Do You Know Where Germs Live?


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Did you know that germs are everywhere? The world is covered in germs!

Everything has germs – every surface, material, and object, including your body.

You read that right – your body is covered in germs, including viruses, bacteria, and some funguses.

However, we’re often not aware of the germs around us and on our bodies because they’re too small to see and don’t usually cause harm to healthy people.

In fact, many of those germs are good for us – they protect us and can keep other germs that could harm us from growing.

Reservoirs: A Natural Habitat for Germs

Whether germs are healthy or harmful to us, it’s important to know where they live and thrive – places called “reservoirs.”

germ reservoir

There are many reservoirs in the human body, such as our skin; gastrointestinal (GI) system, including the stomach, intestines, and perineum; respiratory system, including the nose, mouth, and lungs; and blood.

There are also reservoirs in the world around us, including sinks, drains, and other wet surfaces; dry surfaces like countertops; dirt, soil, and plants; and devices and objects like stethoscopes and keyboards.

Different reservoirs can grow different types of germs, and some germs can be found in more than one reservoir.

The Risks of Germs Spreading

Germs can spread between and among reservoirs, which can be harmless or can make someone sick.

For example, some germs that are harmless in the gut can cause harm when they are spread to a place that they are not normally found, such as the lungs.

Germs can also cause harm if something happens to their reservoir.

For instance, germs that are normally on the skin can cause an infection elsewhere if germs enter the body through a break the skin, such as a cut or needlestick wound.

Infection Control Against Germs

While a healthy immune system can protect people from most germs that could make them sick, healthy people can still get sick from germs that don’t normally live on or in the body, such as the common cold, and more serious illnesses, such as measles.

When germs that shouldn’t be on or in the body invade, they can not only make the person sick, they can also spread from that reservoir to other people, or to the environment.

Germs can cause even bigger problems for someone who is already ill with a weakened natural immune defense, such as serious infections.

That’s one of the reasons that infection control in healthcare is so important – because there are patients who are very vulnerable to infections caused by germs.

Because you can’t always tell when someone is vulnerable to infection, or when someone has a germ that could cause harm to others, its important to practice infection control actions all the time, not just when someone is obviously ill.

What Can You Do to Promote Infection Control in Your Healthcare Setting?

Access more information about infection prevention and control in healthcare by visiting resources from CDC Project Firstline.

Project Firstline creates resources, including videos and shareable images, web buttons, posters, and print materials. They also have facilitator toolkits to help workers lead trainings even if they are not an infection control expert.

Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio is working with the National Hispanic Medical Association to bring Project Firstline infection control educational content to healthcare workers, so they are equipped with the knowledge they need to protect themselves, their facilities, and their patients (Latinos and all communities) from infectious disease threats in healthcare settings.

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“Healthcare teams in hospitals, nursing homes, and other care settings are the front lines against the spread of infection,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. “CDC’s Project Firstline is bolstering those efforts by developing evidence-based tools that can be delivered in a variety of ways to make infection control learning convenient and accessible for busy healthcare staff.”

Learn More about Project Firstline!

 Editor’s Note: This article is part of a collaboration between Salud America!, the National Hispanic Medical Association, and the CDC’s Project Firstline. To find resources training materials, and other tools to bolster knowledge and practice of infection control, visit Project Firstline and view Salud America!’s infection control content.


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