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How to Get Rid of Germs

Want to learn how to trap and zap germs this flu season? We asked Dr. Amy E. Kirby, a public health expert at Emory University, to translate the latest research into practical tips that can keep germs at bay, and put your mind at ease

We’ve all seen the headlines: viruses, Salmonella, E. coli, and other icky household invaders are right under your nose, and threatening your family’s health. Here are some tips to keep everyone safe.

WATCH WHAT YOU BRING IN

Raw meat and fresh produce, including berries, can carry E. coli, Salmonella, Norovirus, even parasites. The risk rises when produce is grown or handled with contaminated water.

BLOCK CROSS-CONTAMINATION

“Think of it as putting up a wall,” Kirby says. Keep germs from spreading by bagging and prepping items separately. Rinse produce thoroughly. Use dedicated cutting boards and dish towels. Scrub hands before reaching for the fridge or range.

DISINFECT WITH BLEACH

Clean surfaces with a bleach-based wipe or a 1-to-10 bleach-and-water solution. “People think stronger is better, but 1-to-10 is best,” Kirby says. “Commercial solutions contain stabilizers, but if you make your own, keep it in an opaque container or replace it after a week.”

GET YOUR WATER TESTED

Your utility can help. “Test not only for lead and chemicals,” says Kirby, “but also for microbes.”

DON’T OBSESS

Take extra steps to sanitize surfaces when a household member is sick or immunocompromised. Otherwise, relax. “We’re never going to get to zero,” Kirby says. “And some of the bacteria around us may actually be beneficial.”