Expert points out germiest places

Posted on October 29, 2010

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It may be safer to make a salad on your toilet seat than your kitchen cutting board. That’s because there is 200 times more fecal bacteria found on your cutting board than on an actual toilet seat, says Chuck Gerba, professor of agriculture and health at the University of Arizona. Gerba explains that this frightening statistic is due to the amount of raw meats and produce that most Americans bring into the kitchen. Gerba, who jokingly calls himself “Dr. Germ,” is a world-renowned germ specialist and has been a consultant to the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control, and provided research information to the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and many state and local agencies. When looking at the amount of fecal bacteria in an average home, Gerba said, researchers have found that the place with the most fecal bacteria is the kitchen sponge.

“The sponge is a happy home for bacteria. It’s wet, it’s moist and it’s sucking up food all of the time,” he said, adding that you can squeeze as much as 10 million E. coli out of it without any issues.

Gerba explained that there is a smaller amount of fecal bacteria inside a home’s toilet bowl after a person flushes than there is in a kitchen sink.

“That’s why dogs drink out of the toilet. They’re a lot smarter than you think,” he joked.

He said that a lot of the reasoning behind this is that most Americans drench their bathroom in cleaning products because they are terrified of “butt-borne” diseases. Disinfectants need to be used more in the kitchen, he explained, and said that Americans are doing a great job with the bathrooms, but kitchens could use some more work.

“We also spend less time cleaning than the previous generations,” said Gerba.

The need for a better cleaning also extends to the laundry room. He explained that most people only wash their laundry for a short amount of time on a cold water cycle, allowing for the possibility of germs surviving through the wash.

“Your grandfather had cleaner underwear than you,” he said.

People also spend more time in public places than any other generation, he said, giving the example of places like stadiums, large shopping malls and cruise ships that Americans frequent. The way to protect yourself is by practicing good hygiene and that means consistent hand washing and sanitary practices. Good hygiene alone has saved more lives than all the antibiotics, medicine and vaccines that exist today, he speculated. Eighty percent of all infections are lurking in your everyday environment and are spread through fomites, inanimate objects that are involved in disease transmission, such as a desk or a chair, he said.

“The other 20 percent are from sex and insect bites,” Gerba explained. “So if you give up sex and use a lot of insect repellent, you’re only going to avoid 20 percent of diseases you can get in your life, so it’s hardly worth it, in my opinion.”

Children, Gerba said, most commonly transmit diseases through their nose, mouth and eyes.

“You can actually transmit the common cold by rubbing it into your eye,” he said.

Gerba added that small children bring their fingers up to their face at least 81 times per hour.

“The best friend a germ ever had is a child because they are picking up germs all the time and they’re giving them to their caretakers,” he said.

When looking at ways that viruses were spread in homes, researchers have found that vacuum cleaners were a major contributor.

“We found that they’re basically meals on wheels for bacteria,” he said and explained that some hotel carpets have been linked to the cause of infections.

He also added that about 90 percent of the population will most likely be working in an office in the near future if they aren’t already, which leads to dealing with multiple surfaces covered in germs. Those in office environments are constantly touching similar surfaces, and desktops are some of the dirtiest places in an office along with the keyboard and mouse because it is rarely cleaned by janitorial staff.

“And people don’t clean it until they start sticking to it…” he said. At a university, library tables and desktops are riddled with diseases.

In the office setting, they also looked at coffee cups on various desks and discovered that there were large amounts of fecal bacteria found in them because of the sponges and dishrags that are used to clean them. When looking at the germiest jobs, though, he found that among the germiest jobs are teachers and least germiest are lawyers, he said. They looked at elementary classrooms in grades fourth through sixth and found that one of the germiest places in the room was the pencil sharpener and the second highest was the top of the students’ desks. Gerba said that after they found this out, they decided to see if they could prevent germs by disinfecting the kids’ desks after the elementary students were gone for the day. After only cleaning the desks, they found that there was 50 percent less germs in the room compared with the classrooms that they did not clean.

The bottom line is, he said, wash your hands properly, use alcohol gel sanitizer and disinfect fomite surfaces because germ exposure is continually on the rise.

Facts about Germs:

  • One of the germiest places in a patient’s room at a hospital is the television remote.
  • Most people didn’t start accepting that germs even existed until 1890 and at this time, infectious disease was the first cause of death and diarrhea was No. 2.
  • About 80 to 90 percent of our time today, in the United States, is spent indoors, which is a big contrast from 100 years ago where the reverse was true.
  • Restaurants were discovered to have dirtier countertops after they were wiped down than before because workers are supposed to put the rags in disinfectant solution, but most of the time they don’t do it properly.
  • Technology has had a dramatic effect on the increase of germs in our lives like the self-checkout stands at grocery stores; 100 percent of the self-checkout stands tested had bacteria on them.
  • 50 percent of reusable shopping bags at grocery stores that were tested had fecal matter inside of them.

http://www.latimes.com/health/os-speaker-germs-20101019,0,2767478,full.story

 

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Posted in: The Anti News