PSA: Your office tea round could lead to a grim bacterial infection

You may want to sit down for this one.

And pour yourself a hot drink, or an alcoholic beverage.

Just whatever you do, don’t make a cup of tea in a cup from your office.

Why? Well, scientists have been testing communal and workplace kitchens to discover how unhygienic having a cuppa at work can actually be.

The research found huge numbers of potentially dangerous bacteria and fungi live in shared kitchens. This includes germs that ‘can be found in faeces,’ which are spread when hands aren’t properly washed after toilet trips.

Scientists at Liverpool’s School of Tropical Medicine, commissioned by CHAMPS, analysed swabs taken from a number of different communal workplace kitchens, finding the poo particles on all sorts of surfaces.

So, if you work in an office, you could be putting your health at risk by touching fridge doors, kettles, coffee machines and microwave buttons.

Liverpool Echo report that these appliances could be spreading illnesses and infections that are especially dangerous for those with weakened immune systems.

Swabs taken revealed E. Coli, which comes from faecal matter and can cause gastro-intestinal illnesses, along with Pseudomonas and Klebisella which can lead to respiratory diseases and bloodstream infections.

Microbiologists also found that many items were rife with fungi, with fridge door handles among the worst affected.

‘We live among bacteria and fungi, coming into contact with them every single day as we go about our normal lives,’ said Dr Adam Roberts, chief researcher within the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON) and study lead.

‘Some microbes, if ingested into our bodies, can lead to illness and infection, so the easiest way to help prevent this from happening is to wash our hands regularly, especially after going to the toilet, and before and after eating.

‘The results from this study showed communal kitchen areas to be full of various types of bacteria, many of which can be found in faeces.

‘This is, of course, an extremely unpleasant thought but one which could indicate that people are simply not washing their hands thoroughly – or at all – after going to the toilet and then going to make themselves a cup of tea or preparing their lunch, for example.

‘The potential knock-on effect of this is that, if an individual who is more susceptible to infection, then touches those same surfaces, they may be at risk of becoming ill. The simple way to try to minimise this risk though is to practise good hand hygiene as much as possible.’

CHAMPS Public Health Collaborative is now urging workplaces to be more mindful and aware of hygiene.

Thara Raj, director of public health for Warrington, and Cheshire and Merseyside’s lead director of health protection, said: ‘Shared kitchens, which almost every workplace will have, are busy areas with a high footfall, meaning cross-contamination and the associated risk of illness is very likely.

‘Fridge door handles, coffee machines and kettles seemed to be the places where the most bacteria was, all of which are items that we’ll likely touch several times each day.’

She continued: ‘The key thing to remember is that these bacteria are completely invisible to the naked eye so, while these items may look clean, they could in fact be home to lots of different microbes.

‘We can’t avoid touching items like this while at work – and we shouldn’t – but there are simple things that we can do to minimise their impact, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition or you are visiting loved ones in care homes or in hospitals, for example.

‘So, it’s vital that we all do what we can to help reduce the spread of infections, all year round.’

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