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NEW YORK -- Millions of Americans will celebrate this year's Thanksgiving season with a whirlwind of social activities, holiday travel and shopping. At the same time as they increase their social activity, they also increase their risk of exposure to germs that cause illness. But renowned microbiologist and germ expert Dr. Philip Tierno says just practicing a little basic hand hygiene can help ensure Americans enjoy a healthy, happy
According to Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic
immunology at the New York University Medical Center, many Americans are
unaware that they pick up the vast majority of germs that make them sick from
"That's why good hand hygiene should go hand-in-hand with your
holiday celebrations. Remember, you want to pass the turkey, not the germs,"
Tierno indicated the fun, family travel activities of Thanksgiving can
actually increase people's risk of exposure to unwanted germs. These top germ
* Using the public restrooms at malls, movie theaters, interstate rest
stops, service stations, restaurants, airports, airplanes, trains, etc.
* Touching the keypads of ATM machines, public telephones, e-ticket
machines, elevator panels and gas station pumps.
* Holding onto handrails on escalators, stairs or people movers at
airports, train stations and shopping malls.
* Using the fare-card machines, turnstiles, seats and handrails of public
* Exchanging bills, coins, credit cards and travelers checks while
shopping at department stores, malls or plazas.
* Handling remote controls, computer keyboards and other hard-to-clean or
seldom-cleaned household items.
* Preparing, serving and eating holiday meals with family and friends.
"During the holidays, your hands are going where many hands have gone
before," Tierno said. "Plus, the Thanksgiving holidays occur around the
start of winter, when many people already have coughs and colds -- illnesses
that love to travel on people's hands.
But that doesn't mean germs should put a damper on anyone's holiday plans.
Once you're aware of when you need to clean your hands, it's a simple matter
of either using soap and water or an alcohol-based instant hand sanitizer like
PURELL. Both are very effective at killing germs. A benefit of hand
sanitizers is that they can be gentler on your hands and they're portable."
Often when consumers should clean their hands throughout the day, soap and
water are not available. When using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer like
PURELL, Tierno recommends placing enough product to cover hands, then
rubbing hands briskly until dry.
When washing your hands, Tierno recommends rubbing your hands together
vigorously for at least 20 to 30 seconds, rinsing well with warm water and
drying them completely with a clean towel.
"Remember, the holiday season for
people is the holiday season for germs -- they like to travel, too," Tierno said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends alcohol-based
hand sanitizers as an alternative to handwashing.
Top 10 Thanksgiving Germ Moments
10. Realizing the sneezing airline passenger in the aisle seat just passed
your child a bag of pretzels.
9. Picking up your lost luggage after it has been "handled" through 3
8. Handshakes, hugs and kisses from relatives, friends, friends of
7. Remote control hogging between parade watchers and football fans.
6. Passing the peas, potatoes, turkey, gravy, dressing.
5. Holding hands while walking off dinner.
4. Searching through a hundred video store movies for one everybody will
3. Going gloveless on public transportation to the big Friday sales.
2. Pushing all the mall elevator buttons just for fun.
1. Shaking hands with elves and reindeer, and kissing Santa.