If you’re sick, stay home from work – otherwise, you’ll contaminate half your workplace with germs! That’s the takeaway of a new study from the University of Arizona.

For the study, researchers placed droplets on the hands of 80 people as they arrived for work. In most cases, the droplets were just plain water. But one worker unknowingly received droplets containing viruses – similar to what you’d find on someone with the cold, flu, or a stomach bug! Then, workers were told to go about their day, business as usual.

So, what happened? When researchers swabbed the office at lunchtime, they found that half of the most commonly touched surfaces were contaminated by the person with the virus. We’re talking about things everyone uses at work – like telephones, doorknobs, the Xerox machine, elevator buttons and the break room fridge. Then, when researchers swabbed again at the end of the day, the contamination rate jumped to 70 percent! And remember, all those germs came from one person.

Our friend Dr. Charles Gerba is a microbiologist who led this new study. And he says most people think it’s coughing and sneezing that spreads germs. But this study proves that when it comes to infecting other people, “the hand is quicker than the sneeze,” as Dr. Gerba would say. Because all you have to do is touch something that’s been contaminated with germs and you’ve got about a 50/50 chance of getting sick. Even if that person never coughs or sneezes near you.

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