Where are all the airport germs?

Along with the millions of passengers who pass through airports each year are a gazillion germs and billions of bacterium which are transferred from pasengers to commonly touched surfaces in the terminals.

Not so long ago we reported on the germiest places in US airports. While the results of that study may have surprised you, the results of this more recent study of Finnish airports could well be just as unexpected.

Most people assume that the toilets in airports would be the dirtiest places but, in fact, they’re not too bad, even among the cleaner areas of terminals.

To find the surfaces with the highest concentration of germs in airports, researchers in Finland swabbed 90 commonly touched surfaces and also took four air samples to test for respiratory viruses.

“Of the surfaces tested, plastic security screening trays appeared to pose the highest potential risk, and handling these is almost inevitable for all embarking passengers,” the study revealed.

“These boxes typically cycle with high frequency to subsequent passengers and are typically seized with a wide palm surface area and strong grip. They have the potential to be especially problematic if a severe pathogen with an indirect transmission mechanism were to pose a threat for international spread.”

According to the research, half of the trays checked carried the rhinovirus, which causes cold- like symptoms. Rhinovirus was also found on four of 10 surfaces tested and influenza A was found on one in 10 surfaces.

At least one respiratory virus was detected in 10 per cent of all surface samples.

Areas free of disease included chair armrests in gate lounges, escalator handrails, elevator buttons, luggage trolleys, and toilets.

Surprisingly, the surfaces with the most germs in US airports – check-in touchscreens – were disease-free in Finnish airports.

So, remember to wash or sanitise your hands (and definitely don’t put them near your face until you do) the next time you use one of those airport security trays.

Related articles:
Five germiest places on planes
Six germ-infested tourist traps
Do soapless cleaners kill germs?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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