What’s the new essential hand baggage item for the next time you fly?

It is clear that International travel has made the rapid spread of infectious diseases possible, but little information is actually available on the role of major traffic hubs, such as airports, have in the transmission of respiratory infections, including seasonal influenza and a potential pandemic threat. A new paper has investigated the presence of respiratory viruses in the passenger environment of a major airport in order to identify risk points and guide measures to minimise transmission and delivered some alarming results.

The scientific investigation carried out by experts from the University of Nottingham and the Finnish national institute for health and welfare during the winter of 2016, but only published late last month in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Infectious Diseases, viruses were most commonly found on the plastic trays that are circulated along the passenger queue at the hand luggage X-ray checkpoint, a necessity for all travellers as part of the security process. In fact half of the trays tested revealed that at least one respiratory virus.

So should we panic? Well, no! Health officials say that the methods used for sampling showed traces of viral genetic material, which isn’t the same as finding live viruses capable of causing an infection. But that said, the investigation does provide a suggestion that people should be encouraged to use alcohol hand disinfectant before and after security checks, to minimise the risk of infection; something health officials describe as “sensible advice”.

We will certainly be carrying our own alcohol hand gel the next time we fly.

READ MORE in our article for The Blue Swan DailyFinnish study reveals airport security trays have more viruses than toilet seats