NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- As shoppers prepare for Black Friday retail sales, a U.S. infectious disease expert warns stores can be an H1N1 virus petri dish.
"Simply walking into a store can be a hazard as the door handle contains germs from everyone who has touched it in the past eight hours," Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, medical director of infection control of the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, says in a statement.
"Obviously, it's impossible to shop 'germ-free,' but if you're conscious of the ways in which germs travel from person-to-person, it's much easier to protect yourself."
Common shopping actions can put a person in contact with viruses, such as H1N1 via: opening doors, picking up merchandise, touching elevator buttons and escalator handles, exchanging money or credit cards, eating with fingers, or sampling hand lotions and perfumes.
"You've heard it before, but the single best way to protect yourself is through hand washing or hand sanitizers," Baumgarten says.
Other germ-reducing tips to keep shoppers healthy include:
-- Wash hands before eating anything.
-- Find a table on the edge of the food court to avoid crowds.
-- Avoid finger-foods.
-- Don't rub eyes, nose or cover cough/sneeze with hands sneeze into elbow.
-- Use a paper towel to exit public bathrooms.
-- Avoid sampling the perfumes/lotions. Simply pushing the pumps on lotions or perfumes can add germs to a clean hand.