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During the cold and flu season, about one-third of the surfaces people touch at work are contaminated with disease-causing germs, according toÂ University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba, PhD. But few businesses or institutions use cleaning strategies that reduce germs and create a healthier environment.
Coverall Health-Based Cleaning SystemÂ®, a leading franchisor of commercial cleaning companies, maintains an official partnership with Gerba that focuses on increasing public awareness about the most effective cleaning methods for infection control.
StudiesÂ conducted by Gerba have changed society's view of microbes and everyday objects. Some insights:
- An average desktop harbors 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. (The place where you rest your hand most on your desk often contains about 10,000,000 bacteria. Public toilet seats, on the other hand, are far less germy because of regular cleaning.)
- Phones were the germiest place in offices surveyed; followed by desktops, the water fountain handle, microwave door handle, and keyboards. (Toilet seats and photocopier surfaces were the least contaminated sites sampled in offices.)
- In schools, the most germ-laden places are desktops; computer keyboards, mice, and touchpads; pencil sharpeners, water fountains and restrooms. (The most contaminated surfaces were found in kindergarten through grade 5 areas.)
- Of the professions studied, school teachers had 20 times more germs in their offices.
- More germs were found at daycare centers than any other business or educational environment.
- Proper cleaning techniques can reduce bacteria by up to 99.9 percent and absenteeism in schools by 50 percent.
"Hygiene has had more impact on human health and mortality than all the antibiotics or vaccines ever made," says Gerba, adding that 90 percent of common infections have been eliminated through proper hygiene practices.
Coverall's Program of proper hygienic methods includes nightly cleaning of surfaces using hospital-grade disinfectants; uses of Coverall's Color-Coding for HealthÂ® system, with color-coded, microfiber cloths to avoid the spread of germs from one surface to another; and incorporates backpack vacuums with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filtration to eliminate airborne germs and improve overall indoor air quality. Coverall also encourages proper hand washing to stem the spread of germs and advises using antibacterial wipes during work hours to eliminate pathogens on surfaces such as desktops.
Gerba believes the future of healthy cleaning may include self-sanitizing surfaces in high-touch areas and disinfectants that work for as long as 48 hours. Until then, Coverall and Gerba are dedicated to disseminating information needed for the public to make good decisions about infection prevention.
"Dr. Gerba's extensive knowledge about germs and how to stop diseases from spreading has helped Coverall educate the public, especially business managers and others who may not know the importance of using proven cleaning methods in work, healthcare, and school environments to control diseases," says Peter Sheldon, vice president of operations of Coverall Health-Based Cleaning SystemÂ®.
Widely known as "Dr. Germ," Gerba has, over the past 20 years, conducted research and development of new disinfectants and methods for detection of bacteria and viruses and microbial risk assessment. Gerba has authored more than 400 articles and several textbooks on environmental microbiology. He has been featured as an infection control expert in The Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, ABC News and in a variety of other national magazines and newspapers.