The germiest place in the airport may not be what you think

It's been a bad week for plane travel. As if getting through the airport wasn't stressful enough, just after news broke Wednesday that passengers were being quarantined after landing at JFK Airport, a study found the germiest places in airports. (The passenger was eventually diagnosed with influenza and the common cold.)

What's the worst thing about the airport? Shockingly, this is not an airport toilet. According to CNN, experts from the University of Nottingham in the UK and the Finnish National Institute of Health and Welfare found that airport security trays are the largest breeding ground for bacteria. Hand sanitizer, anyone want it?

This is new information compared to a study released in February that found airport kiosks were the dirtiest places in airports. The new study, published in BMC Infectiousdies, tested 90 frequently touched surfaces at the airport, such as toilet seats, escalator handrails, elevator buttons, chair rails, trolley handles and toys in children's play areas, Gizmodo reports. Gizmodo said researchers found that plastic safety trays fared the worst, with 50% containing one of four viruses: adenovirus, influenza A (flu), rhinovirus (common cold) and human coronavirus. Researchers said rhinovirus was the most common virus they found, USA Today reported.

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According to Gizmodo, airport security boxes are not disinfected regularly (or perhaps ever). Researchers told Gizmodo that the risk of spreading these germs could be significantly reduced if airports provided hand sanitizer before and after travelers go through airport security. Additionally, researchers told Gizmodo that airports should start disinfecting security boxes on a regular basis.

But airport security trays aren't the only surfaces harboring viruses — they're just the worst offenders. According to CNN, researchers found large numbers of bacteria in store payment terminals, stair railings, passport control counters, children's play areas and in the air. Which studies have found no respiratory viruses? Bathroom area. According to Gizmodo, researchers did not detect any respiratory viruses on the upper surface of toilet seats, flush buttons or door locks. According to Gizmodo, researchers say passengers may pay more attention to hygiene in restrooms than elsewhere in airports.

Jonathan Van Tram, professor of health protection at the University of Nottingham School of Medicine, said in a statement to CNN: "This study supports increased public awareness of how viral infections are spread. "People can help reduce transmission by washing their hands hygienically and covering their coughs with a handkerchief, tissue or sleeve, especially in public places."

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The researchers also hope the study's results can help prevent the spread of disease during travel. "These simple precautions can help prevent epidemics and are most important in crowded areas like airports, where large numbers of people travel around the world," Van-Tam said in a statement to USA Today .

So, how can you help stop the spread of all these germs at airports? Before airports start offering hand sanitizer at security checkpoints, try bringing your own if you can. (You can get through security if the container weighs less than three ounces.) Otherwise, go to the restroom and wash your hands immediately after passing security. The Centers for Disease Control recommends wetting your hands, lathering both sides with soap, and scrubbing both sides for 20 seconds, then rinsing. Dry your hands with a clean towel or let them air dry, the CDC says.

It may sound scary to hear about all these germs and illnesses being spread in airports, but knowing how to stay healthy will help you get to your next destination smoothly. Knowing some precautions can help you avoid getting the flu or other illnesses while traveling.