7 Disgusting Infections You Can Catch If You Don't Wash Your Hands Enough In The Office

Bus handrails, elevator buttons, ATM keypads, money and handshakes. These are the things our hands come in contact with on a daily basis — most of us before we even sit down to work in the morning.

Despite people becoming increasingly vigilant in protecting themselves from germs, using portable hand sanitisers and owning more household disinfectants than there is use for, are we physically washing our hands enough?

New research by professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona Charles Gerba, aka “Dr Germ”, found 80% of infections are spread by touch.

This same study found only 17% of Americans wash their hands after shaking hands and a staggering 51% only wash them after sneezing or coughing.

With these stats in mind, here are the worst germ-contaminated places according to Gerba and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

    Microwave buttons: 214 bacteria/square inch.

    Water fountain buttons: 300 bacteria/square inch.

    Garbage bin: 411 bacteria/square inch.

    Computer keyboard: 3,925 bacteria/square inch.

    Office phone: 25,127 bacteria/square inch.

    Elevator buttons: millions bacteria/square inch.

    While — surprisingly — the toilet seat has only 49 bacteria/square inch.

Now that you are completely repulsed by the thought of answering your next phone call or email, here is what you can catch if you don’t wash your hands after coming into contact with these things.

    Rhinovirus infection
    Rhinoviruses are the most common viral infective agents in humans and are the predominant cause of the common cold.
    Detectable, infectious rhinovirus on a contaminated site can be transferred to fingertips for at least 24 hours and are responsible for approximately 50% of common colds in both adults and children.
    The Truth About Germs: The Hygiene Council

    Gastroenteritis
    Commonly called “gastro”, it is inflammation of the stomach and intestine caused by toxins that some bacteria produce in food. Symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain and cramps, fever and body aches.
    Wash Your Hands: A UK National Health Services Initiative

    Campylobacter
    This is an infection of the digestive tract (or gut) and is the most common cause of food poisoning and gastro-enteritis. It is spread by eating or drinking contaminated food, water or unpasteurised milk.
    Wash Your Hands: A UK National Health Services Initiative

    Salmonella
    This type of food poisoning is the result of touching or eating contaminated foods. Symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and fever. Despite the risk being lower the infection can be transmitted by touch.
    Wash Your Hands: A UK National Health Services Initiative

    Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureu (golden staph)
    Staphylococcus aureu is a common type of bacteria that 25-30% of people carry and can be treated with antibiotics. But some types can develop into ‘super-strains’, resistant to antibiotics and so are classified as Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureu. MRSA can lead to serious health problems such as blood poisoning and infections of the lungs, bones or the heart valve.
    Wash Your Hands: A UK National Health Services Initiative

    Influenza
    The flu is much more serious than most people may think. It can cause chills, fever, respiratory issues and, if you have heart or lung problems or are 65 or over, its effects can be severe. In the most serious cases it can cause pneumonia, which can result in death.
    Wash Your Hands: A UK National Health Services Initiative

    Impetigo
    Impetigo is a very contagious infection of the skin. Redness develops into small blisters that gradually crust and erode. It is highly contagious and can be spread from person to person and to other parts of the body simply by touching it.
    Wash Your Hands: A UK National Health Services Initiative

Luckily, Gerba’s study also found that when office workers were told to clean their desks with disinfecting wipes, bacterial levels were reduced by 99%.

Get cleaning!

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