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Where do Germs Hide?

Dr. Charles Gerba, a.k.a. “Dr. Germ” is a professor at the University of Arizona and the premier expert on environmental microbiology. He has written more than 400 papers in peer reviewed journals over the last three decades. Here are some of his studies that may surprise you with their results.

1999 survey conducted by the University of Arizona:

Surfaces with Greatest Number of Germs: Highest Germ Locations:
  • Public telephones
  • Children’s indoor playgrounds
  • Counter pens
  • Gyms
  • Elevator buttons and escalator handrails
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Shopping cart handles
  • Restaurants

Germs spread quickly through our hands touching surfaces that are infected and then touching other people and surfaces. In the same study they showed how germs placed on an office telephone, bathroom faucet, and doorknob quickly spread to copy machines, keyboards, hands, faces, telephones, drinking cups, pens, and a water fountain all within 30 minutes.

In a 2002 study funded by The Clorox Company, Dr. Gerba tested 12 surfaces within an office:

  1. Desktop
  2. Phone
  3. Mouse
  4. Keyboard
  5. Microwave door handle
  6. Elevator button
  7. Photocopier start button
  8. Photocopier surface
  9. Toilet seat
  10. Fax machine
  11. Refrigerator handle
  12. Water fountain handle

The top five surfaces with the greatest number of germs per square inch:

  1. Phone
  2. Desktop
  3. Water fountain handle
  4. Microware door handle
  5. Keyboard

The research indicated your desk can hold up to 10,000,000 germs or 20,961 germs per square inch. Compared to the toilet seat at only 49 germs per square inch, a work station is nearly 400 times more contaminated than a bathroom. Your desk is turned into a luxury cafeteria for germs to feast from morning until night. Dr. Gerba says, “When someone is infected with a cold or flu bug the surfaces they touch during the day become germ transfer points because some cold and flu viruses can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours. An office can become an incubator.” Professor Sally Bloomfield, microbiologist says it this way, “The superhighways for bacteria are hands for the surfaces we touch.” For more information on this study you can go to:

Top 12 Most Common Infectious Diseases preventable by effective hand washing: Kansas Department of Health and Environment

  • Shigellosis
  • Hepatitis A
  • E.coli 0157:H7
  • Salmonellosis
  • Campylobacteriosis
  • Common Cold
  • Influenza
  • Giardiasis
  • Impetigo
  • Fifth Disease
  • Conjunctivitis (Pink-Eye)
  • Enterobiasis (Pinworms)

Once germs are on your hands, they can get an all access pass to your body by the food and water you ingest and by touching your mouth, nose, eyes or any open sore.

We can not create sterile environments, but we can significantly reduce the germ population with good, consistent hand hygiene.