With millions of people from across the globe passing through their terminals every year, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that airports carry an awful amount of germs.
But where in airports do the germs hide? Researchers In Finland recently went about finding the answers to this important question, swabbing 90 commonly touched surfaces in the airport as well as taking four air samples to test for respiratory viruses.
Publishing their findings in the BMC journal, the researchers revealed that the highest levels of viruses were found on those harmless looking plastic trays that almost every passenger uses when passing through airport security. Yes, even more than in the public toilets. So remember this, the next time you handle one.
“Of the surfaces tested, plastic security screening trays appeared to pose the highest potential risk, and handling these is almost inevitable for all embarking passengers,” the study found.
"These boxes typically cycle with high frequency to subsequent passengers, and are typically seized with a wide palm surface area and strong grip.
"They have the potential to be especially problematic if a severe pathogen with an indirect transmission mechanism were to pose a threat for international spread."
According to the research, four of eight checked trays were found to carry the rhinovirus, which causes cold- like symptoms.
The study also revealed that at least one respiratory virus was detected in 9 out of 90 (10%) surface samples, including a plastic toy dog in a children’s play area (2/3 swabs), the buttons of a payment terminal at a pharmacy (1/2), the handrails of stairs (1/7) and the passenger side desk and divider glass at a passport control point (1/3).
Disease-free areas included the armrest of chairs in a waiting area, escalator handrails, elevator buttons, luggage trolleys, the check-in touchscreens and toilets.
To help combat the spread of disease at airports, the authors suggest hubs add more hand sanitizers in the most germ-filled areas and enhance cleaning of “frequently touched surfaces”.