Game of Germs: What sprays in Vegas should stay in Vegas

The uncovered cough is alive and well and living in Vegas. The sound is unmistakable – loud, crackly and unmuffled: “HAACHHKK!”….Yuck.

Actually the uncovered cough, and its cousin the sneeze, can be found everywhere. New York, New Mexico, New Delhi – let’s just say, it’s well traveled. We hear it and see it, but the remnants stay behind long after the split second act is completed and the delivering offender, like Elvis, has left the building.

During a recent trip to Las Vegas, I sat in the lobby of my trendy shi-shi hotel to conduct a quickie experiment; me, my skills of observation and a timer. The findings were astounding. Within a ten minute  period, I observed twenty-three people sprinkle their surroundings with an uncovered sneeze or cough.  An additional ten people covered their sneeze or cough, but did so incorrectly by using their hand, instead of the inside of their elbows. Then those same ten people, aka The Vegas Ten, not only blew their ‘cover’, but proceeded to touch everything in their path – spreading their sneeze juice on slot machines, playing cards, money, poker chips, drinking glasses, countertops, ….you get my drift? Oh, and during my data collection, I did not witness a single individual cover a cough properly. Hmm.

I know too much. Just a little microbiology makes you see the world a lot differently. Yeah, I realize my observations may sound cuckoo. I’m ok with that. But it’s not OCD or germaphobia – more like microbe management.  I see it for what it is: Not the worst thing in the world, but rather a disgusting reality.

I’m sayin’ it; You’re Sprayin’ It

The droplets of a sneeze contain about 15,000 germs, which travel up to six feet into the air at 100mph. Those germs can live on surrounding surfaces (if not cleaned properly) for anywhere from 24-48 hours. Gazuntite!

We are exposed to millions of germs everyday. Luckily, our immune system, along with the help of certain vaccinations, provide us with the protection we require to float through life mostly unaffected by casual interactions with the microscopic sub-culture of “Cootie-ville”.  However, stress, lack of sleep or poor diet may suppress the immune system and that’s when we get sick.  It happens.

Why Duck and Cover?

You may not see it but trust me, it is there.

Cough and Sneeze Distance: 3-12 feet

Cold and flu virus spread via airborne droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces – then remain active on surfaces up to 48hrs.

Cover your cough with the inside your elbow! If you use your hand – wash it before touching anything or anyone.

Toilet Flush Distance: 6-20 feet

Yep, it’s called a plume. It is a spray of unspeakable particles into the air.

Put down the seat before you flush!

Standing The Test Of Time 

How long will germs survive on surfaces?

Cold and Flu Virus: up to two days

Clostridium Difficile: up to four months

Escherichia Coli: up to sixteen months

Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus: up to six months

Vaporized bacteria may remain airborne after a toilet flush: two hours – flush and run!

Where’s the Party? Putting the fun in Fungus!

Bacteria average per square inch –

Bathtub drain: 550,000,000  Retrieve something from the drain? Boil it!

Toilet bowl: 3,200,000

Cell phone: 25,107

Office phone: 25,000

Doorknob: 8643

ATM: 4500

Pet food dish: 2110

Toilet seat: 1201 Yep, cell phones are dirtier than toilet seats

Remote control: 70


Floors: ……the five second rule does not apply

Fight Back

Now you know, It’s a dirty dirty world. Deal with it by using a little mindful management.

#1       The art of hand washing – soap, water, 20 seconds or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” all the way through twice

#2       Cover a cough correctly – use the inner elbow, if hands are used?…refer to #1.

#3       Stay home when sick. Period.

On the Edge of Obsession

1) Wipe: Tinkering on the edge of mysophobia, when my fiancé and I fly we use disposable viral wipes to wipe down the seat belt, buttons and tray table. These are areas that get cleaned…like never! Most people don’t notice us scrubbing away the germs of travelers that came before us, but there are always one or two people who look at us quizzically, pause, then ask to take a few wipes to use for themselves.

2) Light: My blue light special is the piece de resistance – my Verilux cleanwave sanitizing wand is friggin awesome! It’s a high tech super nifty UV-C blue light microbe-killing machine. I look like a Jedi, but I love sweeping through my hotel room zapping away creepy stuff.

3) Barrier: The woman across the aisle on a recent flight wore a surgical mask. This is not a bad idea if you have a weakened immune system and need to protect yourself, or if you are sick and want to protect others. It was however a little odd when she put on a complete facial mask during the flight? I’m still trying to come up with a reasonable explanation for this….but, meh – to each his own.

Sure, there are times it may seem easier to just wear a Hazmat suit and call it a day, but that’s just a stones throw away from Howie Mandel’s neighborhood, which is only a block away from Howard Hughes. It’s fine. It’s all just a part of life.

So go ahead, touch that banister, turn that doorknob and even shake that person’s hand – just think about what you are touching.  Whether it’s rabbit season, duck season or flu season – cover your cough and wash your hands regularly; you don’t want to be just another double dealer rolling germy dice in a dirty crapshoot. Good Luck!

PLEASE NOTE: October 15th is Global Hand Washing Day – Grab the soap and wash up today and every day.

Save lives, wash your hands!