On average, a person can touch as many as 30 objects within one minute, including germ-infested, high-traffic surfaces, which can lead to serious illness.
Here’s a list of the most likely places for germs to lurk and how you can protect yourself and your family:
1. Restaurant Menus: A study in the Journal of Medical Virology reported that cold and flu viruses can survive for 18 hours on hard surfaces. Hundreds of people could be handling menus before they are ever washed. Never let a menu touch your plate or silverware. Be sure to wash your hands after you place your order.
2. Lemon Wedges: A 2007 study in the Journal of Environmental Health found that nearly 70% of lemon wedges found in cocktails contain disease-causing microbes. When the researchers ordered drinks at 21 different restaurants, they found 25 different microorganisms lingering on the 76 lemons they secured, including E. coli and other fecal bacteria! Next time you order a cocktail, ask the bartender to hold the lemon.
3. Condiment Dispensers: It is very rare that a restaurant cleans its condiment containers. Also, it’s likely that many people don’t wash their hands before eating. So use a disinfectant wipe on the bottle before you grab it to avoid getting any germs on your french fires!
4. Restroom Door Handles: You hopefully wash your hands after you use a public restroom and even though you think you may be germ free afterwards, touching the door handle to exit the restroom can leave your hands infested with germs. Grab a paper towel before you leave and grasp the handle with it to make sure no germs are coming with you when you leave that public bathroom.
5. Soap Dispensers: About 25% of public restroom dispensers are contaminated with fecal bacteria! Soap that harbors bacteria may seem ironic, but that’s exactly what a University of Arizona study found. Most of the soap dispensers are never cleaned so bacteria grows as the soap scum builds up. Be sure to carry some hand sanitizer with you or if you don’t, scrub your hands with hot water and the soap for 15 to 20 seconds.
6. Shopping Carts: The handles of almost two-thirds of the shopping carts tested in a 2007 University of Arizona study were contaminated with fecal bacteria. In fact, the bacterial counts of the carts exceeded those of the average public restroom! To protect yourself and your family, grab a disinfectant wipe that most supermarkets offer today and wipe down the handle bar. If you know they don’t, carry a small pack with you or a bottle of hand sanitizer.
7. Airplane Bathrooms: When a microbiologist tested the microbes in the bathrooms of commercial jets, he found that surfaces from faucets to doorknobs were contaminated with E. coli. Clean your hands thoroughly with a sanitizer and try not to directly touch the surfaces.
8. Doctor’s Offices: A doctor’s office is known to be infested with germs. To limit your exposure, bring your own books, magazines or toys. Pack your own tissues and hand sanitizer. Leave at least two chairs between you and the other patients to reduce your chances of picking up their bugs, if possible. Germ droplets from coughing and sneezing can travel about 3 feet before falling to the floor!
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.