Airport security trays carry more microbes than toilet seats

Passengers holding trays at airport

Passengers holding trays at airport

Results found proof of viruses on 10 percent of surfaces, with security trays as the most common culprit.

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

Trays have a tendency to collect germs - whether in the airport or on the plane.

Other germ hotspots were shop payment terminals, staircase rails, passport checking counters, children's play areas and - unavoidably - 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.

Scientists from the University of Nottingham in England and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare swabbed frequently touched surfaces at Helsinki Airport in Finland during and after peak hours in the winter of 2016 and picked up traces of rhinovirus, the source of the common cold, and of the influenza A virus.

None of these germs were found on the surfaces of toilets at the airport, the report found.

"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 study says.

Four of eight swabs taken from the plastic bins had evidence of a respiratory virus.

The study was published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases.

It concluded: "Security check trays appear to pose the highest potential risk and are used by virtually all embarking passengers".

His team-partner, virology expert Niina Ikonen from the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, added: "The results also provide new ideas for technical improvements in airport design and refurbishment".

The study points out that coughing into your hands and then washing them is the key to containing contagious illnesses and not passing them on.

You may want to pack a TSA-approved travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer on your next trip through airport security, and then shower in it as soon as you're through the line.

"This study supports the case for improved public awareness of how viral infections spread", said Jonathan Van Tam, professor of health protection at Nottingham University's School of Medicine.

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