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It is common knowledge that airports are rife with infectious diseases. From filthy security trays to the disease covered pull-down trays on the back of your seat in-flight, everything seems to be covered with germs. Now a list has been published which outlines the worst airports to travel through, those which are most likely to give you a virus and even those most likely to start an epidemic.

This study aimed to determine the most efficient way to stop the spread of an epidemic by strategically shutting down fewer, more influential airports. The study was carried out by a research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“JFK is a very influential spreader, for instance, because it has high traffic and many long-distance connections worldwide, but unexpectedly, Hawaii is a very influential spot for starting a disease,” said lead researcher Christos Nicolaides, a fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

The world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International (ATL), ranked only No. 8 on the top 10 list of airports that would spread disease. Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International (HNL), ranked No. 3, behind only Los Angeles International (LAX) and New York-JFK, which was No. 1.

By comparison, ATL saw around 90 million passengers in 2017; HNL saw fewer than 15 million in the same period. Why is this the case?

“Honolulu is strategically located in the middle of the ocean between two continents, so this was the main contribution,” said Christos Nicolaides. “With Atlanta, the volume is very high, but (…) most of their volume is not coming from international destinations”

Ie any airport which is a popular layover spot for longer international flights, will have a mix of diseases from everywhere in the world. Other top-ranking disease delivering airports were Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport (KEF) because of the number of transatlantic flights that pass through it, Dubai (DXB), Hong Kong (HKG), Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and London Heathrow (LHR) where I am today.

I always carry hand gel with me to the airport and use it religiously, but to be honest, I catch most of the diseases going around from my son anyway.

You see, adults keep some distance from other travellers and we don’t lick our hands and then touch things and then lick our hands again. If we are careful, use gels and avoid other sneezing travellers, we are in with a good chance of avoiding the disease of the month.

I do use gels on my son and get him to avoid ill-looking passengers, but at 8, he has only relatively recently stopped licking handrails and seats. Of course, he never did it on purpose, but he is a seasoned traveller and between 3 and 5 years, in particular, I would often find, to my horror, his mouth clamped on some piece of airport furniture or other. At school, I’ve seen the children accidentally drink out of another child’s cup on numerous occasions. The result is that most of my winters are a mass of colds and flu.

When I’m at the airport nowadays, I follow common sense but I tend to feel that fate will take it’s course anyway. I prefer to travel and get a cold than not to travel and avoid them…

HT: The Points Guy.

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