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Dr. Andrew Rynne

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For how long do germs survive on inanimate objects?

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Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :1991

Answered : 2851 Questions

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Posted on Thu, 16 Mar 2017 in Infections
Question: Will dried discharge white dots be able to contaminate inanimate objects such as door handles, pens, cardboard, plastic, cleaning equipment which was handled if the person didn't wash their hands ? What germs are there?
Will the germs likely survive on those objects list above, if so for how long? Will we get sick?
doctor
Answered by Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
Information

Detailed Answer:
Hello,

On door knobs or other inanimate objects, you will likely find respiratory "germs" that have been deposited from someone's hands in the last 72 hours or less. You may also find gastrointestinal bacteria from hands too. You can safe guard yourself from these by not touching your nose, eyes, or mouth with your hands unless you have just washed your hands.

In general though, with a healthy immune system, you do not have to worry about germs.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Follow up: Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 18 minutes later
Hi again doctor,

How long will these germs live for? When you mention the GI tract, is that bacteria from feces?

Also thanks for your reply, hope you're having a good day!
I just wanted to know whether dried discharge specs can transmit germs to objects such as pens, laptops, door handles, cardboard which I handled straight after and how long would you estimate for those germs to live for? What environment will they need to grow in?
What's more harmful dried discharge specs or ecoli? I would really appreciate it if you can answer this question in full since I'm really worried.

I also heard that some credit cards have e.coli.
So people who are shop are essentially also spreading their genitalia germs around, isn't likely we can contaminate the products we purchased if they went to a self service checkout? Wouldn't their germs be easily transferred to my products?
doctor
Answered by Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
Information

Detailed Answer:
First, I wouldn't worry about germs from genitalia. The most significant of these are viruses from STDs, and they usually require sexual contact to transmit. There are also yeast (in the fungi family), but these tend to be opportunists, so they don't cause problems unless opportunity is there (such as microbiota imbalances after taking antibiotics, or if taking immunosuppressive medications, etc.) Without a sexually transmitted infection, genital "germs" are really not a concern in every day life. If they were, married people would be risking their health every time they have sex. It is not dangerous.

Regarding bacteria from the GI tract, yes, e.coli is one. But the "germs" that cause "stomach flu" that goes around a community are usually viruses (e. coli is a bacteria).

If you take the following precautions, you really don't have to worry:
wash your hands after using the toilet.
wash your hands or use alcohol gel before eating.
wash raw fruits and vegetables before eating.
don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless your hands are clean.


Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
doctor
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Follow up: Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 35 minutes later
Hi Dr,

Thank you for your reply. I am really worried about this, I would appreciate it if you could answer this for me as I'm so anxious about this.

If dry dishcarge specs fell on plastic and was wrapped around chocolate, which we ate what are the chances we will get sick? If we didn't wash our hands afterwards, what is the likelihood of the germs/bacteria from dry dishcarge transferring to objects we touch afterwards such as door handles, pens, cardboard, stationery, plastic etc
What germs will survive, will they live long? Is there a chance that we can recontaminate other objects we touch? Will this become harmful? Does that mean we are spreading genitalia germs around??
Will these germs die after awhile?
Thank you so much!!
doctor
Answered by Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 6 minutes later
Brief Answer:
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Detailed Answer:
Hi -

Unless you have an STD or other genital infection, this will not cause any problems.

People have oral sex with genitalia and do not get sick. The situation you are describing sounds very unlikely to cause illness.

There are microorganisms on all of our skin, even our eyelashes, at all times. They do not cause illness.

"Germs" live for varying lengths of time depending on what the bacteria, virus, or fungi is. Most die in a short amount of time (minutes to hours) when they are away from our bodies.

Does that answer your question?
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
doctor
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Follow up: Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 6 minutes later
I just really want to know if dry discharge "white dots" can cause any viruses/ spread germs if we were to touch other objects afterwards such as door handles, plastics, pens, cardboard etc? Will those germs/bacteria from dry discharge be able to survive on those products? Or is dry discharge similar to bacteria from the skin which you mentioned before that is not harmful?

Also is it true that when someone doesn't wash their hands after coming from the toilet at the shopping centre, they are essentially spreading their genitalia germs on the products we purchase? Example if they went to the supermarket and used a self checkout, which we then proceeded to use. Wouldn't/ How likely will those germs from them be able to contaminate products we purhcase? Wouldn't it then become harmful to us because essentially we are transmitting those genitalia germs to all the products/things we touch in our home?
doctor
Answered by Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 7 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Information

Detailed Answer:
No, the small amount of dried discharge is not likely to cause disease.

It will not last long on the inanimate objects you described.

When people don't wash hands after having a BM, they may be able to transmit harmful germs, but if you either cook or wash your food, use clean utensils, and wash your hands, you are safe.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
doctor
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Follow up: Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 6 minutes later
Will there be a chance that the dry discharge can cause us to become sick or a disease?
How long will you estimate it survives for?
If I pick up let's say a pen which was touched after touching that plastic with dry discharge, maybe two days later, what is the likelihood of those discharge germs being present? If I touch something else afterwards, will i be recontaminating objects?

Let's say I brought a chip packet, if someone didn't wash their hands after the toilet and went to a self service register, wouldn't I be transferring the germs from the screen to my chip packet. I will then wash my hands to eat, but because I need to open the chip packet, wouldn't I be recontaminating myself with germs from the person's genitalia or from the register? Isn't that how germs are transmitted?
doctor
Answered by Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 13 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Information

Detailed Answer:
1. Not much chance that the germs in the normal discharge from someone who doesn't have an infection will cause illness or disease.
2. Will survive minutes to hours at the most.
3. After 2 days, pen will not cause illness.
4. You will not be recontaminating with anything harmful.
5. The amount of germs on the outside of the chip packet would be minimal, but if you want to play it extra safe, open the packet, alcohol gel your hands, and then eat the chips with one hand while holding the bag with the other. This is somewhat extreme precautions.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
doctor
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Follow up: Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 9 minutes later
So it's unlikely that discharge cannot cause germs and be harmful? It's likely to survive up to 24 hours at the most?

But isn't touching something such as dry discharge and then a pen, pc, cardboard, stationery transmitting those germs to those objects? WOuldn't those germs still be present of those objects? Isn't it kind of like contaminating everything you touch with dry discharge?
So essentially when we shop, there's a high chance that someone may have skipped the washing hands bit, went shopping and now we have their genitalia germs on our products? Can we touch something and then transfer those genitalia germs to our furniture, tv, books, laptop ?
doctor
Answered by Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 39 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Information

Detailed Answer:
Yes, it's possible to transfer germs around.

Is it likely to cause illness? Here is what factors are at play regarding getting sick:
1. How virulent (strong) the germ is at causing infection.
2. How much of the germ is present.
3. Whether the germ has access to getting inside our bodies (such as by touching your nose with your fingers).
4. The health of your immune system.

So - just having some germs around, that will likely die soon, and not get into your body (i.e. because you wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth) does not mean you will get sick. A person with a compromised immune system is more at risk (someone who is on immunosuppressive medications for example).

I think it would be best for you to focus on other things. I've listed precautions you can take to prevent infection. However, it is not practical in every day life, unless you work in the health care industry where you should wear gloves before touching fresh bodily secretions, to worry about this.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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