Do you know where bacteria and viruses live?

Illness-spreading bacteria and viruses can live on surfaces for hours, days or even weeks depending on the type of bacteria and the conditions of the surface.

My mother always told me to wash my hands after using the restroom and before handling food. She also taught me not to touch public restroom faucets and door handles — push to open the door if you can and use a paper towel  to turn off the sink or to touch the door handle if you have to pull to open. It was all an attempt to protect me from catching a cold or spreading germs. There’s a good reason she taught me these lessons early on — illness-spreading bacteria and viruses can live on surfaces for hours, days or even weeks depending on the type of bacteria and the conditions of the surface.

An infographic published by the Huffington Post in February highlights seven bacteria and viruses that can survive outside the body, given the right conditions. After being expelled from an infected person via a cough or sneeze, these seven germs can survive for:

  • Rhinovirus (the common cold) – Several hours on hard surfaces in cool, moist, humid conditions
  • Influenza (the flu) – Up to two days on hard surfaces in cool, moist, humid conditions
  • E. coli (food poisoning) – Up to a week on surfaces at room temperature
  • MRSA (antibiotic-resistant bacteria) – Up to a few weeks on hard surfaces in hot conditions
  • Salmonella (food poisoning) – Several  weeks under cool or room-temperature conditions
  • Norovirus (stomach “flu”) – Several  weeks under cool or room-temperature conditions
  • Hepatitis A (food poisoning) – Several  months under cool conditions

View the complete infographic at http://nortonhealth.ly/1nfxA3k

I’ve also heard that cash carries a multitude of germs, but didn’t realize how many different ones until I read the results from new research released in April. According to researchers, a $1 bill carries about 3,000 types of bacteria on its surface. The most common microbes found on paper money are those that cause acne, followed by common skin bacteria that don’t cause disease. While the bacteria are mostly harmless, there is the possibility that the bills can carry disease-causing bacteria. I think I’d rather be safe than sorry and wash my hands after handling cash.

Other places that microorganisms hide include:

  • Airplane surfaces, such as seat-back pockets, tray tables and armrests
  • Refrigerator water dispenser
  • Blender
  • Sink faucet handles
  • Microwave door handles
  • Keyboards
  • Gas pump handles
  • Mailbox handles
  • Escalator rails

I don’t know if I would have considered myself a germaphobe before, but after reading these recent stories I may be turning into one. Pass the hand sanitizer, please.


Hand-washing tips:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running warm water.
  • Use soap and lather up your hands, making sure to lather between fingers, the back of your hands and under nails. Don’t forget to include your wrists.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. An easy way to time yourself is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  • Rinse your hands under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands well with a clean towel.

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