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Want to stay well this winter? Stopping the spread of germs is key

Dr. Charles Gerba, aka "Dr. Germ"
Dr. Charles Gerba, aka "Dr. Germ"(Arizona's Family)
Updated: May. 9, 2022 at 10:09 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Viruses spread quickly. Once your child brings one home, it will likely be on 90% of the surfaces in your house within four hours, according to Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona.

“You don’t need to clean and disinfect every surface in your home every day; that’s too much,” Gerba said. “We found that just simple interventions are all you need to make a big difference.”

Gerba, aka “Dr. Germ,” suggests using disinfectant wipes on your refrigerator and microwave handles every day. Clorox hired him to test its wipes, and he found that they actually work well.

Gerba says cold and flu viruses can live for up to two days on surfaces like your fridge handle or a shopping cart. Noroviruses can live up to a month. And it seems like they’re everywhere.

“You’ll find 90% of shopping carts have E.coli from putting baby bottoms in there and raw meat products,” Gerba explained. “So, shopping carts are far worse than we ever thought until we started doing those studies.”

The break room in your office is another hot spot for germs. The coffeepot handle is probably covered with bacteria, according to Dr. Germ.  And if there’s a sink with a sponge at work, you probably shouldn’t use that. He found E.coli in about half of the coffee cups belonging to some workers who did.

It might be a bit harder to avoid the germs you’re probably carrying with you right now on things you use daily.

“Cell phones are great mobile devices for germs. They make them a lot more mobile!” joked Dr. Germ.  His research has even found skin diseases like MRSA on phones, so he suggests wiping them down often with alcohol.

And if you’re flying out for the holidays, you’ll want to throw some disinfectant wipes in your carry-on.

“Those trays in front of you are pretty bad,” Gerba said. “We found influenza virus, norovirus, and cold viruses on those trays.”

Still, your own home is the most common place for germs to spread, according to Gerba. He says the best thing you can do to keep the germs you pick up at bay is to wash your hands right when you get home. Have your kids do the same. He suggests even just keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer by the door, as well.

It’s a simple thing but extremely effective. Gerba said that while kids get about three to four times more colds a year than adults, even they can cut that number in half just by washing their hands more often and by using hand sanitizer.

We asked Dr. Germ if he feels like he gets sick less often than most people. “I do!” he exclaimed, going on to say that he typically goes years -- years! -- without getting sick.