1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

When cold viruses take over the office!

October 9, 2018

It's a familiar sight, co-workers with noses running and tissues piled high on their desks. But they're just drawing it out for themselves and exposing others to the risk of infection.

Erkältung Büro Mann mit Taschentuch Nase putzen
Image: Colourbox

Ideally, the thing to do with a cold is to stay home a few days and get plenty of rest. But nowadays, many sufferers bring their runny noses and coughs into work with them to prove they really are sick. Then, when the bug makes the rounds, everyone else does the same. Not only are they exposing their co-workers to infection but causing the company even bigger headaches when more and more employees call in sick. And the risk of infection is higher than many people think. Germs collect on door handles, keyboards, telephones and everything else people touch with their hands. It's hard to say exactly how long germs can live outside the body. The best strategy is to wash your hands persistently and regularly with soap and water for at least 25 seconds each time. And when somebody sneezes? They spray germs much farther than the two meters previously thought, so it won't help much to duck and cover. That's the finding from research conducted by John Bush and his fellow scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They used high-speed cameras to show how a sneeze unleashes a fine shower of particles throughout the area. But entirely invisible is the spreading gas-like cloud of viruses carried in microscopic droplets. This path of infection is highly effective and very difficult to defend against. Keeping humidity in a room high can slightly lower the risk from flu viruses, as these remain infectious longer in dry air.