Is your car making you sick? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Is your car making you sick?

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November 14, 2002

Tifton - Life can get hectic and if you're like most people on the run you eat and drink in your car. Even though you may not have any passengers, you still have a carpool of bacteria.

With flu season in session, it's important to pay close attention to how germs are spread, including inside your car. Newscenter 10 picks three random drivers to find out "Is your car making you sick?"

How dirty is your car? You can't see them, but you have billions of bacteria passengers riding a long with you. How often do you eat in your car? You may not even realize it, you're touching food and touching parts of your car, spreading bacteria.

We chose three drivers at random. Let me introduce you, first up to the "bacteria bat", Todd Lovett, a business traveler from Lowndes County. He says, "I'm traveling four days a week, I probably spend 75 percent of my time in my car."

Next, a family man, Eddie Reyes, from Irwin County. He says, "Most of the time kids are with us and we just travel a lot. Go to store sometimes 50 miles away."

Moving up to the big rigs. Andy Bishop a truck driver from Columbus. He says, "I cover just about 48 states. I've been in just about every state the U.S. got."

Germs spread hand to mouth or nose and think about how much you touch certain items in your car. We tested the steering wheel, door handle, gear shift, cell phone, cup holder and radio knob.

Off to the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Tifton. So, which contestant will win the most bacteria trophy? We found surprising results! The business traveler had the LEAST amount of bacteria, but he uses a good weapon to fight back. Lovett explains, "I do use the hand sanitizer a lot. I'm sort of a neat freak when it comes to that."

Second in line, the family man. He uses napkins to clean up. Ironically, all items had similar bacteria, probably caused by energetic kids. Reyes says, "Yeah, they jump from back seat to front seat. They get around the car a lot."

The truck driver had the MOST bacteria and he uses baby wipes. We found bacteria on the door handle, steering wheel and cup holder. His truck is only a week old. Bishop explains, "A little bit over 2500 miles on it."

So, should these drivers be worried? Phoebe Infectious Disease Doctor Craig Smith says, "If you have a weak immune system because of cancer, transplant or AIDS, then even normal germs we don't worry about might actually cause a problem."

But, what about a healthy person? Doctor Smith explains, "We are surrounded by germs. These germs that have been isolated are very normal germs."

Doctor Smith says our bodies are made to fight back. So, the final question, "Is your car making you sick?" Doctor Smith says, "That would be very unusual for you car to make you sick."

Our tests show bacteria can spread in your car from person to person, but you will not get a cold from touching items. And it's impossible to shut all bacteria out.

Doctor Smith adds you can spread colds by sneezing or coughing on your hand and then touching another person. The virus can stay alive for up to 24 hours. That's why your mother always told you to wash your hands.

posted at 5:25PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com

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