by Allen J. Sheinman | September 06, 2018
While the news is still buzzing about a suspected flu virus that plagued passengers aboard an Emirates airliner landing at JFK Airport yesterday, a new report says going through security at an airport can be hazardous to your health. The study, conducted by Finnish and British researchers and reported last week in the BioMed Central Infectious Disease Journal, found that half of all plastic airport security bins could be carrying viruses associated with respiratory infections.
In fact, a plane's toilet could well harbor fewer germs than the security bins, the report noted, thanks to frequent cleaning by crew and passengers' caution about touching surfaces while in the airborne commode, whereas handling the bins "is almost inevitable for all embarking passengers."
Four of eight samples taken from bins at Helsinki Airport during the 2015-2016 flu season were found to contain adenovirus or rhinovirus, culprits that can cause cold-like symptoms. The bins "typically cycle with high frequency to subsequent passengers, and are typically seized with a wide palm surface area and strong grip," according to the report, thus leaving passengers at risk for an "emerging pandemic threat."
The threat could be more acute for American passengers, the report noted, as screeners routinely compel passengers to place food and snack items into the bins along with their computers, shoes, belts, etc.
Other high-risk areas at Helsinki Airport, according to the study, included push-buttons on the airport pharmacy's computer terminals, and the desks and glass dividers in the customs checkpoint.
The researchers recommended the use of antibacterial wipes, presumably by both airport cleaning workers and passengers alike, to "rapidly render influenza virus nonviable."