Here's How Soon You Could Catch Your Boss' Cold

ColdOrFlu_slides6 paginated
Fall means flu season is a-comin' — and a new study from researchers at the University of Arizona serves as a (disgusting) reminder that it doesn't take long for those nasty germs to make it around the office.
Advertisement
In the study, presented this week at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, researchers placed a type of bacteriophage (a virus that infects bacteria) in strategic, commonly touched locations (such as doorknobs) in an office building, conference room, and healthcare facility. They then sampled 60-100 other locations in the rooms between two and eight hours later. Within just four hours, the researchers found the bacteriophage on up to 60% of those new locations, including tabletops, light switches, and coffeepot handles.
In this study, the bacteriophage was standing in for the extremely-contagious norovirus. Although norovirus is the most common cause of stomach flu (but not influenza) and foodborne-disease outbreaks in the U.S., it only rarely gets more serious than that. But, when it does, it's not pretty.
While four hours is scary-fast, it's important to point out that just because a surface is contaminated, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll get sick by touching it. Our skin is usually pretty good at keeping bad stuff out. But, if your grubby fingers get all over that contaminated coffeepot and then you rub your eyes or bite your nails, there's a better chance you'll catch the virus.
Not to fear, though; the researchers have proposed a simple solution — plain-old disinfecting wipes infused with quaternary ammonium compounds. So, grab some of those, and please join us while we wipe down the entire subway system, forever.
Advertisement