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Germs Hide in Unexpected Places

Many people unaware of where most really lurk

TUESDAY, June 29, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Many American don't know that germs are lurking on many common objects in their homes, offices, and public areas such as playgrounds, according to a University of Arizona survey.

Kitchen sinks, computer keyboards, escalator handrails, ATMs, picnic tables, playground equipment, and office desks are places that harbor more germs than many people may think, said professor Charles Gerba, a leading expert on environmental biology who's also known as "Dr. Germ."

"This lack of knowledge about where germs lurk is a real health problem, because people touch these objects and 80 percent of infections are spread through hand contact. The solution is to practice proper hand hygiene by washing with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer," Gerba said in a prepared statement.

The survey found 64 percent of the 1,000 respondents mistakenly believed that a public washroom had more germs than an ATM. Most of the respondents were unaware the kitchen sink is more contaminated with bacteria than the toilet bowl or garbage can.

The majority of people didn't know the toilet seat at work actually has less germs than their office desks, computer keyboards, and elevator buttons. Outdoor portable potties are cleaner than picnic tables, shopping cart handles, escalator handles and playground equipment.

The survey found that 51 percent of the respondents said they cleaned their hands after sneezing or coughing, but only 17 percent cleaned their hands always or most of the time after shaking hands.

More information

The American Society for Microbiology has more about the importance of hand washing.

SOURCE: University of Arizona, news release, June 22, 2004
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