A study found that airport security bins hold more cold and flu-causing germs than a normal toilet seat. Researchers from the University of Nottingham colluded with the Finnish National Institute of Health and Welfare on the study. The team assembled samples from commonly used surfaces on different places at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland.
The research involved swabbing plastic bins at the Helsinki Airport during the winter of 2015-2016, which was the top flu season. Four out of eight samples carried the rhinovirus or adenovirus which is responsible for causing colds or flu-like symptoms. Looking at the traffic of the foot traffic that goes through the traffic each day, the study itself might not be that shocking. In the US, nearly 1.73 million passengers fly each day.
Professor of Health Protection Jonathan Van Tam led the researchers from the University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine. He said:
“This study supports the case for improved public awareness of how viral infections spread.” However, the researchers assured that the basic sanitary precautions could help to reduce the risk of catching a cold or flu after dealing with airport security bins. Van Tam said in a statement, “People can help to minimize contagion by hygienic hand washing and coughing into a handkerchief, tissue or sleeve at all times but especially in public places. These simple precautions can help prevent pandemics and are most important in crowded areas like airports that have a high volume of people traveling to and from many different parts of the world.”
The researchers said in their study that airports could serve as a risk zone for an ’emerging pandemic threat.’ The threat can be higher in countries where passengers are forced to empty their snack and foodstuff into a plastic bin while going through security. Niina Ikonen, a virology expert with the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, said:
“The presence of microbes in the environment of an airport has not been investigated previously. The new findings support preparedness planning for controlling the spread of serious infectious diseases in airports. The results also provide new ideas for technical improvements in airport design and refurbishment.”
The researchers concluded that airports could take several steps to lessen the chances of illnesses. They can offer hand sanitizer to passengers before boarding the plane as well as after the security checkpoint. Airport security teams should also be more careful about disinfecting the bins.