Survey exposes the most germ-covered surface in airports

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The trays used to put carry-on luggage and personal items in airport security check areas carry the highest frequency of respiratory viruses, revealed a study titled Deposition of respiratory virus pathogens on frequently touched surfaces at airports.

The study was conducted by scientists from Finland and the U.K. and published in the BMC Infectious Diseases journal.  The researchers identified surfaces which are frequently touched and where passenger density would be high during the 2015-2016 flu season at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in order to recognize hotspots for contact transmission risk. The continuous growth in air travel increases the likelihood of rapid spread of infectious diseases. Major traffic hubs like large airports receive passengers from all over the world and the continuous growth in air travel increases the likelihood of rapid spread of infectious diseases.

The results found that security bins pose the highest potential risk for surface contamination. Four out of the 8 samples detected respiratory viruses which cause cold-like symptoms. This is consistent with security procedures being a mandatory step for all passengers and the fact that each tray is quickly recycled, and not routinely disinfected adds to the likelihood of the trays being germ-ridden.

Other high-risk surfaces include handrails of stairs, desk and divider glass at the passport control point, and buttons of payment terminal at the pharmacy.

No respiratory viruses were detected from samples taken from surfaces of toilets such as on the upper surface of the toilet bowl lid, button for flushing, and the lock at the door inside the toilet. According to the research, these results don’t come as a big surprise as passengers likely pay close attention to limit contact with surfaces in a washroom environment.

Measures to take to reduce the spread of germs include:
• Offering hand sanitization with alcohol before and after security screening
• Increasing the frequency of tray disinfection
• Improving hand sanitization opportunities where any repeat touching of surfaces takes place
• Enhancing the cleaning of frequently touched surfaces
• Increased use of non-touch devices and possibly
• Effective barriers for face-to-face droplet contact at service counters

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