Germs, germs everywhere

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By Ashton Wagner

Germs are everywhere, from keyboards to cellphones and from the bathroom to kitchen. They exist on every surface, often lurking in places we may not realize.

“The majority of the time [germs]are spread through public places,” said Dr. Steven Tang of Novant Health Bristow Run Family Medicine in Gainesville. “Germs can live on surfaces for a couple of hours. Think about touching a shopping cart after the person who used it last sneezed on it. You should take advantage of the disinfectant wipes most grocery stores offer.”

This explains why regularly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the number-one
protector against germs.

Where Germs Hide
A recent study by CBS Pittsburgh found that the single-serve office coffee maker used by employees contained 4.6 million colonies of bacteria and mold. “Damp areas promote the growth of germs,” Tang said.

Another place germs can thrive is in the refrigerator, especially in leftover food. Federal food safety guidelines
recommend discarding leftovers after three or four days to prevent them from spoiling or becoming dangerous to eat.
Summer travel can also up germ exposure, such as sharing recirculated air on an plane. Tang suggested wearing a
mask when flying, especially to new areas, where you haven’t been exposed to the germs.

“We have this social taboo of wearing a mask, but in reality, a mask can prevent a lot of germs from being spread
from one person to the next,” he said. “In other countries, especially countries in Asia, people are more accustomed to wearing a mask to prevent the spread of germs.”

Swimming pools also have the potential for the spread of germs, despite the chlorine.

“It’s hard to kill some specific viruses,” Tang said. “Common warts can be transferred fairly easily, as well as athlete’s
foot, which can be picked up in common locker room areas.” Shower before and after swimming, and avoid swallowing water.

Ashton Wagner is a corporate public relations specialist at Novant Health, and can be reached at awagner@novanthealth.org.

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