The Germiest Public Places: A WAFF 48 News Special Report

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - It can be tough to keep your family safe from germs in public places during cold and flu seasons.

Bobbi Johnston is a PHD student at University of Alabama in Huntsville, studying Bio Technology. She accompanied WAFF 48 to several places where germs love to lurk. Johnston first collected germs at an ATM. Johnston used sterile Q-tips to swab for germs on the machine's keypad.

She also tested for germs a gas station pump handle, a public restroom toilet seat and door handle. Tests were also conducted on a door handle leading to a fast food restaurant and even department store pen customers use to sign when they use their credit card.

Johnston took her "plates" back to the lab to give them a chance to grow.

"Bacteria are a natural and necessary part of our environment. So you're going to find bacteria anywhere. The problem is when you find a lot of bacteria; certain things that are handled by people every day have more germs," she said.

Johnston's tests showed a fast food door handle had more germs than than a public toilet seat.

[Click here to read 8 ways to protect yourself in a public restaurant]

The toilet seat was the next germiest place, followed by the ATM keypad. Johnston found very little growth on the gas pump handle and the pen at the department store.

Another place where germs lurk that you may not realize is your mailbox. So how do we fight these bugs?

"Number one is going to be hand washing. Typically everyone has various types bacteria growing on their skin all the time," Dr. Ed Robbins, Parkway Emergency Medicine.

By washing your hands every time before you eat and keeping things clean that you come in contact with in your everyday routine in efforts to keep the bad bacteria away.

Copyright 2012 WAFF. All rights reserved.