It’s a germy world out there.
Here are five places where they lurk — and how to protect yourself from them.
1. Office faucet handlesThe 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 spongesThe 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 cartsThe 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 bagsThe 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 surfaceThe 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