Here’s Where You’ll Find the Most Germs in an Airport, and No It’s Not the Bathrooms

Here’s Where You’ll Find the Most Germs in an Airport, and No It’s Not the Bathrooms
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For the first time in almost two years, we are able to travel freely again. However, the pandemic isn’t over and it’s still very easy to pick up an infection when travelling abroad. Many articles have gone into the ways you can protect yourself from viruses on an aeroplane, but what about at the airport?

Let’s take a look at what research tells us about the germiest places at airports.

Where will you find the most germs at the airport?

Like any public place with frequently touched surfaces, it’s easy to transmit an infectious disease at an airport. Contagion got a lot right.

Researchers published an article in BMC Infectious Diseases that investigated the presence of respiratory viruses in the passenger environment of a major airport in order to identify major risk points and find some ways to minimise transmission.

To do this they tested surface and air samples weekly at three different times at an airport in Finland during peak flu season in 2015-16.

Sampling times were chosen specifically at points where surfaces had not yet been cleaned after the most recent traffic peak.

The results showed that nucleic acid of at least one respiratory virus was found in 9 surface samples out of the 90 taken.

The areas these were found were on a plastic toy in the children’s playground, luggage screening trays at the security check area, buttons of a payment terminal, the handrails of stairs and the passenger side of the desk at passport control points.

The researchers pointed out in their results that the plastic security screening trays at airports appear to be commonly contaminated:

The latter is consistent with security procedures being an obligatory step for all departing passengers, and that each security tray is rapidly recycled and potentially touched by several hundred passengers per day. Also, that plastic security trays are non-porous and virus survival is known to be prolonged.

In order to combat this, the researchers suggested offering passengers hand sanitiser at security screening and disinfecting trays more often.

That’s a good reminder for us all to wash or sanitise our hands after going through security.

Surprisingly, no viruses were detected in samples taken from the surfaces of toilet environments. Probably because we all know public toilets are already germ-fests so we’re a lot more cautious.

So technically, you could say security screening at an airport has more germs than a toilet. Pack that hand sanitiser, folks.

Bear in mind that this is just one study that was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve all gotten into better sanitising habits since then, but it’s still a good reminder to be extra cautious at airports, particularly around those commonly touched surfaces.

If you’re looking for ways to protect yourself from viruses once you’re on the plane, we’ve got some guidance on that here.

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