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Airports play host to “emerging pandemic threat”

Martine Powers, Washington Post – Next time you go through airport security, it might be worth washing your hands afterward.

According to a new study, half of plastic airport security bins may carry viruses that cause respiratory infections.

The study tested swabs from surface samples of the plastic bins at Helsinki Airport that were taken at three different times during the peak of the 2015-2016 flu season.

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Four of eight samples contained the rhinovirus or adenovirus, which cause cold-like symptoms.

The authors concluded that the screening trays “appear commonly contaminated” and that they are one of the surfaces at an airport where passengers are most likely to pick up harmful viruses.

“We found the highest frequency of respiratory viruses on plastic trays used in security check areas for depositing hand-carried luggage and personal items,” the scientists wrote in their journal article.

“These boxes typically cycle with high frequency to subsequent passengers, and are typically seized with a wide palm surface area and strong grip.”

The results, they said, demonstrated that airports can serve as a potential risk zone for an “emerging pandemic threat” — a prospect that has already become a major concern in the aftermath of the 2002 SARS outbreak and the 2014 Ebola epidemic.

And the preponderance of viruses on airport screening bins may be even more cause for concern among Americans, who are increasingly encountering Transportation Security Administration screeners instructing them to empty their food and snack items straight into the plastic bins.

At the conclusion of the study centered on Helsinki Airport, the researchers concluded that airports should offer hand sanitizer to travelers before and after each security checkpoint and that the baggage trays should be cleaned and disinfected more frequently.

But plastic bins aren’t the only place in airports where researchers found frequent presence of cold-causing viruses. Read more at Washington Post. 


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