New study reveals the truly grim reality of those airport security trays
There are plenty of gross things about travelling on a plane. Disgusting airplane food, even more disgusting fellows passengers (all nose-pickers to the other side of the jet, please) and the thought that someone may have joined the Mile High Club in the grotty toilet you're using all come to mind. However, a recent study has given us all a brand new thing to be grossed out at - and we're completely horrified with the news.
So, if you're sure you want to know, let's get down to it. You know those trays you have to put your hand luggage in when you pass through airport security? Well, apparently they are more germ-ridden than some toilets. Yes, that's right: often when you load all your personal belongings into one of those little grey trays, you might as well be dunking them in a urinal.
Published in the BMC Infectious Diseases journal, the study - carried out by a team of experts from the University of Nottingham and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare - discovered that the plastic trays used at airport security checkpoints harboured the highest levels of viruses at airports.
The swabs were taken on three different occasions during the peak of the 2015-2016 flu season, with four of the eight samples containing the rhinovirus or adenovirus, which cause cold-like symptoms.
In addition, the pandemic experts found evidence of viruses on 10 per cent of all airport surfaces tested. This included shop payment terminals, staircase rails, passport checking counters and children's play areas, however, the highest level of viruses were found on the plastic trays.
"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 study read. "These boxes typically cycle with high frequency to subsequent passengers, and are typically seized with a wide palm surface area and strong grip."
It concluded: "Security check trays appear to pose the highest potential risk and are used by virtually all embarking passengers. They have the potential to be especially problematic if a severe pathogen with an indirect transmission mechanism were to pose a threat for international spread."
Professor of health protection Jonathan Van-Tam, from the University of Nottingham, gave tips on how to minimise risk in the study's supporting statement: "This study supports the case for improved public awareness of how viral infections spread. People can help to minimise contagion by hygienic hand washing and coughing into a handkerchief, tissue or sleeve at all times - but especially in public places."
The study also suggests that airports provide hand sanitizer where "intense, repeat touching of surfaces takes place, such as immediately before and after security screening."
So folks, there you have it. Will you ever be able to travel through an airport without thinking of this study? I know I won't.