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Everyday objects -- including door handles, pens, light switches and television remote controls -- were all found to be contaminated with the common cold virus as much as 18 hours after first contact. These results come from the University of Virginia, which presented the information at a U.S. science conference recently.
The results from the "stay-behind" length virus contamination study suggested that people who touched contaminated surfaces during everyday activities -- such as answering the telephone or turning on a light -- had a 50 percent chance of picking up the virus.
Professor Ron Eccles of the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, England, indicated that most infections are caught at home, and that humans need prolonged and close contact with contaminated surfaces to catch a cold. However, the length of time from initial contamination to a new person catching the cold virus made a big difference. The "catch rate" went up to 60 percent when surfaces had become contaminated just an hour earlier, and the "catch rate" went down to 33 percent when surfaces had been contaminated for 18 hours.
Researchers emphasized that the common cold virus -- known as the rhinovirus -- is transferred from objects to people in addition to person-to-person contact, although it is harder from object to person. Researcher Dr. Owen Hendley said, "People still should understand that the virus remains available for transfer for at least one day."
The rhinovirus is responsible for about half of all common colds in children and adults. As many parents already know through experience, school children usually catch between seven and 10 colds a year, and adults two to five colds per year. Most of these cold infections are caught at home.