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Germs at the airport: A hotbed for viruses

Larissa Warneck
September 13, 2018

Aeroplanes allow us to travel all over the world. We can cover vast distances in a short space of time. But often when we fly, there are thousands of potentially harmful viruses tagging along for the journey.

A "departure" sign at the airport
Image: Colourbox/ssuaphoto

Are you a frequent flyer? Then you might want to wash your hands after touching airport surfaces. Like, every time. 

The fact that we can now travel nationally and internationally in short amounts of time means that the spread of infectious diseases has increased drastically.

Read More: Measles cases soaring in Europe, WHO warns

Recently, a team of researchers from the United Kingdom and Finland studied various surfaces at Finland's main airport, Helsinki-Vantaa.

A woman coughing into a handkerchief
When we sneeze thousands of germs are released into the air, traveling up to 8 metersImage: picture alliance/empics

They tested these areas for different types of respiratory viruses, such as the rhinovirus, coronavirus, adenovirus, and influenza A.

The researchers took swabs from armrests, handrails, children's toys in the play area, trolley handles, luggage trays at the security area, and toilet locks, lids, and flushes.

Their results showed that 10 percent of examined surfaces carried respiratory viruses. The most common virus was the rhinovirus, which causes the common cold. And the highest concentration of viruses was found on the trays at the security checkpoint.

Read more: England hit by 50 year spike in scarlet fever

At airports — and all other public spaces — people should make sure to frequently wash their hands with soap and water. Another way you can help: Cough and sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your arm.