How Long Can Germs Live Outside the Body?

Germs, those annoying, invisible intruders. They can invade your body at any time, and getting sick is a tricky business. Even if you take all the proper precautions, what you might think are just allergies could be turn out to be the common cold, the flu, or something worse. As the seasons change from winter to spring, find out how long germs live outside the body.

How Long Can Virus Germs Live Outside the Body?

Viruses typically thrive on some sort of hard surface. Outside the body, though, their life expectancy varies depending on the type of virus. The infamous smallpox, for instance, is extremely resilient. It can live for years when kept at room temperature. Other well-known viruses, such as Hepatitis B and C will only last for a week (Hep B) and between 16 hours and 4 days (Hep C) HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS however, does not last long without a host.    

How Long Can Bacteria Germs Live Outside the Body?

Unlike viruses, bacteria like it best on some kind of porous surface. Contaminated food is the most frequent culprit of bacterial infections. Salmonella and Camplyobacter can both live only a few hours, from 1-4 at most. On the other hand, Staphyloccus aureus, the cause of MRSA infections, are germs who can live for weeks outside the body. Some germs become extremophiles, or cellular creatures who enjoy extreme living conditions. In this case, the extreme living conditions would be extremely high temperatures or pH levels. Both high temperatures and high pH are thought to kill germs, but perhaps not.  

What to Do about Germs That Live Outside the Body?

Before we all become paranoid germaphobes, some basic common sense is important to impart. Bacteria is literally everywhere around us, and yet, only a small portion of the bacterial population is actually harmful. There are good germs out there too. Our best advice for avoiding and preventing harmful bacteria is to always wash your hands before you eat, touch your face and put on or take off contacts. After you visit the toilet, change a diaper, or take out the trash, you should wash your hands as well. If you cough, sneeze, or blow your nose, you should either wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. Double down on these measures if you are taking care of someone who is sick or injured.    

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