[...] To begin the study, people with colds were recruited to spend 5 hours awake in hotel rooms before going to bed and 2 awake hours in their rooms the next morning. The volunteers had no visitors and were asked to wash their hands only after using the bathroom. At the time of check out, participants were asked to identify objects they had touched. After they left, ten of the touched objects in the subject's room were tested for the presence of rhinovirus. Thirty five percent of the objects had residual virus, demonstrating that people with colds do not have to be present for their germs to linger.
In order to infect an individual, germs must reach the eyes or the nose, usually by way of a person's own fingers. So researchers then set out to learn if germs lingering in the environment can make the leap from surfaces to fingers.
In order to test this leap, researchers invited six of the participants to return to the hotel several months later. This time, virus-containing mucus taken at the time of the participants' colds, which had been stored, was used to contaminate two sets of light switches, telephone key pads and telephone handsets in two different rooms. In one room, the mucus was allowed to dry for one hour. In the second room, the mucus dried overnight. The participants were asked to dial phone numbers, hold the handsets and flip on light switches in both rooms. Sixty percent of the contacts with contaminated objects that dried for an hour resulted in rhinovirus transfer to fingertips. Thirty-three percent of contacts with objects that dried overnight resulted in rhinovirus transfer to fingertips. [...]
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