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Hand Hygiene, Infection Prevention and Food Safety Blog

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What is the 'Germiest' Profession?

  
  
  
  
  

Germ ProfessionsDid you know that your desk is more contaminated than the average toilet seat? In fact, office toilet seats have about 49 germs per square inch compared to desktops at 21,000.  But how can that be when desktops get cleaned frequently?

 

For starters, germs are essentially getting a free ride every time you diligently wipe down your desk, says Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist from the University of Arizona.  "Cleaning alone may increase risk by spreading pathogens," adds Gerba .  Instead you need to kill germs on the spot using a disinfectant for surfaces or sanitizer on your hands - if there's no visible soiling. 

 

Enclosed environments, where people are working or interacting in close proximity with one another, are particularly at higher risk for the spread of germs.  We actually spend 80-90% of our time indoors and spend 50% less time cleaning, compared to 50 years ago.  We also spend more time in public places and travel more than ever before - sharing common items and surfaces with more & more people.

 

"As people spend more time at their desks, germs find plenty to snack on.  Desks are really bacteria cafeterias," adds Gerba.  80% of all common infections (colds, flu and diarrhea) can be spread through the environment including air, water, food & formites (objects or substances capable of carrying infectious organisms).  Gerba comments that, "Infectious diseases are actually the 3rd leading cause of death in the US today and 1st in the developing world."  Our aging population is also more susceptible to infectious diseases with 30-40% of the US population at greater risk of serious illness or death.

 

You may also want to think twice about reusing your coffee cup without running it through the dishwasher first.  "Colonies of germs are living in your favorite cup," Gerba says. 20% of office mugs carry fecal bacteria, and 90% are covered in other germs, according to Gerba's research.  The reason is because most people tend to clean their cups unknowingly using sponges or scrub brushes that are filled with bacteria.  Once transferred to your favorite coffee cup this bacteria can live up to 3 days.

 

Dr. Gerba recently discussed some of the 'germiest' professions during an infection control webinar hosted by CleanLINK.  For this study, Gerba and his team collected samples from workplaces all over the US, testing more than 600 surfaces in the process.  They then studied surfaces of people in different professions to determine which were the 'germiest.' 


Hands down, according to Gerba's findings, the most bacteria per square inch was found on surfaces commonly used by teachers.  Teachers had 5 1/2 times more germs on their phones and 27 times more germs on their computer keys than other professions.  Kid's desktops are probably the dirtiest object in a classroom according to Gerba and most teachers get a lot more when kids hand in their tests and assignments.

 
Coming in at a close second was accountants, who tend to spend a great deal of time behind their desks.  This was followed closely by bankers - which may be no surprise to some as money can carry “pathogenic and sometimes multidrug-resistant bacteria, fungi and human parasites.”

 

Gerba also noted a gender difference based on his research.  Women's offices on average had the most germs on such items as telephones, pens and computer keyboards.  By contrast, men's desks tend to be more germier than women's.  Unmarried males experience one cold per year and unmarried women about 1.3.  Couples with school children experience 2.3 colds per year each and schools children experience an average of 3.5 colds per year. 


Since our hands are responsible for the spread of 80% of common infectious diseases, effective hand hygiene continues to be universally recognized as the smartest, most cost effective means of infection control in the workplace. To learn more about how to reduce the risk through infection control programs, including both hygiene and cleaning, please view the complete webinar.

 

Infection control in the workplace

Comments

Nice article, very informative. Thanks Patrick for sharing and more of it please.
Posted @ Tuesday, April 15, 2014 11:17 AM by Azuka
The full webcast from Dr. Gerba is available here Azuka. Thanks for the comments. http://www.cleanlink.com/39720webcasts/
Posted @ Tuesday, April 15, 2014 11:19 AM by Patrick Boshell
This is amazing. I am a licensed food safety instructor, and have never thought about surfaces like a desk being germier than a toilet seat. Good info on the coffee cup as well. Very good points.
Posted @ Wednesday, April 16, 2014 6:22 PM by Gene Cox
Another reflection on this. In a kitchen, everyone knows that the food prep, cooking, and storing areas need to be well cleaned, but when was the last time someone cleaned the desk in the office?
Posted @ Wednesday, April 16, 2014 6:25 PM by Gene Cox
Thanks for that Gene and most people don't really think about their desks too much. In another study researchers swabbed 4,800 surfaces in various office buildings. The 6 dirtiest places in order were break room sink-faucet handles, microwave door handles, keyboards, refrigerator door handles, water fountain buttons and vending machine buttons. Ironically many of these have a food safety connection and potentially could be even worse culprits in food service environments. If interested you can read the full article here. http://info.debgroup.com/blog/bid/270143/Bacteria-and-Viruses-at-Work
Posted @ Wednesday, April 16, 2014 6:40 PM by Patrick Boshell
During the webinar Dr. Gerba actually said that people should just put those cutting boards away as the toilet seat had much less germs. Gross but a reminder for everyone as bacteria-laced dish cloths and cutting boards that are not properly cleaned are just waiting to 'cross contaminate'.
Posted @ Wednesday, April 16, 2014 6:45 PM by Patrick Boshell
I'm sure cell phones are just as bad or worst :)
Posted @ Thursday, April 17, 2014 10:20 PM by Mitchell
You are right Mitchell. "Fun fact: each square inch of your cell phone contains roughly 25,000 germs, making it one of the filthiest things you come in contact with on a daily basis. Ever wonder what objects are actually cleaner than your phone? Surprisingly, toilet seats make the list because they're usually sanitized often." You can read the full article here along with tips and recommendations. http://info.debgroup.com/blog/bid/290652/Your-Mobile-Phone-Is-Dirtier-Than-You-Think
Posted @ Thursday, April 17, 2014 10:21 PM by Patrick Boshell
This is why we developed a copper keyboard, copper wrist rest and a copper mouse. The EPA has tested and registered copper as a pesticide and it has proven to passively kill harmful bacteria. We are registered with the EPA and use only CuVerro registered copper alloys. We are trying to convince hospitals to use them for infection control but there are many other areas such as schools that would benefit from copper surfaces that continuously kill bacteria.
Posted @ Tuesday, April 22, 2014 3:18 PM by Bob Nolan
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