Travel Tips

Fri, 7 Sep, 2018Over60

The dirtiest place at an airport is not the toilets

The dirtiest place at an airport is not the toilets

The plastic trays used to drop your laptop, keys and phones in at airports as part of their security checkpoints are most likely to harbour viruses and diseases.

Pandemic experts at the University of Nottingham and Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare have revealed the shocking news in a new survey.

The group swabbed a variety of surfaces at Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland during winter in 2016 before studying which areas were the worst.

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.

The BMC Infectious Diseases journal revealed that as well as the trays, viruses were found 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.

However, no respiratory viruses were found on toilet surfaces.  

Professor of Health Protection, Jonathan Van Tam, from the University's School of Medicine, said: "This study supports the case for improved public awareness of how viral infections spread.

"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.

"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."

Virology expert Niina Ikonen from the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare said: "The presence of microbes in the environment of an airport has not been investigated previously.

"The new findings support preparedness planning for controlling the spread of serious infectious diseases in airports."

It's also hoped the new study's shocking results will lead to changes in "technical improvements in airport design and refurbishment".

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