Working in a cubicle recently, I slouched down in my chair wondering if I could duck the germs my neighbor was hacking and sneezing in an invisible mist over our common wall. Thankfully, I managed to avoid her bug, but it got me thinking about all the microscopic creepy crawlies that were probably lurking about just waiting to invade my system.
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Public bathrooms, subways, and even movie theaters are all spots that give germaphobes the shivers. With today's poorly ventilated, open plan work places, they can add offices to the list. Here are the dirtiest spots:
Ahh, wouldn't a nice, hot cup of coffee taste good right now? Maybe not. NBC reports that coffee pot handles have been shown to harbor more bacteria than a toilet seat. The same goes for other break room hot spots: faucets, sinks, and refrigerator handles.
Another germ factory is the meeting room, according to a howstuffworks.com. Unlike the bathroom, which is scrubbed with disinfectants regularly, it rarely gets cleaned and lots of people eat, shake hands, and share phones within its confines.
Don't think you can hide out in your cubicle. The entire desk area is a breeding ground of viruses and bacteria which can cause colds and flu as well as protozoa and fungi. The germiest spots are the telephone, computer keyboard, and computer mouse. In fact, a Wall Street Journal report reveals that your desk area may be 400 times more germy than the proverbial toilet seat.
If you eat at your computer, you will also be feeding the mold and yeast farm that is growing in all the crumb-filled nooks and crannies in your personal work area. Probably, you don't wipe down your desk very often (ever). Estimates put it at 100 times germier than the average kitchen table.
If all this makes you want to cut work and skeedadle to the nearest big box store to buy an industrial sized carton of latex gloves and a dozen surgical masks, just be careful on your way out. The Journal points out that germs congregate at the point of most contact so beware of elevator buttons and escalator rails.
While certain areas do harbor a greater concentration of germs, there is no way to avoid contact since they spread over all surface areas including your skin. The most effective way to keep from getting sick is to practice good personal hygiene. Proper hand washing-as often as 10 times a day-helps keep you and others safe.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that you wet your hands and soap up for at least 20 seconds. If don't have access to a sink, the next best thing is to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. And if you are sick? Stay home. Not only will you be doing your colleagues a favor, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the annual cost to employers for people who go to work ill tops $150 billion.
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