International

‘Airport security trays dirtier than toilets’

LONDON, SEP 5 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 9/5/2018 12:35:21 PM IST

Plastic trays that passengers put their hand luggage in at airport security checkpoints harbour the highest levels of viruses, even more than toilets, a study warns.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham in the UK swabbed a variety of surfaces at Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland during the winter of 2016.

They set out to identify and quantify the respiratory viruses on frequently-touched surfaces in airports. The team found evidence of viruses on 10 per cent of the surfaces tested and most commonly on the plastic trays that are circulated along the passenger queue at the hand luggage X-ray checkpoint.

The study, published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases, concludes that hand washing and careful coughing hygiene are crucial to the control of contagious infections in public areas with high volumes of people passing through.

The findings add weight to previous studies showing that microbes are commonly found on surfaces in public transport vehicles and will strengthen public health advice in preparation for future flu pandemics, researchers said.

At Helsinki-Vantaa airport, the highest concentration of viruses was detected on the security check plastic trays with further viruses detected on shop payment terminals, staircase rails, passport checking counters, children’s play areas and in the air.

The most common virus found in the survey was rhinovirus, which causes the common cold but the swabs also picked up the influenza A virus, researchers said. Interestingly, no respiratory viruses were found on toilet surfaces, they said.

“This study supports the case for improved public awareness of how viral infections spread,” said Jonathan Van Tam, a professor at the University of Nottingham.

People can help to minimise contagion by hygienic hand washing and coughing into a handkerchief, tissue or sleeve at all times but especially in public places, he said. “These simple precautions can help prevent pandemics and are most important in crowded areas like airports that have a high volume of people travelling to and from many different parts of the world,” Tam said.

 

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