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Spreading Viruses

September 9, 2014

Viruses spread from room to room much more quickly than you might think.



3344142642_c4d3bfa042_z Phil Whitehouse

The modern office building is a festering cesspool of germs. (Phil Whitehouse/Flickr)

Runaway germs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Modern office work has increased the spread of viruses. To find out just how quickly germs move around, University of Arizona environmental microbiologist Charles Gerba and his team put a harmless virus on the doorknobs of office buildings at the beginning of the day.

CHARLES GERBA (University of Arizona):

We were quite surprise by how fast the virus spread. Within four hours it appeared on half the surfaces that people would commonly touch.


In fact, he says people’s hands spread viruses around more quickly than sneezing. And in another study, they found that hotel cleaning crews spread germs very efficiently from room to room via the very towels they used to clean with.


If you hear someone coughing in the room next to you, whatever he had will probably be in your room the next night.


If that’s enough to make you want to go live under a rock, the good news is, common disinfectant wipes reduced the viruses’ concentration by up to 99%. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.