News 3 Investigates: Germs In The Workplace

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BRYAN, Texas Bacteria are all around us.

Some are good and some bad.

But could your office make you sick?

News 3 conducted a special investigation on germs in the workplace.

We wanted know what's lurking on common surfaces you probably come into contact with everyday; from keyboards, to kitchen faucets.

To find out we put a local cleaning company and our own newsroom under the microscope.

Bacteria are all around, inside us and on us.

What's under the surface isn't always a pretty picture.

But not all bacteria is bad.

"The bacteria will stick into the whirls of your finger," explained Sandy Jones.

She deals with bacteria everyday at work as the Director of Laboratory Services at the Brazos County Health Department.

"Some places have more than others but you will find bacteria. We have lots of them on our hands, even when we wash our hands we still have bacteria," said Sandy Jones.

To find out how clean things really are we put a local business and our own newsroom to the test.

Jennifer Rodriguez and Rachel Welguisz know quite a bit about the cleaning business.

They are Customer Service Representatives for Molly Maid in College Station and have their place cleaned weekly.

"We do clean houses all the time and so most of the team members bring all the germs back here," said Rachel Welguisz.

On our first visit Rachel here had a cold.

They let us test their office with equipment donated and some instructions from the Brazos County Health Department.

So we tested Rachel's keyboard, the Molly Maid front door handle, Jennifer's keyboard and lastly her mouse.

"I hope you don't find a hoard of abnormal bacteria. I'll be eagerly awaiting the results," said Jennifer Rodriguez.

Office breakrooms are oftentimes one of the most common culprits where you can find lots of germs growing; so we thought we'd test the KBTX kitchen faucet.

Experts recommend washing your hands often.

I don't necessarily have the cleanest desk at KBTX and a lot of times due to the daily deadline of turning stories, I'll eat my lunch with one hand while working on the computer and typing. So we're going to test my keyboard too.

Next we took our samples to the St. Joseph Hospital Pathology Lab in Bryan where they tested the bacteria.

Kim Dubose is a Microbiology Technical Specialist here.

"Yes we did find bacteria on your samples," she said.

The dirtiest petri dish prize goes to us at KBTX and our kitchen faucet handle.

There were lots of normal skin bacteria, but also bacteria from things like fecal matter you'd find in the restroom, which could make you sick.

"What might, you might find when people don't wash their hands after the restroom," explained Kim Dubose.

And the bacteria was colorful under the microscope.

"The pinkish red ones are, they're actually some cells that have begun to die," said Dubose.

My keyboard had bacteria and some mold.

But what about the mouse at Molly Maid?

"As you can see has a lot less bacteria on it," said Kim Dubose.

Employees thought their door handle would be the dirtiest, but.

"Amazingly clean. We only found two or three different bacteria on this one. Again normal skin flora, nothing pathogenic," said Kim Dubose.

Jennifer Rodriguez' phone was the dirtiest discovery at her office.

"You are going to put it up to your face quite a bit, so it's an area that you want to keep clean," said Dubose.

"The bad news is that there were a lot of organisms that grew. The good news is most of them were not potentially pathogenic or disease-causing," said Dr. Michael Cohen, St. Joseph Medical Director of Laboratories.

After speaking with the experts we came back to Molly Maid so that they could see what our tests revealed.

"The mouse is almost like there's nothing there," said Jennifer Rodriguez.

"The Molly Maid door wow really? Not that much," said Rachel Welguisz.

"I'm a little disheartened that my phone handle was the dirtiest thing in this office, but I'm reassured because you said there was nothing infectious," said Rodriguez.

Rachel Welguisz was surprised we didn't find more on her keyboard after she'd been sick.

"Well just continue to do everything we've been doing and maybe see if we can you know do it a little bit more often than now. And continue to keep everything clean," Welguisz said.

Our experiment was limited to testing bacteria only, so it's not known if any viruses were lurking on any of the surfaces.

After our experiment News 3's Clay Falls wiped down and cleaned his keyboard and the KBTX kitchen faucet handle as a result of this story.

While five of the six samples weren't really cause for concern, lab officials told us there was still a chance you could get sick if you have a paper cut or wound and come into contact with the bacteria we found.

The best advice is to wash your hands frequently and disinfect your work space.

*Previous Story*
Bacteria are all around us.

Some are good and some bad, but could your workplace make you sick?

News 3's Clay Falls was on Brazos Valley This Morning Tuesday to preview a special investigation on germs in the workplace.

In a special investigation we put a local cleaning company and our own newsroom under the microscope to see just how germy the workplace is.

Join us Tuesday night at 6 on News 3.


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