From the subway to your phone, the germiest surfaces to avoid

FBN's Gerri Willis finds out how dirty some of the common surfaces are with which we often come in contact.

This article is part of the series

How To Avoid The Flu This Season

By Columns

We are closing in on flu season. The Center for Disease Control says that prime time for flu is between December and February. With all the hysteria about Ebola and enterovirus, it's easy to overlook the fact that seasonal flu kills anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 people every year.  With that in mind, The Willis Report set out to track where you are most likely to pick up the germs that could land you in the doctor’s office.

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Turns out, humans are veritable petri dishes carrying some 500 difference species of bacteria at any time. Harmful bacteria, the kind that makes you sick, gets passed by touching surfaces. And, if you work in an office, everyday exposure is as easy as walking in the front door. Just one door contaminated with a virus spreads the germ to about half the surfaces and about half of employees within only four hours, according to a University of Arizona study.

Working with Dr. Kelly Arehart, a scientist at Kimberly-Clark, we swabbed and tested break rooms, copiers, candy machines, computers, phones, elevator keypads and escalator handles. We found the surfaces most likely to be infested with germs may surprise you. First, forget the bathroom. Those surfaces are cleaned regularly. Much more problematic are smart phones, break room surfaces like buttons on a microwave and common area computers, especially keyboards. The trouble typically resides on surfaces and in areas which are not routinely cleaned. Water fountains and coffee stations are typically places where bad bugs hang out. And, keep in mind, most common respiratory viruses can survive on a surface for a maximum of two to four days.

The good news is that it is cheap and easy to keep yourself healthy. Just because you are exposed to a virus, doesn't mean you will get sick. Experts say washing your hands regularly is the most effective way to stay healthy, According to the CDC, 20 seconds of scrubbing with soap, or about the time it takes to hum the song "Happy Birthday to You" twice, should do the job. And, getting a flu shot, well, of course, is a good idea too.