Did you know that it takes only four hours for germs to spread to surfaces around the office when one employee is sick? How about that a hospital has it's own hidden germ-filled spots? Germs can even follow you home, so don’t forget to WASH YOUR HANDS... it's flu season after all!
ALL ABOUT THE FLU
This year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 171 specimens (70 influenzaA(H1N1)pdm09, 57 influenza A(H3N2), and 44 influenza B viruses) collected in the United States were tested for susceptibility to the neuraminidase inhibitors (oseltamivir, zanamivir, and peramivir).
According to Flu Near You and the CDC, the predicted flu strains for 2018 are:
- A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
- B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus
You can also help track flu symptoms and strains near you by contributing to Flu Near You, a voluntary participation site dedicated to early detection and prevention of spreading flu and disease.
Flu and illnesses can spread in unpredictable places. Check out some of the dirtiest places in the hospital, in the office, and at home, and what you can do to stay healthy.
THE DIRTIEST PLACES…
...AT THE HOSPITAL
We like to think of hospitals as germ-free, sterile havens where people can recover and get the care they need. That is mostly true, but there are some spots that still lurk with germs. We found some stats on germ-filled spaced at the hospital.
When you’re on that elevator all the time, you get to see how many other people are doing the same thing. Patients, nurses, doctors, visitors, and other administration members… the elevator sees them all. Medical professionals have hand washing policies, but a lot of other people at the hospital do not. That means every germ they have on their fingers is added onto that elevator button every time it’s pushed.
Get healthy: If you’re a medical professional, you already know to wash your hands and use hand sanitizer. But if you’re just visiting, get on board with that policy too! And hey, if you have a disinfectant wipe handy, do everyone a favor and take on a wipe down of those buttons when you’re on your way up or down.
One place you may not think about are the curtains around the beds in a shared hospital room. They play a huge role in patient comfort and privacy, but sometimes a cough, splash or splatter could move some germs around.
Get healthy: Use a disinfectant spray on curtains, just to be safe. While these curtains do get washed, they probably aren’t laundered as much as bed linens are.
Health records are all modernized and stored electronically, which means more computer usage at the hospital in order to track patient progress and treatment plans. But the computers and tablets that are used to do that tracking? Yeah, they're dirty. These keyboards and tablets see shifts of nurses going in and out 24 hours a day without a single wipe down.
Get healthy: When it’s time for your shift, take a quick disinfectant wipe to your keyboard. You’ll be knocking out a ton of stagnant germs and keeping things cleaner for the next round of nurses too.
THE DIRTIEST PLACES…
...AT THE OFFICE
So you don’t work in a hospital or clinic? You still need to deal with those gross germs invading your desk space. We found some info on the germ-filled areas of your office.
Just because it’s your personal desk phone doesn’t mean it’s safe from germs. Around 25,000 of these germs are living on the buttons, speaker and receiver, regardless of who uses it.
Get healthy: Regularly wipe down your phone unit with disinfecting wipes and wash your hands.
Water fountains may hold up to 2.7 million bacteria per square inch.2 It’s like sharing a cup of water with 20 of your coworkers.
Get healthy: Have a water bottle filling station? Use that instead. Don’t forget to regularly clean your water bottle between uses.
Lunch and break room surfaces are some of the dirtiest places in an office. A study by the University of Arizona in Tucson found that within two hours, germs from the main door of the building had made it to the coffee pot because of how frequently it is touched early in the workday. It’s like the central mecca of germ city at work.
Get healthy: Wash your hands before prepping or eating your lunch. Clean up after yourself too! Not only will it help stop the spread of bacteria, but it’s just common courtesy.
THE DIRTIEST PLACES…
So you’re headed home to relax after a long day, but wait! There are still germs in your home, all up in your personal space. We've got the facts about some of the dirtiest places in your home.
Preparing a delicious, home cooked meal can be a nice gesture, but getting sick sure isn’t. Eighteen percent of these cutting boards harbor potentially dangerous coliform bacteria and 14 percent contain molds and yeasts. Use our get healthy tips before you put your food on that.
Get healthy: After every use, clean boards with hot, soapy water. Give them a good wipe-down before using too, just to be safe.
The dirtiest item in your house is, ironically, the item you use to keep things clean. But if you aren’t switching out your sponges or cleaning them regularly, you could just be spreading germs around. An astonishing 77 percent of sponges contain coliform bacteria, and 86 percent contain yeast and mold. Even scarier, 18 percent contain staph bacteria. Yucktown.
Get healthy: Toss old sponges. I repeat. Toss. Old. Sponges. If the idea of going through sponges feels a little wasteful to you, microwave wet sponges once a day for two minutes. If you use a rag, toss it in a hot wash cycle every couple days.
Turn up the heat. But wait! Wash that stove first. Fourteen percent of knobs have coliform bacteria, while 27 percent contain molds and yeasts.
Get healthy: Remove stove knobs weekly and wash with hot, soapy water. Bonus! You’ll get all that greasy, buttery build up off of them too!
Pet toys and pet bowls
Our pets are beloved, but we could live without their dirty mouths. Twenty-three percent of pet toys have potentially dangerous staph bacteria - the highest staph percentage of any household item studied! Yeasts and molds are in 55 percent of pet toys, and 14 percent also harbor coliform bacteria. In pet bowls, 45 percent contain mold and yeast, and 18 percent contain coliform bacteria.
Get healthy: Toss soft toys in the washer. Soak plastic toys in vinegar and rinse thoroughly. Put pet bowls in the dishwasher.
Not only are our pet’s mouths dirty, so are ours! And it’s no wonder, with the high bacteria levels in toothbrush holders. 27 percent have coliform, 14 percent have staph, and it’s probably because toothbrush holders tend to be so close to the toilet. We might as well change the word toothbrush to poopbrush.
Get healthy: Store toothbrushes in a cabinet and close the lid of the toilet before flushing. Weekly, wash toothbrush holders with hot, soapy water.
That morning brew may be necessary, but it’s also a dark, damp breeding ground for microorganisms. Fifty percent of reservoirs have mold and yeast, and nine percent have coliform bacteria. Um, cheers? I guess?
Get healthy: Clean your coffee makers weekly by brewing vinegar through the system.
ALL ABOUT SOAP
So basically what we're saying is... wash your hands! Honestly, washing your hands is the best, easiest way to prevent the spreading of bacteria, illness and gross germs. One would think this is pretty straightforward, but, what are the best kinds of soap to use?
When in doubt, go basic. Soap is soap, am I right?
- Recommended for use in non-health care settings
- Most available
- Usually less expensive than antibacterial soaps
- Rubbing your hands is the most important step in cleaning your hands
Antibacterial soap seems like the most logical if you're washing to prevent disease. One thing to remember is that this kills bacteria but not viruses.
- Not needed in businesses or most homes (unless directed by your health care provider)
- No more effective than plain soap in killing germs on your hands or body
- Must be left on your hands for about two minutes in order to have any effect on bacteria
Liquid soap is generally recommended over bar soap for hand washing.
- Liquid soap is easy to use and will not spread germs from one person to another
- Many liquid soaps also include a moisturizing agent, so your hands may not dry out as quickly from frequently cleaning your hands
Good for showering, but not generally recommended for hand washing outside of the home, since germs can spread.
- Bar soap can be used in a household if no one has skin infections
- Bar soap should not be used in public places
If soap and water aren't available, you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to keep germs at bay.
So there's the 4-1-1 on flu, germs and keeping yourself healthy. Remember to WASH YOUR HANDS, know where your germs are, and keep up on healthcare trends this season!