Where the Germs Are (Slideshow)

hand sanitizer

It’s a germy world out there.

Here are five places where they lurk — and how to protect yourself from them.

5-germiest-places

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  • 1. Office faucet handles

    The problem: A study tested 5,000 surfaces in various offices and found high levels of contaminants on 75 percent of break room sink faucet handles.

    The fix: Wash your hands immediately before you eat lunch or a snack, and use a paper towel when handling the faucet handle.
  • 2. Kitchen sponges

    The problem: Microbiologists found that kitchen sponges carried the most germs in the home.

    The fix: To sanitize, pop your wet kitchen sponge in the microwave for two minutes every day or wash it with your dishwasher's drying cycle. Replace your sponge at least every two weeks.
  • 3. Shopping carts

    The problem: Thanks to leaky meats, drippy produce, babies' bottoms and other hosts, shopping carts are chock-full of germs. One study found E. coli on 582 of 600 shopping carts studied.

    The fix: If your store doesn't provide disinfectant wipes, pack your own.
  • 4. Reusable shopping bags

    The problem: Researches who tested shoppers' bags in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tucson, found that half the bags were contaminated with bacteria, including E. coli.

    The fix: Wash your bags thoroughly every week to kill the bacteria that collects there.
  • 5. Any shared surface

    The problem: Germs proliferate when hundreds of people touch a surface daily. Top culprits are gas pump handles, mailboxes, parking meters and the buttons on ATMs, crosswalks and vending machines.

    The fix: To stop cold and flu viruses, use hand sanitizers and avoid touching your face.

Sources: University of Arizona; NSF International; California State University, Sacramento; U.S. Department of Agriculture