Desktop germs can trigger cold and flu season
By JIM HAUG (firstname.lastname@example.org);
Daytona Beach News Journal,
Nov. 25, 2002
DAYTONA BEACH -- Carolyn Boddie
regularly sees purple mold growing in month-old coffee and shriveling black
bananas sticking to desktops.
Boddie is the contract services
coordinator for locally based Act Corp., which specializes in training
individuals with disabilities. She supervises janitors who clean office
buildings in Volusia, Flagler, Putnam and Seminole counties.
Because of her experiences with
office horrors, Boddie was not surprised by a recent study that says the
average office desk has 400 times more germs than the average toilet seat.
Desks would probably be cleaner
if they were inside restroom stalls rather than cubicle walls. Janitors "can
clean toilets but we can't touch desks," Boddie said. "They're considered
As unkempt as workplaces are,
Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, said it is
easy to see how colds and flu can spread at this time of year. The cold and
flu viruses can survive for three days on a surface. After an office worker
sneezes into his hand, whatever he touches -- the phone, stapler, copy
machine, doorknob -- can all become transfer points for the cold or flu
virus, Gerba said.
The microbiologist said sick
people would do better to kiss someone than shake their hand. "You're
literally handing somebody the cold," he said.
For a healthier workplace, Gerba
said workers should use disinfectant wipes to regularly clean their personal
office space. However, Gerba's office space study was sponsored by Clorox
Co., a maker of cleaning products.
Some workplaces post signs urging
employees to clean their personal office space, Boddie said. But judging by
the mess of her office, she said the rules seem to be flouted.
Bo Brewer, a human resource
consultant and president of The People Business in Ormond Beach, said
employers typically deal with messy workers during evaluation time. If their
desk is messy, chances are they're disorganized with their work, too.
Local employer, First Data, makes
supplies of disinfectant wipes available for its employees, said company
spokeswoman Donna Pennington. The inbound call center employs more than 500
people. Because it is a 24/7 operation, shift workers must share personal
office space. First Data workers also get their own personal headsets.
At many call centers, workers
must share headsets, Brewer said. They get only personal "booties" or the
foam padding for their earpiece.
"That's gross," he said.
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