Where’s the Cold Virus?

Dr. Greene’s take on the cold virus…

Think twice before picking up that remote if someone in your home has a cold! Researchers from the University of Virginia, armed with DNA swabs, did a CSI-like evidence hunt in the homes of 30 people with early cold symptoms. Where did they find the virus? The most reliable spot was on salt and pepper shakers, found on every single one tested. The virus was also found on 80 percent of bathroom faucet handles, 75 percent of dishwasher handles, 60 percent of remote controls, 57 percent of refrigerator handles and phones, 33 percent of doorknobs, and 23 percent of light switches. Next, the researchers tested to see if the virus would stick to the fingers of healthy folks when they grabbed a handle, answered the phone, or flicked a switch – 48 hours after the virus was left there. More than half the time it could be found on their fingertips. This is further evidence that the chain of infection often goes from nose to hand to object, then from object to hand to nose, mouth, or eyes. Cleaning you hands is one of the best ways to break the chain.

These findings were reported at the 2008 annual meeting of the Infectious Disease Society of America and the American Society for Microbiology held in Washington, DC. The University of Virginia team are leaders in the study of the common cold. Two years ago they showed that the cold virus survives in hotel rooms the day after people with colds check out, waiting for you when you check in.


Published on: October 29, 2008
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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