The frequency with which we travel by air today has increased the rate of contagion, according to a study. But improved hand washing by travellers could significantly cut the risk of infections.
Airports attract an international population which means that infections and bacteria are brought in from many countries, claim study authors Smixin AG. Meanwhile, airports and aircraft contain numerous frequently-touched surfaces including self-service check-in screens, gate bench armrests, water fountain buttons, seats, tray tables and lavatories handles. Study authors believe that the dense populations, confined spaces, inefficient ventilation and lack of proper hygiene typically experienced in airports and aircraft help facilitate the spread of illnesses.
The SARS outbreak which began in a Hong Kong hotel in February 2003 infected more than 8,000 people in 26 countries within weeks. And the H1N1 virus, which originated in Mexico in April 2009, reached the US and Europe within days and eventually caused around 300,000 deaths worldwide. Hand hygiene is considered by WHO to be the most effective and cost-efficient prevention mechanism against a potential pandemic, claims Smixin.
However, hand washing facilities in public areas are limited to wash basins in washrooms while little is done to inform the wider public about the impact of hand-hygiene against a global disease propagation.
The study authors advocate the use of "smart" technologies to address these issues. These include an Airbus antimicrobial system that wipes out viruses and pathogens when injected on to surfaces; a self-sanitising lavatory from Boeing which is designed to kill 99.99 per cent of pathogens using ultraviolet light, and touch-free hand washing stations from Smixin said to kill 95 per cent of germs and viruses.
Source: European Cleaning Journal