Surprising ways germs spread while holiday shopping

November 30, 2012 2:08:28 PM PST
When you head out to the mall or the stores this weekend, remember: you're not alone.

A recent study done in England found as many as 1 in 10 bank cards have fecal bacteria on them and 1 in 7 bills are contaminated, too.

Dr. Alan Taege did not take part in the study but treats infectious diseases at Cleveland Clinic.

"Things that get touched multiple times by many people are likely to be contaminated, particularly money, and in this case, a highlighted credit card, because we pass them from our hands to someone else back and forth," Taege said. "It's not at all unusual for them to be contaminated with bacteria."

Researchers at Queen Mary University, in London, swabbed the hands, money and credit cards of nearly 300 people.

They found bacteria on the hands of 11 percent of the people, on 8 percent of the credit cards, and 6 percent of the bills they tested.

"They highlighted the fact that staphylococcal bacterial, as well as many organisms that are found in--hate to say it-- fecal matter found in stool in the GI tract were found on these particular items that they tested," Taege explained.

Researchers say bacteria spreads fast and cell phones and handbags are also hot spots for germs.

Dr. Taege says to avoid getting sick while you shop, you can wipe down your credit cards after using them, or just be sure to wash your hands as much as possible.

"Still the best thing is remembering these are dirty surfaces, so after you handle them, either wash your hands," he said, "or if you're going to be out shopping like everyone will be for the holidays now, these various hand rubs that you can carry in your pocket--the little alcohol run bottles and so forth and so on--those types of things may not be perfect but they help."

Dr. Taege says to avoid touch your eyes and mouth while shopping, too. He says that's a good way to transfer bacteria inside of your body.

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