Page last updated at 00:07 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Warning over cold virus hotspots

tv remote control
TV remote controls are a hotspot for the virus

TV remote controls, bathroom taps and refrigerator doors are hotspots for the common cold virus, experts have warned.

Researchers at the University of Virginia swabbed these common household surfaces in 30 homes and found traces of rhinovirus 42% of the time.

While coughs and sneezes do spread the disease, everyday objects in the home are another important source and should be cleaned regularly, they say.

Each week in winter, a fifth of the UK population suffers from a cold.

As the virus can survive on household surfaces for up to two days, a single family member or visitor can spread the virus to other members through touching such things as door handles and taps, the researchers told a US infectious diseases conference.

The cold virus is a hardy one because it survives on surfaces for so long and can then be passed on
Professor John Oxford
Virologist, UK Hygiene Council

Infectious rhinovirus was detected on almost a quarter of subjects' fingertips one hour after touching household surfaces contaminated with the virus.

And genetic material from the virus was still transferred to the finger tips of more than half of the 30 people studied 48 hours after the surfaces were contaminated.

Lead researcher Dr Birgit Winther said the public needed to be aware of this route of transmission.

"Some people still spray the air with disinfectants, but rhinovirus doesn't fly through the air. I think that the message from this research is that we need to focus more wisely on cleaning commonly touched surfaces in the home."

Professor John Oxford, virologist at St Bartholemew's and the Royal London Hospital and chair of the UK Hygiene Council, said: "The cold virus is a hardy one because it survives on surfaces for so long and can then be passed on, putting the whole family at risk of infection. Home hygiene is key in the fight against colds.

"Recent government recommendations mean that doctors can no longer prescribe antibiotics to alleviate colds - so it's vital that families target these key surfaces in the home to protect themselves from colds this winter."

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