It's no secret that traveling comes with its health risks. There are the confined spaces on board the plane, the public restrooms, the crowded airports, and, of course, the exhaustion that comes with changing up your routine while traveling. Of all the germ-infested places you encounter when taking a trip, there's one unavoidable spot that carries more than the rest. According to a new study out of Europe, plastic trays used at security checkpoints carry the highest levels of viruses at the airport.
Scientists from the University of Nottingham and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare collected surface and air samples at different times during peak flu season in Finland from 2015 to 2016. After testing the samples, they found traces of at least one respiratory virus on 10% of the surface samples they took, including plastic security trays.
The trays proved to pose the highest potential risk with 50% carrying either the virus that causes the common cold, the virus that causes the flu, or both. Even the samples they took from the surface of the toilets at the airport did not carry these respiratory viruses, which researchers chalk up to the fact that passengers are more aware of their hand hygiene when using the restroom.
The researchers indicate that their findings are not unexpected, as these types of viruses can survive on surfaces for long periods of time. In addition, the security trays are typically cycled through many passengers without being routinely disinfected (just let that sink in).
One solution put forth by the researchers is for airports to offer hand sanitizer before and after security checkpoints and for them to disinfect the trays more frequently. In the meantime, in order to avoid catching any viruses while traveling, you may want to pack your own hand sanitizer or sprint to the restrooms to wash your hands after making it through security.
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