How Do Germs Spread? 10 Facts & Myths
Whether they're viral or bacterial, germs lurk around every corner and atop nearly every surface. Most of the time, our bodies' immune systems effectively prevent germs from causing noticeable illness. Other times, our immune systems can become overwhelmed, resulting in fever, nasal congestion and all the other telltale signs of infection. While most people understand the basic nature of illness, there are still widespread misconceptions about how germs get inside our bodies.
How do Germs Spread?
Bacteria and viruses can enter our bodies in a number of ways. Most of the time, we inadvertently collect germs by touching a tainted surface. We then transmit these germs to ourselves by eating with our hands or by touching our noses, ears, eyes or mouths. On the other hand, some germs also have the ability to spread from one person into the air, where they may be inhaled through our noses and mouths. It may seem pretty basic; however, countless myths persist about how and why we get sick.
Belief: Toilet seats are especially germy.
Myth: While they may seem disgusting, toilet seats actually harbor far fewer germs compared to other commonly-contacted surfaces, such as doorknobs, remote controls and keyboards.
Belief: Public restroom hand driers blow germs into the air.
Myth: Studies have shown that no-touch hand driers are far less likely to transmit germs compared to traditional paper towel dispensers.
Belief: Antibacterial soap is more effective than regular soap.
Myth: Traditional soap has been shown to be just as effective as antibacterial soap, when users wash their hands for at least 20 seconds.
Belief: Sponges spread germs around.
Fact: The kitchen is the most germ-ridden place in virtually every household, and sponges do a great job of spreading harmful bacteria around.
Belief: Wooden cutting boards are less sanitary than plastic ones.
Fact: Because they are easier to clean and contain fewer microscopic crevices, plastic cutting boards tend to be much cleaner.
Belief: A dog's mouth is cleaner than a person's mouth.
Myth: Because dog mouths tend to come into contact with animal feces, it's pretty clear their mouths are no more sanitary than ours. That said, it is more likely that a human mouth will contain specific microbes that could be harmful to other humans.
Belief: The flu vaccine protects you from all types of influenza.
Myth: When formulating each seasonal vaccine, scientists focus on the strain that was most prevalent the year before. While each seasonal vaccine may offer some level of protection against other strains, you can still get sick if you come into contact with less common influenza strains.
Belief: You can catch the flu from the vaccine.
Myth: The influenza vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that cannot transmit infection.
Belief: You can't spread influenza if you're feeling well.
Myth: In reality, about 20- to 30-percent of people carrying the influenza virus show no symptoms whatsoever.
Belief: You should get a flu shot every year.
Fact: Since the flu virus mutates often, you need to update your immunity each year to maintain protection against new strains.