Down and Dirty: Ten Most Germy Jobs

"If you're really sort of an island onto yourself ... then there's nobody to give you the flu and your risk is really low," said Dr. David Weber, medical director of hospital epidemiology and occupational health at the University of North Carolina, and a member of the American Medical Association Preventive Medicine Task Force.

But computer repair people aren't on their own.

"I have a bag I bring with me, and I'll clean anything I touch, just for sanitary reasons," said Jeremy Gauthier, owner of Metro PC Care in West Palm Beach, Fla. "I'll do the same thing in the office, when I'm at work."

Gauthier, who cleans personal computers in addition to repairing them, said that many don't believe how dirty their computer can be.

"It's really hard to convince people your keyboard is that dirty that you need a cleaning service," he said.

While Gauthier said people can clean their desks on their own, he said many will ignore it, and that the service is more about ensuring a cleansing schedule than any special cleaning products he uses.


It should come as no surprise that a place that serves sick people is also a source of germs.

And physicians and nurses can carry those germs around on their hands and their clothes.

"Certainly, health care workers are at high risk," said Weber, who, from his work in pediatrics, may be particularly at risk of picking up something.

In fact, the spread of germs in hospitals has become such a concern that new programs are trying to enlist patients to remind their health care providers to practice good hygiene.

"There's been kind of an educational push to patients themselves to ask the personnel ... before they come in, 'Have you washed your hands?'" said Palen.

While innovations may help hospitals get rid of germs, they also may help in spreading them. The push for electronic medical records may add to the risk of germ transfer in hospitals.

Not only do keyboards provide a growing environment for germs, they provide it for sometimes drug-resistant hospital germs that can be much nastier than the ones you would find elsewhere.

"As we move more and more towards using [information technology] systems within health care settings, it becomes much more of a problem," said Palen.

In fact, some researchers are testing clothing and paints that could be used in hospitals to kill nasty microbes.

Lab Scientist

Infectious bacteria and viruses may be something we try to avoid in our lives, but for many lab scientists, it's part of the job.

"People in pathology labs are working with infected materials all the time," said Scott. "You have to be very sure that you're working with it in a safe way so there's no possibility that you're breathing in infected particles and there's no skin contact."

Other steps that lab scientists need to take, said Scott, include keeping a clean lab environment, working with some dangerous chemicals under a hood that suctions toxic fumes away, and not eating or drinking in the lab itself.

"There's definitely a risk if people are not aware and not careful of what they're doing," she said.

While the rules of keeping a clean lab should be familiar to anyone who has taken a high school science class or above, that doesn't mean they have always been followed.

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