It's that time of year again, when hidden bacteria lurks among us! It seems everybody has a cold, the flu or at least, a case of the sniffles.
And if you ride public transportation, you may wonder, as we did, just how germ-contaminated some of the handrails are. And if you're a parent, when you ride a Metro escalator with your child, you probably tell them: hold onto the handrail!
9NEWS NOW did an unscientific survey to find out the CFUs, or colony forming units, per swab sample we collected.
Up to 700,000 passengers ride Metro trains every day on an average work week and many seem fully aware of the potential to share germs.
"I don't ride the subway much, but when I do I am worried about the germs. There's always someone when they start coughing and never cover their mouth I seem to cringe like eeeewwww, and I'm like always looking for my hand sanitizer, constantly," one passenger told us.
"You may see the occasional mouse running through the system or whatever, but other than that I mean it stays pretty clean," said a man who only rides Metro occasionally.
So how dangerous is the bacteria Metro passengers leave behind?
"People are constantly sneezing often," said a woman, clutching a tissue. "But I don't really worry about it because what I've noticed is that Metro cleans often, and they seem to disinfect often, so I guess what I do- I wash my hands a lot."
Said a male passenger with a smile, "I'll sneeze back at them!"
With the help of 9News intern Kimmy Moss, we swabbed escalator handrails, ticket machines and the poles that everyone holds onto when the train is in motion.
We brought the samples to the scientists at EMSL Analytical in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. The lab specializes in environmental testing, including soil, water and air quality-- anything that can be contaminated by outside sources.