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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fecal Bacteria on 72% of Shopping Carts

Fecal bacteria — that is, germs from poop — can be found on 72% of shopping carts, MSNBC reports.

It’s yet another icky finding from University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba, PhD, sometimes called “Dr. Germ.”

In his latest report, Gerba reportedly found traces of fecal bacteria on the handles of 61 of 85 shopping carts tested in four states. Half of the 36 carts subjected to further testing yielded evidence of E. coli bacteria.

Some strains of E. coli can cause severe infections.  But before you start to shun your local grocery, note that no disease outbreaks have (yet) been traced to shopping carts.

Gerba has correctly pointed out that most of the infections people get come not from airborne droplets, as we tend to think, but from germs we’ve picked up on our hands and transferred to our mouths, noses, or eyes.

In recent years, Gerba has warned of bacterial and/or viral contamination in reusable shopping bags, airplane bathrooms and seat-back trays, airport kiosks, ground-floor elevator buttons, bachelor pads, water fountain toggles, pencil sharpeners, keyboards,  faucet handles, desktops, faucet handles, paper towel dispensers, shared touchpads such as iPads, cutting boards, shoes, well water, playground equipment, and just about anything touched by children.

It might (or might not) make all this seem less of a gross-out if we stop for a moment to think of our bodies not as hermetically sealed but as part of the seething microbiology of the world. Our guts, for example, carry a vast bacterial ecosystem that is crucial for our health.

That said, Gerba’s main point is a very, very good one: Wash your hands. Often.

– Daniel J. DeNoon, Senior Medical Writer, WebMD

More Dirty Places?
Are there other public places that creep you out? Tell us your comments below.

Posted by: Daniel DeNoon at 5:39 pm


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