Viruses that are left on surfaces can survive two days or longer and infect others, so watch out for those door knobs and TV remotes! Cold sufferers often leave their germs there, according to a new study. The University of Virginia, well known for its virology research, had scientists test surfaces in the homes of people with colds. The results were reported on Tuesday, October 28 at the nation’s premier conference on infectious diseases.
Dr. Birgit Winther, an ear, nose and throat specialist who helped conduct the study, said that doctors do not know how often colds are spread through touching germy surfaces as opposed to personal contact such as actually shaking a person’s hand.
Two years ago, she and other doctors revealed that germs survived in hotel rooms 24 hours after guests left, remaining there to contaminate the next people to stay in that room.
The new study began with 30 adults who showed the beginning symptoms of colds. Rhinovirus, which causes about half of all colds, was found in 16 participants. These participants were asked to come up with 10 things that they had touched in their homes in the previous 18 hours, and researchers used DNA tests to find the rhinovirus. It was found that frequently touched areas like refrigerator doors and handles were positive about 40 percent of the time for cold germs. They tested three salt and pepper shakers and they were all found to be contaminated. Other areas found to contain the germ: 6 out of 18 doorknobs; 8 of 14 refrigerator handles; 3 of 13 light switches; 6 of 10 remote controls; 8 of 10 bathroom faucets and 3 of 4 dishwasher handles.
Then, the researchers intentionally contaminated surfaces with participants’ mucus and then tested to see if the rhinovirus stayed on their fingers when they turned on lights, answered phones and other tasks. More than half of the adults got the virus on their fingertips 48 hours after the mucus was applied.
Reckitt-Benckiser Inc., the makers of Lysol, sponsored the study, although no products were tested during the research. The study, created by doctors with no strings to the company, was done to lay the groundwork for future studies on germs and ways to destroy them.
In another study, the university’s Dr.Â Diane Pappas and Â Dr. Owen Hendley tested toys for germs in the offices of five pediatricians in Fairfax, Va. The results revealed that 20 percent of all the toys showed remnants of cold viruses.
Of course it is well known that frequent hand washing helps to avoid spreading germs. Â A University of Michigan study found that wearing surgical masks and using hand sanitizers can help. Obviously, staying at home in bed when you don’t feel well and keeping sick children out of school helps as well.