By Lucas Laursen
September 5, 2018

Air travel brings far-flung people together, but it also brings them together with each other’s germs.

And if you think avoiding the bathrooms until you leave the airport will save you, you’re wrong. A scientific study of Helsinki airport in Finland reveals that security bins were the riskiest source of respiratory germs.

As the authors write, “handling these is almost inevitable for all embarking passengers.”

The study, in BMC Infectious Diseases, tested 40 surfaces and took air samples on several different occasions for respiratory illnesses, such as colds and the flu.

Surfaces that are cleaned on a routine basis, such as toilet lids, actually had quite low respiratory virus counts, the researchers found. The researchers did not test for food-borne diseases, they note.

Airports are important hubs for public health because they force contact between many different people heading to destinations around the world, yet very little disease surveillance appears to happen there: the authors claim this is only the second study of respiratory viruses they know of.

The solution is no surprise, they write: “Many cleaning agents, household (antibacterial) wipes and anti-viral tissues are able to rapidly render influenza virus nonviable, offering multiple simple possibilities and opportunities for reducing the risk of indirect contact transmission.”

Parents will also not be surprised that the only surface that returned viruses more often than the security bins was a plastic toy in the airport’s playground.

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