Boston: Improving the rates of handwashing by travellers passing through just 10 of the world’s leading airports could significantly reduce the spread of many infectious diseases, including the novel coronavirus, according to a study. The greater the improvement in people’s handwashing habits at airports, the more dramatic the effect on slowing the disease, said researchers, including those from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.
People can be surprisingly casual about washing hands even in crowded locations like airports, they said. Travellers from different parts of the world are touching surfaces such as chair armrests, check-in kiosks, security checkpoint trays, and restroom doorknobs and faucets, the researchers said.
Based on data from previous research by groups, including the American Society for Microbiology, the team estimated that on average, only about 20 per cent of people in airports have clean hands.The other 80 per cent are potentially contaminating everything they touch with whatever germs they may be carrying, the researchers said. “Seventy per cent of the people who go to the toilet wash their hands afterwards,” said Professor Christos Nicolaides from the University of Cyprus.
Others, he said, just rinse briefly in some water, rather than using soap and water and spending the recommended 15 to 20 seconds washing. Improving handwashing at all of the world’s airports to triple that rate, so that 60 per cent of travellers to have clean hands at any given time, would have the greatest impact, potentially slowing global disease spread by almost 70 per cent.