Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

Avoiding Germs Shared by Other Sick People

April 26th, 2019 10:15 PM by Dan Howard

You have probably seen the pictures of crowds in Japan where there are some of the people are wearing respirator masks. The reason is not what most of us would guess. Americans tend to wear the masks to protect themselves from getting sick from other people if they have immune issues.

In the Japanese culture. if you have a contagious illness you have a responsibility to wear the mask to protect the well people. Americans are usually not as careful to “keep illness to themselves.”

polluted air

That having been said, here are the public areas you may not have thought about that could be a source of you getting sick with suggestions to avoid the risk. 

Doors Handles on Swinging Doors The button to turn on the hand dryer or the lever to start the paper towel coming out.

The best solution for you is to use an elbow or shoulder to open or start these things when you can.

Keypads.  ATMs, Security Access Pads, elevator buttons, and other such places where hundreds of people touch, but are never cleaned can give you a contagious disease. A pencil of stylus are the best solutions to keeping your fingers from delivering the contamination to your body. If you do touch these things, do not touch you face until you have used a hand sanitizer.

Menus  Restaurant menus have 100 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, says Charles Gerba, PhD, a microbiologist with the University of Arizona, better known as Dr. Germ. They’re touched by tons, but only wiped down once a day, if that, and usually with a used rag. Instead of washing your hands before you sit down, scrub up after you order. And never lay your silverware on top of the menu.

Drink Garnish  Lemons limes, and other cut-up fruit used on the rims of glasses are not usually cleaned before cutting or handled with freshly washed hands. Many germs including E. coli have been found on these when tested. Order your drinks without the garnish to avoid this exposure. The little decoration is not worth the potentially severe stomach and intestinal issues.

Public Water Fountains. Did you ever notice the slime that is usually around the hole the water spouts from? If that doesn’t paint the picture, think how many people have turned that handle. Carry your own water bottle and avoid using these fountains.

Dirty Money The flu virus can live on a dollar bill for 17 days! But no one uses gloves or tissues to handle money. The answer is to wash your hands after you handle money. There is a very good reason that food workers put on plastic gloves to handle food after they touch money. We need to be just as vigilant and was our hands after handling money, especially when we are eating food we will touch such as a sandwich.

Shopping Carts Shopping cart handles can be downright gross. Turns out you’re picking up more than just a loaf of bread. That handle can be swarming with up to 11 million microorganisms, including ones from raw meat. And just think about all the dirty diapers on that seat — the same one you’re putting your produce on. A lot of grocery stores have antibacterial wipes handy, so use them.

Hotel and Cruise Ships Rooms You do not know who was the past person in your room or if they had a contagious illness. Door handles, remotes, the sides of the racks you open to pit your suitcase on, the desk, the light switch, the hair dryer…….and on and on. We purchase large wipes before a trip and take 10 minutes to wipe down the touch points in a hotel room.

Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs  A pubic pool can have pounds of poop floating around according to Michele Hlavsa, RN, chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program. Little kids can carry as much as 10 grams of leftover feces on their rear ends, she says. They don’t make a habit of washing off before jumping in, so all that poop just rinses off into the pool. It adds up, and chlorine doesn’t kill everything. The CDC found that more than half of pools test positive for E. coli, which can cause bloody diarrhea. Your best line of defense? Try not to swallow any water.

If that is not enough, consider the hot tub. They can have additional disease organisms such as Legionella. The action of the jets puts those little contagions into the air where you can inhale them and acquire them. There are also other viruses and bacteria that swim in the water and may not be killed because of a low level of chlorine or other disinfectant.

The bottom line is to be aware of the potential for disease exposure in public. Changing a few habits may keep you healthy. This is particularly important in times of high exposure risk such as flu season or on a cruise where Norovirus has broken out

Posted by Dan Howard on April 26th, 2019 10:15 PM



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