "typically seized with a wide palm surface area and strong grip". For the passengers, their best bet is to keep a trusty hand sanitizer with them at all times.