Aptly nicknamed “Dr. Germ,” Charles P. Gerba, Ph.D., a microbiologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, has made headlines recently with his list of the “10 Germiest Jobs in America.” Not surprisingly, lab scientist ranks number five. What job does Dr. Germ consider the germiest? Number one on his list was teachers and day care workers.
Twice in the past month, network news reporters have interviewed Gerba. In October, NBC News highlighted his list of the 10 germiest jobs. Here is the list, and some occupations considered germy enough to make his list may surprise you:
1) Teacher, day care workers
2) Cashier, bank employee
3) Tech support, computer repair.
4) Doctor or nurse
5) Lab scientist
6) Police officer
7) Animal control officer
8) Janitor or plumber
9) Sanitation worker (AKA garbage collector)
10) Meat packer
Most laboratorians have watched for years as microbiologists ventured out from their labs, swabbed hands and surfaces around the hospital, then cultured the swabs which often tested positive for various types of germs. The point, of course, is to emphasize the need for regular handwashing, as well as more diligent cleaning of medical equipment and surfaces throughout the hospital.
What makes Dr. Germ interesting is that he has become a nationally-known expert, particularly on intestinal diseases and household microbes. He has been one of the first to study germs and bacteria counts in offices and businesses. In collaboration with The Clorox Company, Gerba and other researchers have collected and tested many thousands of specimens from office locations from coast to coast.
“The phone is typically the dirtiest piece of equipment in an office because it goes straight to your mouth, and you never clean or disinfect it,” declared Gerba. “Telephones topped the charts in most offices across the United States, followed by desks and computer keyboards.” Gerba notes that offices and cubicles often have higher bacteria levels than surfaces in common areas around these offices. In fact, he has found that the average desk harbors 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
There is also a gender difference. Based on his research, Gerba has determined that, on average, women’s offices had the most germs on such items as telephones, pens and pencils, computer keyboards, and computer mice. By contrast, men’s desks tend to be more germier than women’s desk. And what were the single germiest items in most offices? Men’s wallets, which Gerba says can harbor four times more germs than women’s purses!
No doubt, these findings are likely to motivate some hospital microbiologists to expand the types of things they sample during their swabbing expeditions. Along with hands and physicians’ neckties, microbiologists are likely to also be focusing on telephone handsets, computer keyboards and maybe even men’s wallets!