Your Office is Infested With Germs—and In Places You Might Not Expect

iStock/pixelfit
iStock/pixelfit

Elevator buttons and keyboards are teeming with bacteria, and you don’t even want to know what might be lingering on the coffee mug you keep at work. TIME rounded up the five germiest places in the average office, and you’ll probably want to wash your hands after reading it.

Disposable coffee cups are perhaps the most surprising one mentioned. One 1997 study found coliform bacteria (a.k.a. fecal matter) on 20 percent of the cups and lids tested. And those sponges in your office kitchen? They’re absolutely filthy. After the same researchers used a communal sponge or rag to wipe down the coffee cups, 100 percent of them tested positive for fecal bacteria. If lugging your cup to and from the office in order to wash it at home seems tedious, one of the researchers recommended investing in a personal cup washer to keep at work. As TIME notes, disposable coffee cups are also problematic because someone may pick up a couple lids that are stuck together, then return the now-contaminated lids for other, unsuspecting coworkers to use.

Unsurprisingly, objects that people regularly interact with—such as elevator buttons, office doors, and conference room phones—also made TIME’s list. Anything that’s frequently touched and seldom cleaned is a cause for concern because it could carry microbes that make people sick. If you're a frequent business traveler, for instance, you should wash your hands and wipe down your phone after going through airport security. Those plastic bins you stick your shoes, electronics, and personal items inside are germ-infested cesspools.

Another study from 2014 swabbed 120 elevator buttons at three hospitals in Toronto, Ontario. While the study wasn't conducted in an office building, the results were still telling. Researchers discovered that 61 percent of the buttons contained bacteria, compared to only 43 percent of toilets. This is likely due to the fact that toilets are often cleaned more frequently than elevator buttons. The most common type of bacteria found were Coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS), which can be a risk factor for diseases for people with an already compromised immune system or those who have recently undergone certain surgeries or medical procedures.

Lastly, you’ll want to wipe your keyboard and mouse with a disinfectant wipe as often as possible. It might just save you from having to use up your sick days.

[h/t TIME]

A Custom Wheelchair Allowed This Brain-Injured Baby Raccoon to Walk Again

фотограф/iStock via Getty Images
фотограф/iStock via Getty Images

Animal prosthetics and wheelchairs allow dogs, cats, and even zoo animals with limited mobility to walk again, but wild animals with disabilities aren't usually as lucky. Vittles, a baby raccoon rescued in Arkansas, is the rare example of an animal that was severely injured in its natural habitat getting a second shot at life.

As Tribune Media Wire reports, Vittles came to wildlife rehab specialist Susan Curtis, who works closely with raccoons for the state of Arkansas, with a traumatic brain injury at just 8 weeks old. The cause of the trauma wasn't clear, but it was obvious that the raccoon wouldn't be able to survive on her own if returned to the wild.

Curtis partnered with the pet mobility gear company Walkin' Pets to get Vittles back on her feet. They built her a tiny custom wheelchair to give her balance and support as she learned to get around on her own. The video below shows Vittles using her legs and navigating spaces with help from the chair and guidance from her caretaker.

Vittles will likely never recover fully, but now that she's able to exercise her leg muscles, her chance at one day moving around independently is greater than it would have been otherwise. She now lives with her caretaker Susan and a 10-year old raccoon with cerebral palsy named Beetlejuice. After she's rehabilitated, the plan is to one day make her part of Arkansas's educational wildlife program.

[h/t Tribune Media Wire]

Why You Should Never Shower With Your Contact Lenses In

belchonock/iStock via Getty Images
belchonock/iStock via Getty Images

Contact lenses offer a level of convenience for those with less-than-perfect vision that glasses can hardly compete with, but that doesn’t mean the daily struggle of taking them in and out of your eyes doesn’t wear on you. If you get a little lazy and decide it’s fine to leave them in your eyes during showers or pool parties, think again.

According to Popular Science, a 41-year-old woman in the UK lost sight in her left eye as a result of frequently showering and swimming without removing her contacts. The culprit was Acanthamoeba polyphaga, a protozoa that crawled into her eye and caused a cornea infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis. After two months of pain, blurry vision, and light sensitivity, the woman sought medical attention at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, where doctors discovered a ring shape in her left eye and a hazy layer covering her cornea. Upon testing her vision, they found that her left eye was now 20/200, which counts as legally blind in the United States.

Leela Raju, an ophthalmologist and cornea specialist at New York University, told Popular Science that the single-celled organisms “can be anywhere,” including pools, hot tubs, showers, dirty saline solution containers, and even tap water. Lens-wearers make up around 85 percent of those who get infected, and experts think it may be because the amoeba can latch onto a contact lens more easily than a bare eye.

Though Popular Science reports that Acanthamoeba keratitis only affects one or two people out of every million contact wearers each year, that’s no reason not to be careful. If you do catch it, you’ll likely need a cornea transplant, and even that won’t necessarily restore your eyesight to its previous state—after her transplant, the UK woman’s left eye now has 20/80 vision.

“It’s just a long road, for something that’s totally preventable,” Raju says. In addition to removing your contacts before swimming, showering, or sleeping, you should also refrain from reusing saline solution, make sure your contact case is completely clean and dry before filling it with more solution, and check out these other tips.

[h/t Popular Science]

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