Can you beat germs by waiting them out?

Everything says that flu germs last 1-2 days on hard surfaces, 8 hours or akin on fabric, and 2 WEEKS on paper. So if I think these surfaces in my home have been exposed to flu germs, I don’t have to clean them if I just wait that long and don’t touch them, right? (I have a VERY poor immune system–I’ve eaten poorly for 4 years–and get sick when I go lots of places. I shower when I get home and throw my clothes in the dirty laundry, but then later I figure what was the point if the flu germs are all dead? Can’t I just put them back on a day later and be all germ-free?)

Could there be germs that live longer that they just haven’t found in the laboratory? This Dec 2013 article says that 2 common bacteria strains that cause colds, ear infections, and strep throat, can live up to MONTHS on toys, books, and cribs, even after they’re cleaned. (It doesn’t mention flu.) This makes more sense to me, i.e. that I can’t magically beat germs by waiting a day or two. Are more studies like this likely to come out based on the general fact that we find more things the more we look?

I suppose there’s no perfect solution if you’re sensitive enough. I mean if they last 2 weeks on mail and I plop my mail on the table, then a gust of wind could keep blowing them into the air on other surfaces (??)… Thanks for any time answering!

There are multiple types of “germs”.

Generally speaking, bacteria can survive in a dormant state for as long periods of time. Viruses, with a weaker cell wall, will tend to die out faster. Fungi and molds can pretty much exist in suspended animation for all of eternity.

First, the determining factor is environment. Inside a house, all three could probably live for years as it’s protected from the extremes. I’m fairly sure that all three would perish fairly quickly under a UV lamp.

Second, most of the studies of longevity estimate under “Common conditions”. So if they are talking about the average kitchen counter, a virus survives upto 2 days because it’s cleaned at some interval.

If you wish to perish the germs in your home for your highly susceptible situation, I’d suggest a UV lamp of the type used for sterilization. There are several consumer versions for things like air purifiers, clothes hampers, tooth brushes and such.

Depending on the germ you want to be paranoid about you may need to wait a long time …

Okay, that was mean of me.

The article you linked to? Crap. No, those two bacteria do not cause colds. Streptococcus pyogenes, a.k.a. Group A beta hemolytic step, is the cause of strep throat. Members of the Strep pneumonia family colonize half of all of our upper respiratory tracts. Certain members of the group can commonly take advantage of compromised conditions to go from colonization to causing disease (ear infections, pneumonia, meningitis even). Kids and adults at risk (because of certain conditions or by age) are commonly vaccinated against those strains. An article demonstrating that germ can be cultured from a surface does not prove that such a surface can serve as a source of infection. Finding some surviving on stuffed animals in a daycare after overnight even after they were “cleaned”? No, that does not make news at eleven. Serving as a source of infection though requires getting a sufficient amount of the germ into a hospitable part of the host; a different question than if it can be cultured.

Generally speaking germs that cause human diseases don’t live well outside the body for long. (Exceptions, like the ability of Hepatitis B to survive on surfaces for over 7 days, duly noted.) When you wash versus rewearing your clothes is your choice to make, of course, but human contact is your risk of contagion, not clothing. Coughs or sneezes in your direction, the surface just touched by the hand that just picked a nose or worse yet was just used to wipe a behind by someone who did not wash afterwards (signs advising employees only do so much …). Touching the keyboard or the bathroom faucet. Exposure to others in the outside world is a risk. But some risks are worth it, and almost impossible to avoid anyway.

Mind you there are people with severe immunodeficiencies who do need the bubble boy approach to life, but if you are one of those people you need to do more than shower and wash your clothes. If not then maybe eat better, exercise regularly, and get out some more. Odds are your immune system will thank you!