by Andrea Velasquez, Certified Clinically Clean® Specialist
Look around your workspace. Have any idea where germs live? Keep reading to learn more about where germs come from and where they like to hang out.
What Is A Germ?
Germs are tiny, microscopic organisms that fall into one of four types. Germs are either Bacteria, Viruses, Fungi or Protozoa. Not all germs are bad. In fact, life wouldn’t exist without them.
These are tiny, one-celled creatures that get nutrients from their environments in order to live, such as the human body. Bacteria can reproduce outside of the body or within. Inside the body they can cause infections such as earache, tonsillitis, strep throat or pneumonia. But not all bacteria are bad. Some bacteria are good for our bodies and keep our intestines balanced. In addition, some bacteria are used to produce medicines and vaccines.
These organisms depend on living cells to grow and reproduce. Most viruses can’t survive very long if they’re not inside a living thing like a plant, animal, or person. Viruses can cause diseases such as chickenpox, measles and the flu.
These are multi-celled, plant-like organisms. Unlike other plants though, fungi cannot make their own food. Instead, fungi get their nutrition from plants, people, and animals. They love damp, warm places, and many fungi are not dangerous in healthy people. An example of something caused by fungi is athlete’s foot.
These are also one-celled organisms. They love moisture and often spread diseases through water. Some protozoa cause intestinal infections that lead to diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain.
Where Germs Live In The Workplace
Although germs exist naturally, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes can cause serious problems when they are allowed to replicate. For this and other reasons, it is safest to have a regular workplace cleaning regime.
Some facilities, such as dialysis clinics or urgent care facilities, have an even greater need to prevent contamination. But even if your workplace is outside of the healthcare space, it can still be made safer by controlling germ populations.
Here are 10 places where germs live.
1 – Inside the Body
Did you know that according to research from the University of Colorado at Boulder,
at any given time we carry 3,200 bacteria from 150 different species on our hands? Though this may seem like a lot it’s a small fraction of the number of bacteria living inside you. The number of bacteria that inhabit your gastrointestinal system is greater than the number of cells that make up your entire body.
Fortunately, the bacteria in our GI tract shouldn’t come into contact with others in normal circumstances. Still, people have bacteria on the skin and nasal secretions that could potentially harm someone, especially a person with a compromised immune system.
As a result of the pandemic, we’re now very familiar with how to keep from getting sick from person to person contact. Fist or elbow bumps instead of shaking hands. Frequent hand washing. Don’t touch your face with your hands. In the workplace, if you haven’t already, post a sign in the restrooms that reads: Wash Your Hands! Use soap and water while singing Happy Birthday through twice (20 seconds).
2 – Faucets and Drinking Fountains
Another obvious place where germs live—because we use our hands to turn them on—are faucets and drinking fountain knobs. The presence of water itself favors bacteria. High-touch items such as these need to be disinfected correctly. Read the disinfectant’s label to know how long the faucet or knob must stay wet before it kills germs properly. You may need to keep the surface wet with disinfectant for a full 10 minutes.
3 – Telephones
Telephones are clearly a possible source of infection. People touch them with their hands holding them close to their face for prolonged periods of time. Routinely disinfecting phones is an effective way to reduce the risk of infection. Again, check the label of the disinfectant to know how long the telephone must stay wet to be properly disinfected.
4 – Keyboards and Computers
The keyboards most people use every day are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria from hands. Keep your keyboard, mouse and mousepad clean and disinfected. Avoid touching your face while using your keyboard. After using your keyboard, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water.
5 – Ventilation Systems
The ventilation and cooling systems are frequently guilty of harboring and dispersing germs through the air. They can cause infections that are difficult to treat, such as pneumonia. If your workplace is experiencing viral or bacterial outbreaks often, you may want to have a professional inspect your ventilation system for mold or a heavy build-up of dust.
6 – Curtains
In a private survey published by the American Journal of Infection Control, hospital infection preventionists were asked how often their facility’s privacy curtains were cleaned. Most respondents (37%) answered “when visibly soiled.” Additional answers ranged from “once per month” to “once per year.” Yet it’s estimated by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology that it takes only two days for a standard privacy curtain to become infected.
All soft surfaces have the potential to be infected with germs: cotton, canvas, polyester, nylon, carpet, drapes and curtains, upholstered chairs, sofas, mattresses, pillows, etc. Pathogens on soft surfaces can survive for long periods of time and can be transferred to the hands or items worn by those who touch the contaminated surfaces.
Pathogen Lives On Soft Surface
Influenza Virus Several hours
MRSA 2 to 3 months
VRE 2 to 3 months
Pseudomonas aeruginosa Several months
Candida albicans Up to 4 months
7 – Furniture
Like curtains, furniture is rarely cleaned in the workplace. And like on curtains, germs can survive on chairs for a long time. Try and disinfect the arms of your office chair daily. Or if an armless chair, disinfect the bottom of the seat where you’re likely to grab with your hands.
8 – Floor
Germs are tracked in on the soles of shoes making the floor one of the germiest places in your workplace. That is why most food production facilities require employees to enter through a shoe bath.
9 – Elevators
Elevators are an often overlooked hiding spot for germs. They are a small, confined space shared by everybody. Also, they require the users to push buttons to operate.
10 – Kitchen Appliances
Most workplaces have a kitchen area or lounge where employees can share meals and potentially share germs. In eating areas, the most common place where germs live are on the buttons and handles of the microwave and refrigerator. Also don’t forget to clean and disinfect shared salt and pepper shakers.
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