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November 2017

7 Bacteria hotspots we bet you didn't know about

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Cleanliness and Hygiene

Here at Initial, we talk about cross-infection a lot; if you’re reading our blogs on a regular basis you’re probably starting to get the idea that the world can be a pretty germy place. Simply going about your daily routine at home and the office can bring you into contact with disease-causing organisms such as strep bacteria (which causes sore throats and ear infections) and noroviruses (which cause stomach flu) to name but a few.

There are all those obviously “germy” places that spring to mind - the public toilet, the gym change-room - but did you know that some bacteria hotspots are places and things you may not have ever have thought about?

Here are 7 bacteria hotspots that you may not have given any thought to before.

1. Your office desk and phone

Your office desk is way dirtier than a toilet bowl! According to studies done by University of Arizona Microbiologist Dr Charles P Gerba the average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet bowl, simply because people usually don't clean their desks on a regular basis, and may also eat at their desks.

Dr Gerba has conducted several studies in which he looked at germs in the workplace, and his results showed that the 4 most germ-contaminated spots in the office are the phone, the keyboard, the computer mouse, the desktop (ranked from most germy to least germy).

Viruses such as the flu can survive for two or three days on desktops, phones, and computer keyboards. They're transmitted when you touch contaminated objects and then put your hands on your nose, mouth, and eyes.

Checkout our blog on Tips and tricks for keeping your laptop and desktop keyboard clean

2. Ladies handbags:

Research done by our Initial team in the UK has shown that many ladies are carrying around more than they bargained for, as the handles of women’s handbags are home to more bacteria than the average toilet flush.

In total, Initial found that one in five handbag handles was home to levels of bacteria-related contamination which pose a significant risk of cross-contamination. And when you consider that women often place their handbags on surfaces such as their beds, kitchen counters and office desks, you can see how this could lead to further cross contamination.

Read the full article on our UK Initial website.

3. Your gym bag:

In a similar vein to ladies handbags, have you ever considered how clean (or not) your gym bag might be? Initial carried out swab tests on a variety of gym bags and found high levels of coliform bacteria on the handle. A broad class of bacteria, coliforms can be found in the faeces of humans and warm-blooded animals.The presence of this harmful bacterium could have a major impact on the risk of cross contamination and, in turn, illness. And a simple trip to the gym, a place rife with touch points and bacteria-harbouring warmth and sweat, could be enough to trigger a major infection.

“Gym bags are portable; we take them with us into our homes, place of work, in our cars and on public transport,” said Dr Peter Barratt, technical manager at Initial Washroom Hygiene. “If they become contaminated, their potential for accumulating and transferring bacteria and virus particles is significant.”

Read the full article for ways to minimise the risk of missing your weekly workout due to infection:

4. Your belt buckle:

Have you ever considered the fact that when visiting the bathroom, we zip, buckle, and re-tuck our clothes before we wash our hands? That means all the bacteria that are on our hands after a visit to the bathroom get deposited on our belts every time we visit the washroom. Hopefully we all wash our clothes on a regular basis, but when was the last time you cleaned your belt buckle? Quite possibly never, mak8ing it one of those places that you probably never even considered to be “germy”. Consider sanitising your belt buckle on a regular basis by wiping it down with a sanitiser spray, or using a sanitising wipe.

5. The office water-cooler:

We’ve devoted an entire blog post to the topic of the office water cooler, so suffice to say, it’s germier than you would have ever expected. Take a read here ( link to water cooler blog) to find out why.

6. Your reusable water bottle:

The team at Treadmill reviews swabbed the lids of reusable water bottles used by athletes and had the samples tested at an independent lab to determine the types and levels of bacteria present. They found that reusable drinking containers are crawling with bacteria.

Why, you may ask? “The surfaces of our teeth, tongues, and gums are covered in hundreds of different species of bacteria,” says family and cosmetic dentist Jonathan Schwartz, associate professor of clinical dentistry at Columbia College. “The opening of a water bottle is probably the biggest hot spot. The water transfers bacteria back and forth between the mouth and bottle. A pull-up spout can make matters worse since your hands can add to this collection of germs. Don’t reuse disposable bottles and wash the reusable kind regularly with soap and hot water.

7. Your cell phone:

Did you know each square inch of your cell phone contains roughly 25,000 germs? To put things into perspective an iPhone can carry roughly 240,000 germs! This means that your phone is dirtier than a toilet and a door knob!

These days we are on our phones more now than we ever were in the past, and we take them everywhere with us. This means that any germs that you get on your hands also migrate to your phone, where they thrive in the heat generated by the constant working of the smart phone’s microprocessor.

Basic hand washing and hygiene practices can go a long way in protecting both you, your family and your colleagues from illnesses such as sore throats, ear infections, colds, flu and skin infections that can be spread via these less well-known bacteria hotspots.

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at www.initial.co.za. Life outside of Rentokil mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned eleven, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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