Study indicates germs can be found on ATMs; prof encourages cleanliness

Lather, rinse, repeat is a routine everyone should follow according to a recent study on germs in public places Dr.

Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, found 71 percent of gas pump handles and 68 percent of corner mailbox handles are covered in germs prone to cause a high risk of illness.

Other common places where germs lurk are ATM machines at 41 percent, and escalator rails at 43 percent. Health Sciences Associate Professor Irene O’Boyle said people should remember everything has germs.

“Keep in mind that anytime you touch these surfaces you should wash your hands,” O’Boyle said. “Don’t eat without washing your hands, period.”

She said light switches, gym equipment, restaurant menus, shower curtains and remote controls are just some of the places many people do not think to clean.

Royal Oak sophomore Katharine Shepard said she knows germs are everywhere and is very conscious of them.

“In the (cafeteria), if it’s food you eat with your hands, I’ll use my left hand to get the food because I’m right handed,” she said. “I’ll be grossed-out at eating my food when I’ve touched something (one) million other people have.”

Shepard said hand sanitizer is her best friend, and she never shares her drinks, food or chapstick.

“I wash my hands before and after I eat anything and after I’ve touched something I know a lot of people have touched, like the computer lab or after being in class,” she said.

Studies from the Journal of Medical Virology report germs like the cold and flu viruses can survive for up to 18 hours on a hard surface.

A 2007 study at University of Arizona found handles of almost two-thirds of shopping carts were contaminated with fecal bacteria.

Although many germs are stereotyped as the “bad guys,” O’Boyle said some are actually good for your health. Healthy germs, also known as probiotics, are found in yogurt and cereal, she said. They replenish the good bacteria in our bodies, help fight infections and build immunity.

To help fight against the not so “nice” germs, O’Boyle emphasized routines to maintain health.

“Do regular nail care and use a moisturizer to protect skin from cracking,” she said.

She said do not share towels and avoid close contact with individuals who are sick.

“Germs live everywhere and most of them won’t harm you,” O’Boyle said. “Your immune system is one of the best protectors against germs.”


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