Just one sick person contaminates half of office surfaces by lunchtime

2/3/2013

We've all had that sinking feeling when a stoic colleague turns up to work coughing and sneezing.

And new research suggests it really is better if they stay at home, such is the speed that germs spread around an office.

Scientists at the University of Arizona have discovered when even one person comes to work sick, more than half of the commonly touched surfaces in the office will become infected with the virus by lunchtime.

Some of the likeliest germ hotpots include telephones, desktops, tabletops

, doorknobs, photocopier and lift buttons and the office fridge.

However the study also revealed that simple interventions, such as hand washing and the use of hand sanitiser or wipes, can drastically reduce employees' risk of infection.

Conducted in an office, the study included about 80 participants, some of whom received droplets on their hands at the start of a normal work day.

While most of those droplets were plain water, one person unknowingly received a droplet containing artificial viruses mimicking the cold, the flu and a stomach bug.

Employees were instructed to go about their day as usual. After about four hours, researchers sampled commonly touched surfaces in the office, as well as employees' hands, and found that more than 50 per cent of surfaces and employees were infected with at least one of the viruses.

'We were actually quite surprised by how effectively everything spread,' said Kelly Reynolds, UA associate professor of public health at the university. 'I didn't expect to find it as much as I did.'

And that was in an office environment where people work primarily in isolated spaces, she added.

Here are the places in the office where flu germs are most likely to be found:

Your phone (25,127 germs per square inch compared to 49 germs per square inch on a toilet seat)Your desktop (20,961 germs per square inch)Water fountain handleMicrowave oven door Computer keyboard


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