Office Flu: Blame The Doors, Not The Air Conditioning

Office Flu: Blame The Doors, Not The Air Conditioning

We’re heading into full-on flu season, and the fact that we have to work in air-conditioned offices and breath air shared with less healthy colleagues often gets blamed for the rapid spread of the disease. But the culprit is just as likely to be a door handle.

Picture by Iain Cuthbertson

“The germs that cause illness tend to be on your phone or your desktop,” Dr Charles Gerber told Lifehacker. “Germs move around pretty fast in an office. We’ve done tracer experiments with a cold virus on a doorknob, and it takes two to four hours to spread all through the building

Shaking hands with a sneezing colleague is also risky. “Hands are much quicker than sneezes in spreading diseases. You’re more likely to get a common cold touching a surface someone has touched than kissing them.”

Gerber, who uses the moniker ‘Dr Germ’, was in Australia recently on a sponsored trip by White King Bleach, and his visit attracted a certain amount of controversy for overstating the need to use bleach in your home. When it comes to colds, avoiding surfaces that might have been touched by other sufferers is still wise advice. Even better: don’t head into the office in the first place if you have a cold or flu. Whatever the means of spreading it, you’ll reduce the odds by not being there.


  • Couple of sensible comments down the bottom of that controversy link about not getting too cleaning crazy.

    By the way, thanks for the infection articles Angus. Liking them a lot. Its hard to regularly get this sort of science into the broader Australian readership. Your flu vaccine article triggered a good back-and-forth too.

  • It is vitally important that you are clear about the difference between flu and colds. There is HUGE difference. Colds are common, flu less so. Colds are a nuisance, but the flu can be deadly. Colds are usually over in a few days, the flu can affect you for many weeks or even months.

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