Swab test of office taken to see how dirty it is and easily one can get sick from office germs

Swab test conducted to find germs & viruses

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - The nation's flu epidemic is spreading quickly. While many are making sure not to get it at home, people do not realize they can get sick at work.

After all, we spend an average of eight to ten hours there at least five days a week. 

23 ABC wanted to know how dirty the typical office is and how easily one can get sick from those germs.

So the county Public Health Department was called in to conduct a swab test.

They swabbed computer keyboards, desk phones, cell phones and desktops. 

They also swabbed the break room's countertop, microwave, coffee pot handle and refrigerator handle.

The cultures were then grown at the Public Health lab.

The results were simply....gross.

Hundreds of different bacteria could be found from a single swab.

The dirtiest item was the desk phone.

The cleanest was the break room countertop.

The tests found fecal matter bacteria and bacteria similar to ones that cause MRSA.

"That is the organism can cause wound infections and is resistant to treatment," said Public Health Department Dr. Michael Lancaster.

Yet Lancaster said those germs are found everywhere, every day and is usually safe.

But that does not mean you won't get sick.

"It is carried and transmitted person to person especially by hands," said Lancaster.

Especially true, when its the flu--which not only hitches a ride on your hands, but in the air and on surfaces---where the virus can live for up to 12 hours.

Lancaster says people with the flu are contagious within two to three days of infection. That's before symptoms even appear, which is typically on day three or four.

"One of the reasons influenza spreads so easily is that its actually spread before you actually start feeling very ill," said Lancaster.

The cleanest area tested was the countertop in the break room.

But not everyone eats there.

"A lot of times you sit at your desk and eat without washing your hands. So if you're sitting at your desk eating and touching your keyboard, your phone, you transfer all those germs into your mouth," said Chief Environmental Health Department specialist Donna Fenton.

The lesson reinforces the age old rule: Wash your hands. Do it before you eat and after you do anything. Especially this flu season.

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