Swabbing for Germs - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Swabbing for Germs

By Zaneta Lowe  - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just updated statistics for swine flu, nearly 4,000 people have died so far this season.

So just how big of a threat is the flu to you and your family, and how well can you really protect yourself from germs that seem to be lurking everywhere?

Our ConsumerWatch team uncovers the dirty details.

"They're not hiding at all, they're out in the open, they're every place you are and every place you want to be," says Auburn University Professor Laura Suh, Ph.D.

Toilets, keyboards, phones, door handles, even dollar bills, all objects where you'll find germs.

"Most people don't think about whether the money's clean or dirty," says Auburn University Professor Sang-Jin Suh, Ph.D.

However, the ConsumerWatch team is digging up the dirt on where germs lurk.

"They're on everything that you touch, they're covering your body from the top of your head down to your toes," says Dr. Laura Suh.

The germs are also extremely easy to pass along, says Dr. Laura Suh.

She says even a sneeze can travel up to six feet.  Swine flu can last on an inanimate object for two to eight hours, and certain types of bacteria will last even longer.

"Something like a hard surface like that (like a phone), you're probably talking 48 hours, something like paper or cloth maybe less than 24 hours, if that was wet, then you might extend that to an extra day, 72 hours."

Some even predict the flu virus can live on a dollar bill for up to 17 days!  Plenty of time for anyone to catch it!

So just where else will you find such germs?

The ConsumerWatch team visited common places in Columbus and swabbed objects people touch on a daily basis.

Then we sent the results off to a lab for testing.  What dirty details did we uncover?

A self checkout credit card machine at Winn Dixie on Veteran's Parkway, a kiosk at the post office on Milgen Road, a drink fountain button at Burger King on Gentian Blvd., and a door handle in a first floor bathroom stall at the Medical Center all revealed growth of what's called coagulase negative staphylococci.

A table at the same Burger King, a pump handle at a Chevron on Milgen Road and the stair rail at the main branch of the Columbus Public Library all came back with traces of gram negative bacilli.

Those same germs are the ones that could cause e-coli and salmonella.  The good news is, that wasn't the case with any of our samples.  In fact lab officials called all of our results " considerably clean cultures."

However, it does make you think!

"These surfaces including the Burger King table need to be cleaned more often. I would use napkins and also if you spill food on the table, I would not really pick that up and eat it!," says Dr. Jang-Jin Suh.

So what's the solution in this flu heightened season?

"Dealing with microorganisms is actually all common sense," says Dr. Sang-Jin Suh.

"The more you wash your hands, the more protected you're going to be," says Dr. Laura Suh.

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