LONDON — What’s the most germ-filled spot in an airport? The bathrooms? Those crowded waiting areas? The passport checking counter?
Surprisingly, none of the above.
A study from a team of experts from the U.K.’s University of Nottingham and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, published in the BMC Infectious Diseases journal, has revealed those airport security plastic trays are the biggest culprit for spreading germs in airports.
The team monitored germ levels on a variety of surfaces at Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland during the winter of 2016.
Germaphobes will be horrified to find out they found evidence of viruses on 10 percent of all the surfaces they tested.
Other germ hot spots were shop payment terminals, staircase rails, passport checking counters, children’s play areas and — unavoidably — in the air.
There was evidence of rhinovirus — the cause of the common cold — plus some signs of influenza.
Surprisingly, their swabs didn’t detect respiratory viruses on the toilet surfaces.
“This study supports the case for improved public awareness of how viral infections spread,” said professor of Health Protection, Jonathan Van Tram, from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, in a statement.
“People can help to minimize contagion by hygienic hand washing and coughing into a handkerchief, tissue or sleeve at all times but especially in public places.”
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.”
At the end of the study, the team suggest that airports could provide “hand sanitization opportunities where intense, repeat touching of surfaces takes place such as immediately before and after security screening.”
It’s also suggested the trays — and other frequently touched surfaces — could be cleaned more regularly.
The study pointed out that handling the plastic security trays is almost inevitable for travelers — unlike using airport store payment points, for example.