The most virus-laden surface in the airport is not the toilet, check-in desk or food counter. Turns out that the plastic trays used at airport security checkpoints harbour the highest levels of viruses at the airport.
That's according to a new study published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases, carried out by scientists at the University of Nottingham in the U.K.
The most common virus detected in the study? Rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold. But some swabs also picked up the influenza A virus.
The results of the report underscore the importance of regular and thorough hand washing and correct coughing etiquette — coughing into a handkerchief, tissue or sleeve, said the editors of the study.
For the study, scientists swabbed a variety of different surfaces at Finland's main airport hub Helsinki-Vantaa during the winter of 2016.
Overall, scientists found viruses on 10 per cent of surfaces tested, with the highest concentrations found on the plastic bins used to screen flyers' carry-on bags, coats and laptops.
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Viruses were also detected on shop payment terminals, staircase rails, passport checking counters, children's play areas and in the air.
"This study supports the case for improved public awareness of how viral infections spread. 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," study co-author Jonathan Van Tamion said in a statement.
"These simple precautions can help prevent pandemics and are most important in crowded areas like airports that have a high volume of people travelling to and from many different parts of the world."