NEWS10 Special Report: Bacteria in the home - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

NEWS10 Special Report: Bacteria in the home

Posted: Updated: Nov 25, 2013 10:21 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. - Most scientists agree there are a number of places in your home that can hold significantly more bacteria than others. However, it's not always the most common places that are the dirtiest.

The average human hand harbors around 150 species of bacteria, most of which are healthy and natural. But sometimes, things people touch hundreds of times a day can cause the spread of some serious germs.

Christian Donovan is a busy mom of three. Whether she is packing lunches or keeping her two-year-old entertained, she usually has her hands full. Like so many moms, worrying about germs has become a part of Donovan's daily routine.

"We do keep hand sanitizer around all the time so we try to make sure that they use it as soon as they get home from school, not always, but we try," said Donovan. "When we are out in public, we keep it with us to try and keep our hands clean as well."

Donovan's husband, Fred, is a bit more of a self-proclaimed germ-a-phobe.

"It's just the stomach bug," said Fred, "I can't stand getting it, that's the only thing that bugs me."

However, what the Donovan's didn't know is that some of the things they use every day could be carrying the most bacteria and potentially making them sick.

NEWS10 ABC decided to put some everyday things people use, to the test.

Items like a cell phone, iPad, lunch bag, a purse and even a TV remote were taken to a lab at Albany Memorial Hospital for testing.

 "Where ever there are bacteria, there are viruses so this will give us an indicator of what things we may find in both cases," said Microbiologist Marty Luzinas.

Christian guessed the cell phone would probably harbor the biggest cesspool of germs. Fred had his bets on the TV remote.

Dr. Clifford Erickson, the Director of Emergency Medicine at Albany Memorial Hospital says not all bacteria is bad.

"Bacteria are tremendously beneficial," said Erickson. "They are important to digest food. They actually function as part of your immune system as growing and maintaining healthy bacterial populations in your gut is tremendously important to good health."

In the hospital lab, most of the items tested carried some of the normal bacteria found in nature, but it is alarming to find out what else is lurking right at our fingertips.

"If we were to really do some sensitive screening, it could be possible that we would find MRSA amongst these staph organisms," said Luzinas.

Items like a cell phone, iPad, lunch bag, a purse and even a TV remote were taken to a lab at Albany Memorial Hospital for testing. The biggest culprit ended up being the TV remote.

"There's a lot more staph, which again, I would expect from your hands and it wouldn't surprise me if we had staphoreus which can both MRSA type staphoreus and non-NRSA type staphoreus," SAID Luzinas.

While the thought of harmful bacteria can be scary, Erickson says don't push the panic button just yet.

"There's a lot of people who are strep carriers who don't get strep throat," said Erickson. "There's a lot of people who carry MRSA and never develop an infection from it. So, just because you have been exposed to bacteria that may be colonized with this specific strain of bacteria doesn't mean you are going to get sick from it."

Doctors say the best advice is simple hand washing by using soap and water and scrubbing often is the best defense all year round.

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