The plastic airport security trays are harbingers of disease

Airport security trays are rarely disinfected and pass through several hundred hands each day

Airport security trays are rarely disinfected and pass through several hundred hands each day

The researchers, from the University of Nottingham, collected surface and air samples three times over as many weeks from a variety of sites at Helsinki-Vantaa airport, Finland.

Ironically, they could not find any evidence of viruses on the toilet surfaces.

Viral contamination of standard passenger pathways and procedures in an airport - such as security screening trays - "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 researchers note.

Tests on plastic luggage trays at airport security found that half were harbouring at least one respiratory disease such as the common cold or influenza. Rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold.

You may need to break out the hand sanitizer after going through airport security.

Other places that also came up as germ hotspots in the report were shop payment terminals, staircase rails, passport checking counters, children's play areas and obviously in the air.

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

It's also suggested that the trays - and other frequently touched surfaces - could be cleaned more regularly.

Virology expert Niina Ikonen from the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare said: "The presence of microbes in the environment of an airport has not been investigated previously".

'The results also provide new ideas for technical improvements in airport design and refurbishment'.

"To our knowledge, security trays are not routinely disinfected".

The results of the study did not prove that the viruses found can cause disease, the researchers' statement said.

"People can help to minimise contagion by hygienic hand washing and coughing into a handkerchief, tissue or sleeve at all times - but especially in public places". "These simple precautions can help prevent pandemics and are most important in crowded areas like airports that have a high volume of people travelling to and from many different parts of the world", Tam said.

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