Germs are part of my life, what I do every day at work. I've been a microbiologist for more than 30-some-odd years. And I think it's important for individuals to understand that 80 percent of all infectious disease is contracted by contacting or touching.
It is the interface of individuals, one with another, and their environment, that causes infection. I'm not a believer in living in a bubble. But I am a believer in cutting down on the unnecessary infections. People don't realize that in the home, 50 percent to 80 percent of food-borne illnesses are contracted by items that are handled in the home. And 60 percent to 65 percent of all colds are contracted in the home.
Wash Your Hands
Of course, the most important thing to be learned in the home is to wash your hands. In 80 percent of all infectious diseases transmitted by contact, both direct and indirect, washing your hands can become the No. 1-critical thing to do for your own protection.
People don't wash their hands. If 80 percent of all infectious disease is transmissible by contact both directly and indirectly, hand-washing is like a godsend. That's something everybody should be doing, after food prep, after contamination, before eating or drinking anything, and after using a restroom. It's common sense.
To wash hands effectively, wet your hands and lather with soap. Then rub the soapy water all over your hands and fingers, not forgetting to clean under your fingernails, for 20 or 30 seconds. Rinse, and repeat. For your health's sake, you should wash your hands several times during the course of the day. At a minimum you should do so before eating, after using a bathroom facility, and after contaminating your hands with a cough or sneeze.
An example of cross contamination is easily illustrated by using a chicken that is infected with salmonella. You cut up the chicken and wash away the remains. You use a sponge to clean up the mess. After rinsing the sponge, you may use it to clean up a countertop, or an appliance — where you apply those germs that were from the chicken to the refrigerator door or a countertop. Individuals may come in after you've cleaned and pick up the salmonella.
Clean Your Sponges
It is of paramount importance to clean your sponges properly. The solution to cross contamination is to have a small bowl containing 1 ounce of bleach in a quart of water. Whenever you are done cleaning an area, soak the sponge in the solution and let it air dry. The combination of the bleach and the dryness will kill all dangerous bacteria. Make sure to change the solution once a day.
Be Careful Not to Transmit in a Pool
Going into a pool, for example, is another way you can contract E. coli 0157. If a kid has that organism, goes into a pool that's not properly chlorinated, and other kids use it and ingest the water, that's another way. There are many germs out there that are highly dangerous. There are many others that are beneficial, and useful, and we all need germs in our everyday life.
Keep Your Toilet Lid Closed
When using the bathroom it is important to lower the seat cover before flushing. High-powered toilets can launch germs and bacteria into the air when flushed and these particles could spread throughout the bathroom, onto countertops, on your comb or toothbrush.