A study reveals the most germ-infested part of an airport

Posted by Welcome Lishivha on 7 September 2018

It turns out that travellers can’t avoid handling the most germ-infested part of the airport.

Photograph by Erik Odiin.

A recent study by BMC Infectious Diseases published last week revealed that hand-carried luggage boxes at the security check area (the ones you empty your phones, laptops and hand luggage into) had the highest presence viral nucleic acid which poses a high risk to various respiratory viruses, the most common of which is influenza A.

The study was conducted between 2015 and 2016 and analysed surface and air samples, which were collected weekly during the peak season of influenza and tested the samples for 8 respiratory viruses. The data was collected at three different points in Helsinki-Vantaa airport, Finland, which saw over 18.9 million passengers pass through its gates last year.

The results of the study revealed that:

“Viral nucleic acid was found in samples from the surfaces of a plastic toy dog in the children’s playground, hand-carried luggage trays at the security check area, the buttons of the payment terminal at the pharmacy, the handrails of stairs and the passenger side of desk and divider glass at the passport control points.”

The hand-carried luggage trays at the security check area contained 4 of the 8 tested viruses (adenovirus, influenza A, rhinovirus and human coronavirus). A previous study of this kind conducted at Jeddah Aiport in 2013 revealed that chair handles contained the most presence of viral nucleic acid.

While these finding of the luggage trays might seem a bit bleak because travellers can’t avoid handling those luggage trays at the security check area, at least extra caution can be taken by both airports and travellers in handling the germ-infested trays. One of the recommendations in the study is for airports to offer “hand sanitization with alcohol hand rub before and after security screening, and increasing the frequency of tray disinfection.”

These findings should also come in handy for governments and airport in the event of a respiratory-related virus outbreak. Information about how respiratory related viruses spread in high-traffic areas such as airports will be useful in minimizing further incidents in the event of an outbreak.

This study also comes out at a timeous moment when there have been several reports of 12 passengers who arrived ill in Philadelphia, USA from Saudi Arabia and were exhibiting flu-like symptoms, reported NBC.