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Disinfection matters: Household Surfaces Key To Colds

Household surfaces play a key role in the spread of the cold virus according to a new study carried out by the University of Virginia, USA.

Each week during winter, a fifth of the UK population suffers from a cold and while infection can be spread by airborne droplets when a sufferer coughs or sneezes, the study highlights the importance of home hygiene during the cold and flu season.

The study found that rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold, can be spread to many surfaces around the home via people’s hands. As this virus can survive on household surfaces for up to two days, a single family member or visitor can spread the virus to other members of the family through touching surfaces in the home including door handles and taps.

Experts tested surfaces in the homes of people with colds. 42% of surfaces in the homes studied tested positive for traces of rhinovirus, indicating that these surfaces could have transferred the cold virus infection to anyone who touched them.

The study revealed the main hotspots in the home for picking up the cold virus were:
? Doorknobs
? Refrigerator door handles
? TV remote controls
? Bathroom taps

The virus was shown to be transferred to fingertips through everyday activities such as flipping a light switch off, touching a number on a telephone keypad and holding the telephone handset.

Rhinovirus genetic material was still transferred to the finger tips of over half of the people studied (53%) 48 hours after the surfaces were contaminated with the virus, demonstrating that even two days after contamination, surfaces could still be potentially infectious. Infectious rhinovirus was also detected on almost a quarter (23.5 per cent) of subjects’ fingertips one hour after touching household surfaces contaminated with the virus.

The UK Hygiene Council reviews current hygiene practices offering realistic recommendations to the UK public on the importance of hygiene in the home and community. Professor John Oxford, virologist at St Bartholemew’s and the Royal London Hospital, and chair of the UK Hygiene Council commented, “The cold virus is a hardy one because it survives on surfaces for so long and can then be passed on, putting the whole family at risk of infection. Home hygiene is key in the fight against colds. By focusing on the key hygiene hotspots, cleaning them with a quality disinfectant product, families can help protect themselves without trying to sanitise their homes.

“Recent government recommendations mean that doctors can no longer prescribe antibiotics to alleviate colds – so it’s vital that families target these key surfaces in the home to protect themselves from colds this winter,” continued Professor Oxford.

Dr. Birgit Winther, associate professor of otolaryngology and pediatrics at the University of Virginia and lead researcher for the study, commented, “Some people still spray the air with disinfectants, but rhinovirus doesn’t fly through the air. I think that the message from this research is that we need to focus more wisely on cleaning commonly touched surfaces in the home.”

Home hygiene plays a key role in preventing the spread of the common cold in the home. The UK Hygiene Council has some practical steps to help stop the spread of colds this winter.

Top Tips from the UK Hygiene Council to help you stay healthy during this winter season
? Disinfection matters – not all cleaning products kill bacteria and viruses. Make sure you use a quality disinfectant that is proven to kill viruses. Dettol Disinfectant Spray kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses including the cold and flu virus. Used on frequently touched surfaces disinfectant spray can help keep your family healthy all winter.
? Hygienic hands – washing your hands is one of the best ways to help reduce the spread of germs. Try to wash your hands regularly throughout the day especially after coughing or sneezing or contact with someone with a cold.
? Dishcloths – dirty cloths can harbour bacteria if not cleaned properly so try using disposable surface wipes on the surfaces you touch most.
? Fight it with fitness – Staying fit can boost the immune system so aim for a minimum of 30 minutes walking four times a week.

The results of this study were presented today at the 48th Annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy and Annual and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (ICAAC/IDSA) 46th Annual Meeting in Washington, USA.

The research follows on from a study by the university in 2006 examining the transference of rhinovirus in the hotel environment that found that the virus was easily transferred to 35% of the surfaces touched.

For further information about the Hygiene Council, visit The UK Hygiene Council website

- End-

For media enquiries, please contact: Vicky Squires ,, 020 7798 9900

Note to editors
Ulrich et al, Moderate-intensity exercise reduces the incidence of colds in postmenopausal women" The American Journal of Medicine Volume 119/Issue 11
The UK Hygiene Council:
? The UK Hygiene Council (formed in 2006) is sponsored by an educational grant from Reckitt Benckiser, makers of Dettol.
The study methodology can be summarised as follows:
? 30 individuals took part. All had a fresh naturally acquired common cold
? Nasal secretions from each subject were collected and tested for rhinovirus-genome and infectious rhinovirus
? Each subject identified 10 sites in his/her home which he/she had touched during the preceding 18 hours
? Samples from the sites were tested for rhinovirus
? Later, each subject’s mucus which had been stored frozen was deposited on surfaces for testing of rhinovirus transfer to his/her fingertips by daily life activity (DLA): flipping a light switch off, touching the # 9 on a telephone dial, holding the phone handset, etc
? Dettol Disinfectant Spray kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, including the cold and flu virus.
? Its spray format makes it really easy to use: just spray and go; there’s no need to wipe or rinse.
? Dettol Surface Cleanser also kills bacteria and the flu virus, and its non-bleach format makes it safe to use.
? Concentrate cleaning efforts on the ‘hygiene hotspots’ – those areas most frequently touched which are therefore conduits for infectious disease. These include door handles, bathroom/kitchen taps, kitchen surfaces and light switches.
? For more information visit the Dettol website

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