03 May 2006

Underrated Germy Surfaces and Objects

Professor Charles Gerba is one microbiologist who is trying to set the record straight on what to fear and what not to fear when it comes to being cautious about contracting infections from surfaces. Surfaces? Yes, surfaces --- your table, your desk, the doorknob, the telephone, etc.

Here are some interesting germ info from him:
  • Doorknobs are dirty but on the "low side," and people should not be very worried about touching too much doorknobs and catching a cold or flu because of it.

  • Computer keyboards and telephones, on the other hand, are brimming with bacteria, and have more bacterial load than an elevator button, the handles and button on the communal microwave oven, or the office water fountain.

  • The average desk harbors 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat!

  • Where there are bacteria, there can be viruses, which are known to hang onto a clean and dry surface for days (!!) and to a wet surface for weeks (!!!)

  • On Public Toilets: bathroom sinks have high bacterial counts, and the dirtiest handles are urinal flush handles. Think diarrhea instead of any sexually transmitted infections (STIs) --- the most common toilet germs found are Norwalk-like viruses or caliciviruses, shigella, and salmonella --- which can all cause diarrhea.

  • "Clean laundry" is really dirty laundry. Professor Gerba says, "There is about a 10th of a gram of feces in the average pair of underwear, and you don't want to be doing your handkerchiefs with your underwear.." Uh-oh!

  • Make it a habit to wash your hands well not only before eating but AFTER eating, and also AFTER doing the laundry.

  • Accountants, bankers, teachers and doctors are the professions most highly exposed to bacteria and viruses. Surprisingly, lawyers have the least exposure.

I wish to add another object that gets germier when people overlook to change it --- your toothbrush. You should replace it more often than you think you should. Especially after a bout of cold or flu.

Also, pardon me for saying this, but I think men should wash their hands thoroughly after urinating.

More on Prof. Gerba's advice here.

14 reactions:

bing said...

this is very informative. made me squirm about the info on computers.. and the tothbrush, too?

ipanema said...

Reading alone makes you wince at the thought of it.

Lawyers – less exposed, until court hearing perhaps?

• Clean laundry – I have to remind whoever is washing to segregate items not just by colour.I consider these personal items washed separately – socks, undies & hankies.

• Public toilets – I’ll pee when I get home.If I can’t control it, I have to enter a restaurant, hotel
or somewhere a bit clean.

If you go to China, avoid this!
Better bring an umbrella, do it outside. :) I think they have the worst public toilets.

• Telephone – Make it a habit to wipe after using.

Have a germ-free Wednesday everyone! :)

bayibhyap said...

My first reaction was, we have a situation of over-paranoia about germs. But hey, it's better to be paranoid about germs than not. Ithink those who spend lots of hours each day on the computer key board will understand why the keyboard can be so dirty. Take the keyboard and shake it upside down!

Dr Emer, I think you have made the lawyers very happy todays! :)

bayibhyap said...

BTW, can you imagine, the former Prime Minister of India, Moraji Desai, drank a glass of hiss own pee every morning as part of the urine therapy he subscribed to.

One Newsweek writer described it as "Moraji Cola" in a tongue in cheek manner with obvious reference to Coca Cola!

ipanema said...

Well, his "water of life" (according to Ayurvedic circle) probably had helped him see 99 years. It's not only in India, but according to an article, even in some parts of Arabia, women pee onto the cooking pot to keep their husband faithful..lol. Lady readers, don't do this ok? What better way than to samurai it immediately!

Shh..we're still on the topic, lol.

Going back to the topic, Dr. Emer's suggestion for men to wash hands after they pee. Why only the hands, they dont wash IT? Just wiggle and that's it? :)

Char said...

Re: The average, dirty desk -->Hu-whaaat???

Well, thanks for the info Doc Emer. I concur about the toothbrush thing. I had to do a study about it for college. You should see what a used toothbrush looks like under a scanning electron microscope.

Changing toothbrushes isn't exactly economical... an alternative thing to do is to soak your brush heads once in a while with either .1% Hexetidine (like Bactidol), 1% Povidone Iodine ( Betadine) or .12% Chlorhexidine Gluconate oral rinses. Listerine doesn't do much.

bayibhyap said...

"Listerine doesn't do much."

It just makes the user "feel" better! lol

Dr. Emer said...

BING and IPANEMA: I forgot to mention another dirty object frequently ignored and overlooked --- beddings :)

BAYI: With bacteria and viruses, it is ok to be paranoid. :) One can survive drinking urine; I'm just not too sure if that is the sole factor that makes him healthy. He might become healthier if he didn't do that. Urine is a sterile waste material. Leave it for several minutes at room temperature and you'll notice the change in aroma --- the germs have arrived!

CHAR: Thanks for the confirmation. Those solutions you mentioned are quite expensive, too. Wouldn't a simple 20-30 minute boiling water soak do? :)

ipanema said...

Oh yes, the beddings and towels. It should be changed weekly. My over zealous househelp wash towels everyday, reminded her she's not in a hotel. She's still doing it. I enjoy fresh towels anyway.

Char said...

Nope, boiling isn't enough. And I think made-deform yung toothbrush, heheh. But UV light also works, so if you have those brush holders that have UV light then that's even better. :)

You don't have to soak the toothbrushes with every use. Once in a while will do, but most especially if one is recovering from a disease like colds/flu or generally immunocompromised.

bayibhyap said...

Many people don't believe this when I tell them. My company instals UV light tubes in the return air tunnels of the office air-conditioning system. :)

I also go to a acupuncture clinic where UV light tubes are installed at the place where we leave our shoes and slippers. The tubes are installed in a way that we don't get to see the lights directly.

I used to have a colleague who would never hold the door knob of the restroom door unless he used a piece of tissue paper. People thought him weird but when SARS was a real threat, many who laughed at him did that too!

Senorito<- Ako said...

Hello... Is the penis dirtier than the faucet handle ?

If its not then wouldn't it be more 'sanitary' not to wash after 'going' :)

I read the earlier post about the doc turning nurse. Tsk.. breaks my heart.

ipanema said...

lol Senorito. So, guys don't really wash? I don't know what goes on the male's washroom. I tell my boys to wash. Excuse me for sounding dumb, but if ladies don't wash, one smells.

nice nick by the way :)

bayibhyap said...

Yes, I think many guys don't wash after their business. That's why the Malaysian government has seen it fit to embark on a "Wash Your Hands" campaign from now till the end of the year, targetting mainly the men. Education goes a long way in reducing health costs in the long run.