While germs are known to spread in airplanes, plastic security trays have been found to pose the greatest health threat at airports.
The study, published last week in the BioMed Central Infectious Diseases journal, tested swabs from surface samples of the plastic bins at Helsinki Airport that were taken at three different times during the peak of the 2015-2016 flu season.
Four out of eight security tray samples were found contaminated with rhinovirus or adenovirus, both of which cause cold-like symptoms.
"Each security tray is rapidly recycled and potentially touched by several hundred passengers per day... trays are non-porous and virus survival is known to be prolonged".
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"These boxes typically cycle with high frequency to subsequent passengers, and are typically seized with a wide palm surface area and strong grip".
Next time you go through airport security, it might be worth washing your hands afterward. The highest concentration of viruses on the security check were found on plastic trays.
Unfortunately for travellers, while the trays may be the dirtiest items in the airport, they're also one of the most unavoidable.
Viruses were not detected in most of the samples collected from toilets, which the scientists believe may be due to people paying particular attention to hand hygiene when in the airport.
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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 worldwide spread".
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.
In a statement, the University of Nottingham's Professor of Health Protection Jonathan Van Tram suggested that travelers minimize the spread of contagious viruses by washing their hands and coughing into a handkerchief or sleeve while in public, which is the same advice elementary school teachers give their students.
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