Airport security trays carry more diseases than toilets

Alicia Farmer
September 8, 2018

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

Those sample trays were the plastic ones used in the security check area for depositing carry-on luggage and personal items, according to the journal.

A study uncovered the airport destination with the most germs, and it's not the bathroom.

Researchers say rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, was the most common virus found, but the study also picked up the influenza A virus.

They found the trays at X-ray were the most contaminated surfaces.

The report also commented on the dangers of spreading diseases domestically and internationally, stating: "They have the potential to be especially problematic if a severe pathogen with an indirect transmission mechanism were to pose a threat for global spread".

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".

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Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told CBS News it's easy to see how the trays could pick up germs.

There was evidence of rhinovirus - the cause of the common cold - plus some signs of influenza.

The study set out to investigate the presence of respiratory viruses in the passenger environment of a major airport in order to identify risk points and identify measures to minimise transmission.

The study stated since the trays are virtually used by all the passengers, "they have the potential to be especially problematic if a severe pathogen with an indirect transmission mechanism were to pose a threat for global spread".

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

Such trays are also rarely disinfected, with their hard surfaces allowing viruses to survive for up to a day. They wrote that since passengers pay more attention to hygiene and hand washing in the washrooms, there are no respiratory viruses on these surfaces. For the passengers, their best bet is to keep a trusty hand sanitizer with them at all times.

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