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Surprising Germ Hotspots: Are You At Risk?

Surprising Germ Hotspots: Are You At Risk?
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By    |   Wednesday, 11 May 2016 03:06 PM

If you're headed to the gym this week, you may get more than just a good workout: A new British study found that gyms are teeming with potentially deadly bacteria that can cause numerous diseases, including pneumonia.

The study, by FitRated.com, discovered free weights in gyms harbor 362 times the bacteria found on public toilet seats. Exercise bikes are even germier than reusable cafeteria trays and treadmills are coated with 74 times more bacteria than public bathroom faucets.

Avoiding the gym, however, won’t keep you germ-free, because harmful viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi lurk everywhere.

The CDC reports more than 160,000 people in the U.S. die yearly from infectious diseases, with salmonella infections alone being responsible for an estimated 1.4 million illnesses each year.

Taking preventive measures, such as wiping down surfaces, frequent hand washing, and using anti-bacterial gel, will go a long way toward protecting you and your loved ones from disease, but only if you know where to look.

Here is a roundup of top germ hotspots commonly encountered on a daily basis — some of which may surprise you — and how to protect yourself:

On the go:

•    Cellular phones. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found E. coli bacteria on one out of every six phones. To lower your risk, refrain from using your cellphone while in the restroom and while eating, and regularly clean your device with an anti-bacterial wipe.
•    Handbags. A study from the University of Arizona found that women’s purses are one of the filthiest things they touch during the day, and a U.K. study claims handbags are covered with more bacteria than are found in a toilet flush. Avoid resting handbags on the floor or in shopping carts, and clean them regularly to reduce the risk of harboring germs.
•    Car and house keys. The keys stored in handbags also pick up germs, especially if you drop them on the floor or rest them on store countertops. Before taking them out for a game of jingle keys with the baby, make sure they’ve been washed with hot soap and water or cleaned with a disinfectant wipe.

At the workplace:

•    Computer keyboards. Does your computer keyboard have more germs than a public toilet? According to a British study, it can. Swabs taken in a London office found keyboards with gut bacteria counts so off-the-charts that they put toilet seats to shame. Regularly wipe down your keyboard, mouse, and telephone with sanitizing wipes to keep the germs away.
•    Desks. The typical office desk is home to more than 400 times the bacteria found on toilet seats, according to a study from the University of Arizona. To help keep your workspace germ free, avoid eating at your desk and wash your hands after using the restroom.
•    The break room. There's always that one guy who leaves his dirty dishes in the sink and doesn't wipe out the microwave after his pasta explodes. But, surprisingly, it's the microwave handles, refrigerator handles, and faucet handles that pose the highest risk for germ contamination. A study by Kimberly-Clark and Dr. Charles Gerba found high levels of germs on 75 percent of break-room faucet handles, 48 percent of microwave handles, and 26 percent of refrigerator handles. A simple solution is to keep sanitizing wipes in the kitchen and break room area.
•    Candy bowls. Watching what you eat isn't the only reason to avoid reaching for a treat. The office candy dish or bowl of mints can be more germy than money, according to a study published by Consumer Reports. Wrapped candy poses a lesser threat, but can still be covered in germs if people swirl their fingers through the bowl as they search for their favorite flavor. The easiest way to deal with this germ hot spot is to remove the candy bowl altogether.

At the supermarket:

•    Shopping carts.
Researchers from the University of Arizona swabbed shopping cart handles in four states, and found fecal matter on 72 percent of the carts. More than 50 percent of them tested positive for E. coli. Many grocery stores offer sanitary wipes for shoppers to wipe the handles down with, but always wash your hands after using a grocery cart.
•    Checkout conveyor belts. Random samples from 42 grocery stores found Staph (S. aureus), mold, and yeast on all conveyer belts, according to a study presented at the International Association of Food Protection. To reduce your risk of exposure, place all fresh produce in plastic bags, and always be sure to thoroughly wash fruits and veggies before eating them.
•    Recyclable shopping bags. While great for the environment, recyclable shopping bags can be a haven for bacteria. Researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University found 12 percent of recyclable shopping bags tested positive for E. coli bacteria. In Oregon, health officials traced a norovirus outbreak in a group of soccer players to cookies stored in a contaminated recyclable shopping bag. Washing the bags on a weekly basis, or even after each shopping trip, will keep the germs at bay.

At home:

•    The TV remote.
Chances are, you’ve snacked while watching television, dropped the remote control on the floor, or used it after sneezing or coughing. A University of Virginia study found more than half of the household television remotes tested were covered with common cold viruses. Keep the remote off the floor, and wipe it down regularly with disinfecting wipes.
•    The kitchen sponge. In a recent interview with Good Housekeeping, Dr. Charles Gerba stated Americans typically clean their bathrooms more vigilantly than their kitchens, and pointed to the seemingly innocent sponge as a leading culprit in spreading germs around the kitchen. He recommends replacing sponges at least once a month.
•    Your toothbrush. Surprisingly, a toothbrush can be a home for as many as 10 million bacteria, including E. coli and Staph, according to a study from the University of Manchester in England. Sources of contamination include airborne bacteria from flushing the toilet, and splashing water from hand washing. To reduce the risk of germs, store your toothbrush away from the sink, close the toilet lid while flushing, and allow your toothbrush to dry completely between uses.

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Going to the gym may get you more than just a good workout: A new British study found health clubs are teeming with potentially deadly bacteria. But gyms aren't the only places you're likely to encounter disease-causing germs. Here's a roundup of top germ hotspots, some of which may surprise you.
germ, hotspots, risk
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 03:06 PM
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