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As cold and flu season nears, is it possible to avoid the germ-filled spots in the office? WSJ's Sumathi Reddy joins Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero to discuss. Photo: iStock/Thomas_EyeDesign
It's almost that time of year when you ever-so-slowly inch away from the person with the hacking cough and infectious sneeze.
Turns out it's pretty hard to avoid the germs of your co-workers, even the ones you don't know personally. Just one door contaminated with a virus spreads the germ to about half the surfaces and hands of about half the employees in the office within four hours, according to a study at the University of Arizona, in Tucson. Germs traveled through the office just as quickly when the researchers infected a single person with the artificial virus.
"The hand is quicker than the sneeze," said Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona who presented the research at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Washington D.C. earlier this month.
The University of Arizona researchers conducted their study at an office building with 80 employees. They contaminated a push-plate door at the building entrance with a virus called bacteriophage MS-2. It doesn't infect people yet is similar in shape, size and survivability to common cold and stomach flu viruses.
Within two hours, the virus had contaminated the break room—coffee pot, microwave button, fridge door handle—and then spread to restrooms,...