The most recent CDC Flu update shows Tennessee in the ‘widespread’ category for the week ending Jan. 26.

Weekly US Map: Influenza Summary Update

Sure, we know to wash our hands when we leave the restroom, but germs are lurking everywhere and now is the time to use extra precautions to prevent getting sick.

We brought in an expert to take a stroll through News 2 and point out a few “hot spots” where germs may be lurking in our offices. 

“Hot spots are the most frequently touched areas of the building,” said Eric Burcham, Stratus Building Solutions in Antioch. “For example, as we saw, doorknobs, push plates on doors, computer keyboards – buttons such as the microwave touchpads as well as vending machine buttons. The reason we call these hot points is because they are the most contaminated surfaces in an office.”

MORE: Health officials on flu: Cases in Tenn. could soon escalate

Burcham said it is important that those hot spots be routinely disinfected throughout the day and that EVERY surface should be disinfected at least once a week – even more often during flu season.

One thing Stratus does that helps control the spread of germs, that you can also do at home, is use color-coded cleaning cloths.

“We feel like a color-coded cleaning process really reduces the risk of cross-contamination,” said Burcham. “For example, each colored cloth is used in a different part of the office during the cleaning process. For example, red can be used exclusively in the restroom. So, when used properly it reduces the risk of a flu outbreak.”

In this system, the cloths used by Stratus have very special assignments. Here’s what they use:

GREEN: Desks, counters and common areas.

RED: Restrooms ONLY

YELLOW: Food surfaces like in a break room or kitchen.

BLUE: Windows and mirrors.

Burcham said one place that harbors a lot of germs that many people don’t pay attention to is the bottoms of purses, backpacks, and briefcases.

“Many people carry a purse, or perhaps a briefcase, and if you were to take that with you into the restroom and set it onto the contaminated floor or countertop then go back to your workspace and set it on your desk… you have cross-contaminated that area.”

And then how many of us eat our lunch at that desk? Eeeek!

Here are some other things to keep in mind through the tail-end of flu season:

Top office germ hot spots:

  • Women’s offices contain more than 2x the germs as their male colleagues. Make-up cases, phones, and purses have the most bacteria.
  • Doorknob or handle – Use a paper towel to open and close the bathroom door (and to turn off bathroom faucets)
  • Elevator button – Try not to touch the button, use a tissue, a key, or a piece of your clothing instead.
  • Office kitchen –  microwave, refrigerator, vending machine, water cooler, sink sponges, food/food containers handled by others
  • Another person’s keyboard or phone
  • Office materials – Copier machine, shared books, pens, staplers, etc.

Key prevention tips:  

  • Prevention is key. Get a flu shot!!! It’s not too late. (Studies show getting the flu shot in the morning is most effective) It takes about two weeks for protection provided by the vaccination to begin.
  • If you feel run-down and sick, stay home from work! People are most contagious during the first 2-3 days of contracting a cold and about 5 days after being infected with the flu. 
  • Wash your hands several times a day, especially following contact with the top office hot spots. 
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, or rubbing your nose.
  • Relax because stress can lower your immunity.
  • Drink more water! Decrease sugar intake. Get more sleep. Take Vitamins C & D.

News 2 brings you special reports every weekend morning. Click here for our “Weekend Extra” section.