Oct. 14, 2005 — -- Every day on the way to work, we run the risk of coming into contact with people who are sick, or carrying germs that can make us sick. When we finally get there, we're relieved. While our offices may not always be neat, they're clean. Right?
"Most people don't do anything to their desk until they are sticking to it," said Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist. "In fact, we find four hundred times more bacteria on a desktop that we do on most toilet seats," he added.
He says our keyboard, computer mouses, phones and desktops are covered with germs that could make us sick.
And if like millions of other hard-working Americans, you eat at your desk, you've also been feeding millions of microscopic moochers.
Gerba used a portable germ detector to measure how contaminated "20/20" correspondent Don Dahler's keyboard was, and found about two million bacteria thriving there. Gerba said that's comparable to a shopping cart handle or a faucet handle in a public restroom.
To find out how to make our offices less germ-friendly, we called on Allison Janse, who was Gerba's co-author for the book, "The Germ Freak's Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu."
"You don't have to overhaul your whole lifestyle. You can make changes that take minutes a day, that can really improve your health," she said.
She advised: Wash your hands, of course, and avoid touching things a lot of other people have touched, like elevator buttons. Use your elbows to push the revolving door.
She also says, when in doubt, disinfect.
As you might imagine, Janse has a bit of a reputation among her fellow workers of being over-the-top when it comes to germs. But consider this: since she launched her anti-germ campaign three years ago, not one person in her family has gotten sick.