Here's more startling stats:
- Although 95 percent of people said they washed their hands with soap where possible, 92 percent of phones and 82 percent of hands had bacteria on them.
- 16 percent of hands and 16 percent of phones were found to harbor E. coli bacteria of fecal origin associated with stomach upsets.
- People who had bacteria on their hands were three times as likely to have bacteria on their phones.
"This study provides more evidence that some people still don't wash their hands properly, especially after going to the toilet. I hope the thought of having E. coli on their hands and phones encourages them to take more care in the bathroom -- washing your hands with soap is such a simple thing to do but there is no doubt it saves lives," says Dr. Val Curtis, a hygiene expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and U.K. campaign leader for Global Handwashing Day.
Fecal bacteria can survive on hands and surfaces for hours at a time, especially in warmer temperatures away from sunlight; it is easily transferred by touch to door handles, food and cellphones, say the researchers. From there, the germs can be picked up by other people.
The simple action of washing hands with soap is one of the most effective ways of preventing illnesses. Here are some handwashing tips from the experts:
Always wash your hands after using the toilet and before eating.
Use soap and water. Wet your hands with running water and lather well with soap, then rub hands vigorously.
Wash for at least 20 seconds or long enough to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
Encourage your family to adopt the habit of washing hands frequently and teach your kids good hand washing practices.