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Public health officials use lab testing to warn against cold and flu season

Posted at 2:36 PM, Sep 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-14 22:11:07-04

With school back in session and flu season approaching, the Kern County Public Health Department is reminding everyone to take precaution surrounding germs.

The Now Bakersfield’s shadowed a lab testing of everyday surfaces to see just how much bacteria community members are being exposed to daily.

“We took some samples from some of the personal items that were brought in from the different areas for us,” Epidemiology Manager Kimberly Hernandez said. Hernandez and Microbiologist Brittany Lopez 
swabbed our team 23ABC car keys, an employee wallet, phone and our camera tripod to see if any bacteria was on these items, “We are going to be taking two different plates to be swabbing just everyday items that we’re constantly touching,” Lopez said.

Lopez used the red test petri dish to wipe all of the 23ABC surfaces numerous times, to show what happens if you don’t clean surfaces frequently and continue to use them excessively. “The red ones that you see, those ones are just a general purpose media so it’s going to grow pretty much anything,” Hernandez said.

After keeping the red dish in an enclosed area at 98 degrees for 24 hours, where bacteria can flourish the petri dishes changed significantly concerning all of the items, especially our camera tripod. On the other hand the black petri dish was used to spot gut bacteria or organisms that can make you sick. Turns out after being placed in the same controlled environment as the red petri dish our photographers iPhone contained some bacteria that could make him sick based off the findings.

Either way health officials said it’s a helpful reminder for parents to clean their kids phone, wallet and keys regularly, “So the whole idea behind all of this is we wanted to talk about germs being all around us. As we move into cold and flu season and we just want to remind people to wash their hands and as well as to wash a lots of the items you regularly touch that we don’t often think about,” Hernandez said.

In order to determine the types of bacteria that were found Lopez would have to do further microbiology testing, but she said for the most part these types of bacteria are normal and expected. “So there shouldn't be panic that kind of comes up in the household, there shouldn't  be panic that goes through a parents mind. This is all just to educate them about what’s out there and to reinstate those good practices,” Lopez said.

Some of those practices include using products that contain bleach such as antibacterial wipes that kill 99% of cold and flu viruses and bacteria, staying away from people who are sick and paying attention to the labels on the cleaning products. “Most disinfectants have a contact time, it will say you know leave on surface for one minute, for five minutes, some say ten minutes. What usually happens is most of the time we go spray something on the table and then we wipe it right up. So we didn't give it enough time to actually kill what we were hoping for it to kill. It’s really important to read the manufacturer’s label and follow those instructions,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez also said it’s important to wash you hands and surfaces used frequently as much as you can, and to get a flu shot to avoid dangerous germs from making you sick this season.