Kathleen Doheny (@DohenyKathleen)
April 21, 2015
You may fancy yourself a germ expert, but do you really know where germs lurk and how to avoid them? Test your germ IQ.
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In a public bathroom, which surface has the most germs?
A sink faucet wins because "you have to turn it on with a dirty hand to get water to wash," says Chuck Gerba, PhD, a University of Arizona microbiologist who studies germs. Wash well (scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds), and use a paper towel to turn off the faucet.
Which of these has the most germs?
"Kids are the best friend a germ ever had," Gerba says. Any environment with kids wins the ''most germs'' contest, he says. Before leaving any gym, use hand sanitizer that is 60 percent alcohol if water and soap aren't available. You can pack some in your kid's gym bag as well.
Which has more bugs?
The grocery keypad wins, says Philip Tierno, Jr., PhD, professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU School of Medicine and Langone Medical Center. Germ experts look at which item is handled most over a specific time period to determine which is likeliest to be germiest.
Which is germier?
The glass in the bathroom is often used by different family members, Tierno says. It could also be contaminated with fecal matter. Glasses in the kitchen sink area may pick up germs from food prep and from being used by multiple people. But even water reusable bottles used by one person must be cleaned regularly to avoid germ buildup. The dishwasher is best.
Which environment for family fun is teeming with more germs?
To stay healthiest, steer clear of the bowling alley, Tierno says. So if you have always flinched at the thought of all those fingers on the bowling balls and sweaty feet in those shoes, apparently you are not over-reacting.
Which carries more germs in your hotel room?
The remote is teeming, agree Tierno and Gerba. Gerba evaluated 14 remote controls in hotel rooms and found one third had fecal bacteria and one fifth had traces of semen. Take a plastic baggie and place the remote in it before using. Or turn on the TV the old-fashioned way.
Which transportation mode is germiest?
Based on data collected by Gerba's team, trains are worst for germs. "Lots of people in one place in one day," he says. To compensate, you can try to avoid sitting by sniffling, sneezing passengers and take along your trusty hand sanitizer.
Which is the least germy item to share?
A hairbrush, Gerba says. "Hepatitis B has been transmitted by toothbrushes and razors, so hairbrush is the least worst," he says. Yet it is not hazard free. "Watch out for lice." People infected with the hepatitis C virus should not share toothbrushes or razors, doctors say.
Which of these is the worst to share?
Since you put the fork in your mouth, and it's already been in someone else's, it wins, germ-wise, Gerba says.
What percent of kitchen towels are contaminated with E. coli?
University of Arizona researchers analyzed kitchen towels in five cities in the U.S. and Canada and found that about a quarter contained E. coli. Most strains are benign, but others can make you very sick with diarrhea and other symptoms. E. coli is found primarily in raw meat. Wash that kitchen towel daily!
What percent of “clean” office mugs contain germs?
Gerba tested office mugs and found that 90 percent were contaminated with germs. More disgusting, 20 percent harbored fecal bacteria. "Most coffee break rooms don't have a dishwasher. People use sponges to wipe them out." Or scrub brushes. Both may contain bacteria and viruses. Solution: Take it home and pop it in the dishwasher.
In your office, which has the most germs?
The phone has 25,000 germs per square inch. The keyboard, more than 3,000. The mouse, 1,600. The toilet seat? A measly 49 per square inch. Wipe down your desk, keyboard, phone and mouse with antibacterial wipes.
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