Which airport surface harbours most respiratory viruses?

Which airport surface harbours most respiratory viruses?

A new study says that plastic trays that passengers put their hand luggage in at security checkpoints have the highest numbers of viruses of anywhere in an airport, including toilets.

Viruses were also detected on shop payment terminals, staircase rails, passport checking counters, children's play areas and in the air.

The plastic trays were found to contain the highest frequency of respiratory viruses as the trays were recycled quite often and contained different items such as shoes, laptops among other things.

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

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.

For many travellers, toilets were the expected number one result, however, there were no respiratory viruses found in any of the 14 toilets that were tested.

"Security check trays appear to pose the highest potential risk and are used by virtually all embarking passengers; they have the potential to be especially problematic if a severe pathogen with an indirect transmission mechanism were to pose a threat for worldwide spread", the authors wrote.

The authors suggest adding more hand-sanitizing stations at areas where people are repeatedly touching surfaces and germ concentration is likely to be highest and "enhancing cleaning of frequently touched surfaces".

A team of researchers from Finland and Britain have shown that over half of all the trays or security bins that the airport authorities use at the security clearance areas carry viruses that can cause respiratory infections.

Comparatively, none of the samples taken from the public toilets - the toilet bowl lid, the flush and the lock - contained any detectable respiratory viruses.

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.

The results, they said, demonstrated that airports can serve as a potential risk-zone for an "emerging pandemic threat" - a prospect that has already become a major concern in the aftermath of the 2002 SARS outbreak, and the 2014 Ebola epidemic. For the passengers, their best bet is to keep a trusty hand sanitizer with them at all times.