Backpacks, cellphones carry more germs than public toilet seat

By Gianna Misenhelter

Kansas State Collegian, Kansas State U. via UWIRE

For most students, a typical day on campus is likely to involve a quick trip to the bathroom. In a frantic hurry, you set down your cellphone and take off your backpack, purse or coat. Without thinking about it, your belongings are collecting germs on the floor or counter. Those germs may cause the flu, and as the weather gets colder, it gets harder to stay immune to sickness.

Charles Gerba, microbiologist at U. Arizona, conducted a study on 25 mobile phones and found bacteria growing on nearly half.

“You put it in a warm place, you put it in your hand, you put it in your pocket like I do, it’s nice and warm,” Gerba said in a 2006 ABC article. “Bacteria like that. It can grow in these types of places.”

Students often do similar experiments in classrooms. Olivia Eliasson, a Kansas State U. sophomore, said she participated on one such experiment in high school.

“We tested the inside and outside of a toilet seat and the bottom of our backpacks,” Eliasson said. “The bottom of our backpacks were the most contaminated. Now I am more aware of where I put my backpack, like on my bed.”

Although bathrooms are thought to be one of the most contaminated places by many people, K-State custodial staff are on hand to keep those environments clean.

As the flu season approaches it is important to keep your belongings clean and take care of your body. Here are a few things you can do to prevent a dreaded illness.

For starters, get vaccinated for the flu.

“The flu shot is another precaution to take,” said Julie Gibbs, assistant director at K-State’s health center. ”It’s just like washing hands. It is just one more step you can take to reduce your risk of getting the flu.”

As for your purse, backpack or cell phone — wash them. If you have a canvas-style purse or backpack, you can put it in the washing machine and set it out to dry. As for your cellphone, it can be safely cleaned with a Clorox disinfecting wipe.

Little things can help you to prevent an illness. Next time you go to the bathroom, consciously think about where you are putting your belongings and maybe you can avoid sickness this season.

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Copyright 2015 Kansas State Collegian

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