FIRST reveals the unexpected places where bacteria multiply!
Startling fact: The trays in quick-service and fast-food eateries can be coated with up to 5 times more bacteria and viruses than what’s on the restaurant floor, say researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson. While the bugs may get on your hands, they can’t make you sick unless they reach your nose, eyes or mouth. So set your cartons—or plate—on the table and discard the tray when you sit, then give your hands a quick rub with hand sanitizer before eating. Doing so regularly could cut your risk of infection by as much as 75 percent, say UCLA researchers. Another option: Order your food to go and use the paper bag as your serving tray.
Lunchroom faucets are the dirtiest surfaces in offices—all handles tested by University of Arizona scientists were contaminated. “The office break room is like an unregulated restaurant—it’s a germ transfer point where everyone eats, coughs, sneezes and touches surfaces,” says researcher Charles Gerba, Ph.D. His advice? Before you eat, swipe faucets with a disinfecting wipe to lower bacteria levels. No wipes handy? Use a paper towel to turn the taps on and off.
Fully 100 percent of vacuum-cleaner brushes and powerheads are loaded with mold, and at least 51 percent of them test positive for fecal bacteria, according to studies at the University of Arizona. Vacuuming can spread those germs from contaminated areas to cleaner spots, explains Gerba, coauthor of _The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu. _To kill up to 100 percent of the bugs on contact, the study authors suggest spritzing vacuum brushes with a disinfectant spray, such as Clorox or Lysol, after every use.
The dispensers in public restrooms are so germy that even the soap inside them can get contaminated. In fact, hands can carry up to 10 times more bugs _after _washing than before, say scientists in the journal _Applied and Environmental Microbiology. _Since many dispensers are rarely cleaned, any germs that sneak in grow unchecked. The easy Rx: Wash with soap, then use alcohol-based hand gel to kill germs that have hitchhiked from the soap to your hands.
Virtually everyone who walks into a hotel room flips the lights on—including guests who aren’t as conscientious about hand-washing as you are. As a result, these light switches contain 6 times more illness-causing bacteria than even the grimiest telephone keypad, say researchers at the University of Houston in Texas. To dodge the germs, try wiping light switches with a slightly damp washcloth and a dab of hotel soap, which instantly cuts the bug count by 82 percent, according to a British research team. You can use the same cloth on the second-most contaminated surface in hotels—the TV remote.
Some 95 percent of salt and pepper shakers are tainted with cold-causing rhinoviruses—and food residue on shakers can keep the pests alive for 72 hours, say researchers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The culprit? Sneezing. A sneeze propels 100,000 germs across the room at 200 miles per hour, says Michael Schmidt, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. To destroy 83 percent of germs within 2 minutes, he suggests rubbing a bit of alcohol-based hand gel, like Purell, all over the shakers.
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