Germs live everywhere, so it's always a good idea to mind what you touch, especially when you're somewhere as busy as an airport.
For example, when researchers conducted 18 tests across six different surfaces at three major airports using swab kits, this is what they found:
- The dirtiest place in an airport is actually the self check-in kiosk, which contained an average of 253,857 CFU (bacteria and fungal cells per square inch)
- Coming in second for the dirtiest place in the airport are the airline gate bench armrests, which contained a little over 21,000 CFU.
- Water fountain buttons took third place with just over 19,000 CFU.
In comparison airports and airplanes are a lot dirtier than say, a public toilet seat, which contains 172 CFU, or a kitchen countertop with 361 CFU.
This builds on work carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Nottingham, this team's research involved swabbing and collecting 90 surface samples and four air samples in the Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland.
They found respiratory viruses, including rhinovirus (associated with the common cold and pneumonia), coronavirus (linked to sore throats) and the flu virus on many surfaces, and in the air.
Security area hand luggage trays tested positive for those viruses about 50% of the time, compared to 14% for handrails and 33% for the divider glass panels at security checkpoints.
Contagious viruses have been known to move around the world via air travellers, for example, in 2003, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) travelled from Hong Kong to a handful of countries, while in 2009, the worldwide spread of pandemic influenza (known as H1N1) spread outward from the US and Mexico.