The plastic trays in which passengers place their belongings at the security desk are among the most contaminated areas of a typical airport, according to a study.
Four out of eight samples analysed in the study tested positive for respiratory viruses such as influenza A, rhinovirus and human corona OC43. Viruses were also found to a lesser degree on other surfaces including shop payment terminals, staircase rails, passport check counters and children's play areas.
The study was carried out by the University of Nottingham in conjunction with the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare. Its authors concluded that a change in behaviour on the part of passengers could be crucial in controlling the spread of contagious illnesses at airports.
"The study supports the case for improved public awareness of how viral infections spread," said Professor of Health Protection at the University of Nottingham's School of Medicine Jonathan Van Tam. "People can help to minimise contagion by hygienic hand washing and coughing into a handkerchief, tissue or sleeve at all times - and especially in public places.
"These simple precautions can help to prevent pandemics and are most important in crowded areas such as airports there is a high volume of people travelling to and from different parts of the world," he added.Virology expert Niina Ikonen from the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare said: "The new findings support preparedness planning for controlling the spread of serious infectious diseases in airports, and also provide new ideas for technical improvements in airport design and refurbishment."
Source: European Cleaning Journal