Office cleaning - Viruses spread "like crazy" in an office

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Viruses spread like wildfire in an average office, getting from people’s hands onto the communal coffeepot within hours and spreading from doors to desks almost instantly.

It only takes two to four hours for a virus to get off a coffee pot handle and onto a desk.

“The hand was really quicker than the sneeze in the spread of disease,” Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona in Tucson told a meeting of infectious disease experts. The office hot spot was the break room, where everyone touches the coffeepot and microwave, his team found.

The study, presented at an American Society for Microbiology shows just how viruses that cause colds, flu and other infections spread. The answer: People deposit the germs on tables, desks and coffee pots and then when others touch those objects, they pick them up.

“Every time you are touching these surfaces, you are picking up 30 to 50 percent of the organisms that are on those surfaces,” Gerba said. Then you touch your face, and the viruses can either get into the eyes nose or mouth, or get back onto your fingers. “The average adult touches their face on average once every three or four minutes,” Gerba said. For kids, it’s more on the order of every one minute.

“Every time you do that … you have the probability of transmitting disease. To make sure he was measuring new spread, Gerba and his team used a virus not usually seen in offices called MS-2.

Gerba’s team spread MS-2 on desktops, door push plates and the coffee pot handle, among other places, in two Arizona offices, one with 20 people and one with 80 people. They also swabbed people’s hands to see what germs they already had, and while doing that, they secretly deposited MS-2 on the hand of one unsuspecting person.

“It spread like crazy,” Gerba said. It didn’t really matter where they put the virus — it spread within hours from a surface like a table top or someone’s hand.

Germ experts knew this, but no one had done such a controlled study to see precisely how quickly it spread. Studies show that frequent handwashing and use of hand sanitisers and disinfectants can cut germ spread and illnesses. A specialised office cleaning service will give extra care to keyboards and phones and ensure all desks are wiped down and sanitised. A high level of hygiene is maintained in both office and washrooms which can lead to as much as a 60 percent drop in the amount of surfaces infected.

Courtesy Gerba Lab

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