They lurk on the kitchen sponge, your computer keyboard and the dirty laundry. Flush the toilet and they become airborne. Strangers leave them behind on airplanes, gas pumps, shopping carts, coffeeshop counters and elevator buttons. Your desktop, office microwave handles, and the exercise bike at the gym are covered with them. Don't even think about the toys at day-care centers or the kids' playground equipment.
Germs—the microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa that can cause disease—cling to the most common surfaces and then hitch a ride on our hands. As swine flu spreads from person to person around the world, it is most often being transmitted by coughing or sneezing, but it can also infect people who touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth or nose, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns. And like an unwelcome house guest, a flu virus can hang around for days.