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Germs and You: Seven Ways They Touch Your Life

There is no way to be in denial that it's cold and flu season with so many co-workers, commuters, and gym-goers coughing and blowing their noses all around me. Other illnesses are lurking too, and prevention is all about knowing how to steer clear of germs in the first place. If you know how they spread, you can avoid getting sick. Here are seven ways you come into contact with germs:

  1. Direct contact: This is when you touch someone who is sick. Shaking hands, hugging, kissing, and sexual activity with someone who has a cold or stomach bug is a great way to get yourself sick too.
  2. Indirect contact: This is when you touch something that an infected person has touched. Door knobs, hand railings, counters, salt and pepper shakers, and gym equipment are all public items that hundreds have touched before you. If one of them was sick and you touch the object, you're at risk for illness.
  3. Droplet spread: This one grosses me out. Germs can spread through the air in the form of droplets when someone talks, sneezes, or coughs. Don't worry about insulting a person who's sick. Stand back for your own health's sake.

How else can germs spread? To find out,


  1. Fecal-to-oral route: Um, ew. If someone uses the bathroom and doesn't wash their hands properly (or at all), and that person shakes your hand or you touch the door to the bathroom they touched, then it's a great way to contract an illness such as Hepatitis A.
  2. Common-vehicle spread: This is when something is infected, such as the town water supply or salmonella-tainted meat. There's not much you can do except avoid whatever is contaminated.
  3. Airborne spread: You all heard about the anthrax scare. This is an example of an airborne spread. Germs can remain in tiny droplets in the air for hours or even days. Enclosed places and poor air circulation don't help the situation. So whenever possible open up windows, go outside and get fresh air, and avoid lengthy commutes in a train or plane.
  4. Vector-borne spread: Malaria, Lyme disease, and rabies are examples of this. It occurs when a contaminated insect or animal transfers germs to you through a bite. Bug spray and avoiding strange dogs should keep you safe.

I think I will go wash my hands now. What about you?


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