Science - February 2, 2006

Mats at Schiphol

Experts have advised the minister of agriculture, Veerman, against the idea of placing disinfectant mats at Schiphol airport to reduce the risk of people bringing bird flu into the country on the soles of their shoes. The Lower Chamber of Parliament had asked the minister to implement the plan, especially for travellers arriving from Turkey.

The group of scientists, which includes Wageningen epidemiologist Professor Mart de Jong and Dr Arno Gielkens of Cidc-Lelystad, believes the disinfectant in the mats would not be on the shoes long enough to be effective against the virus and could potentially harm the shoes or the travellers themselves. The measure would also give people a false sense of security and detract from more effective measures such as having travellers throw any food items brought with them away at the airport and having them fill in questionnaires about the nature of their stay abroad. The minister has expressed his support for the experts’ position in a letter to the Lower Chamber of Parliament. / GvM

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