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Sanjay Gupta MD

Deadly Germs Hiding; Antibacterial Soaps More Harm Than Good?; Mold Can Cause Lasting Health Problems; Sample Cosmetics Have Lots Of Bacteria; Overeating During The Holidays; Southwest Texas Ground Zero For Childhood Obesity;

Aired December 17, 2005 - 08:30   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Our top stories, President Bush sidesteps a direct explanation of charges he authorized spying on U.S. citizens. He told PBS only that he's protecting national security and civil liberties. A senior intelligence official says Bush has personally okayed eavesdropping operations dozens of times.
In Burbank, California, airline passengers were evacuated even before the plane got off the ground. The jet was halted on the runway after flight attendants overheard a passenger talking about a bomb. No bomb was found. The passenger was hauled off to jail for investigation of making false bomb threats.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a closer look at what could easily make us all sick. And we warn you, it's pretty gross. HOUSE CALL begins right now.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning and welcome to HOUSE CALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

This morning, we're talking about germs. They hide in unexpected places, cause billions of lost workdays each year, and can be deadly. In order to find out where these germs may be lurking, our Heidi Collins enlisted the help of the germ doctor.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sushi, sandwiches and salads, all sharing space with computers, phones, and files.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Saves time eating at your desk. There's really no time to eat out.

COLLINS: Add to that, shared workplaces and sick colleagues and you have a veritable petrie dish of illness-causing organisms.

DR. CHARLES GERBA, MICROBIOLOGIST: People don't realize that office space is their personal space. And they really don't -- most people don't clean their desk until they start sticking to it.

COLLINS: And Professor Charles Gerba should know. To many, he is Dr. Germ. Gerba has been tracking disease-causing bacteria in the office as part of several studies sponsored by Clorox. What he found is even though we nearly live at the office, we definitely don't clean it like we should. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An area we call a high touch zone.

COLLINS: Gerba and his team collected more than 7,000 samples from workplaces across the country. He found on the average workplace, 21,000 bacteria per square inch.

And before you touch that elevator button, you might want to put on a glove. He found 3500 bacteria per square inch. That may not mean much to you, but compare it with the average workplace toilet, just 49 bacteria per square inch. That means your workspace may have a whopping 400 times more bacteria than your office toilet.

To make things worse, on many of the surfaces he tested, he found para influenza. And that will just plain make you sick.

ROSALYN STONE, COO, WELLNESS INCORPORATED: People don't wish their hands. And they've brought their germs from outside into work. They've come to work often sick. And our hands transmit those germs to our desks, to the break room, to the sponge, you know, to the refrigerator handle.

COLLINS: Rosalyn Stone is the COO of Wellness Incorporated and is the chairwoman of the CDC's workplace flu prevention team. She says people who come to work sick have become a pricey problem for employers.

According to a Harvard Business Review, companies lose $150 billion a year in lost productivity and higher healthcare expenses.

STONE: You shouldn't see a lot for 72 hours, which is longer than we thought. You know, three full days. But what we found is that when you do use a disinfectant, it does keep that surface relatively germ-free for 24 hours. So you need to do it every day.

COLLINS (on camera): But are we doing it every day? Especially since most of us hardly have enough time to eat a proper lunch, much less clean up.

Here at CNN, we do have disinfecting wipes like these, but this is a busy 24-hour news operation. So we began to wonder what might be lurking on our desks, phones, and conference tables. And is anyone cleaning them? So we brought in the germinator himself.

(voice-over): Armed with a cooler full of swabs and a germ meter, Professor Gerba arrived at our offices ready to put us to the test.

Do you think this is going to be a particularly germy workplace? Or does it look relatively clean to you?

GERBA: Well, some of the germiest workplaces we've ever studied are actually news media offices.

COLLINS: Already things weren't looking good.

With his germ meter at the ready, Dr. Germ wanted to see exactly what we gamble with every day.

GERBA: It's reading the energy molecules of bacteria. It's going to give me a relative idea how many bacteria on it. And usually, if it's really bad, it's going to beep here and it's going to say fail.

COLLINS: Then the beeping begins.

GERBA: It's not a good sign.

COLLINS: He tested the phones, the workstations, the mouse, and that conference table where we hold our meetings every morning.

GERBA: Yes, this looks right here - this looks bad. What's that? Oh, 5.5!


GERBA: That's the...


GERBA: That means there's about - more than 50 million bacteria.

COLLINS: See? 50 million bacteria?


COLLINS: The break room was so bad, he sent the samples off to the lab where they came back at astronomical levels. The lab technician stopped counting when the number hit 100,000 bacteria per square inch on the break room sponge. Remember, the average workplace toilet is only 49 bacteria per square inch.

Just when we didn't think it could get any worse, we found Richard's desk. When Gerba checked his germ meter, it came back.

GERBA: 4.3. Oh...


GERBA: That's off the charts. Off the charts.

COLLINS: That's...

RICHARD: Wow, that's embarrassing.

COLLINS: Gerba went on to test Richard's keyboard and found it, too, was high.

GERBA: 2.5!

COLLINS: When Dr. Germ is amazed, this is not good.

RICHARD: It's not good. COLLINS: After all that, we weren't sure we could take any more, but there was one place we hadn't tested, and we just had to know about, anchor man and colleague, Anderson Cooper. Conveniently enough, the day we were testing, he was away. What we found was horrifying.

That's heinous.

GERBA: This guy needs to wash his hands once in a while.

Well, I certainly wouldn't use his desk. I'd leave this guy alone.

COLLINS: We just couldn't resist telling Anderson our results when he came back into the office.

You failed miserably.



COOPER: I got a 3.7.



COLLINS: So it fails miserably. The next one is your keyboard here, OK? You got a 4.1. And I can tell you that four, the number four, equals about 10,000 bacteria per square inch.

COOPER: Wow. And again, it's 2.5 to pass.

COLLINS: 2.5 to pass.

COOPER: Wow, so my keyboard is a...

COLLINS: I would not -- I would not even touch it again. And then your phone is dismal, OK? 4.6, which once we hit the number five, I mean...

COOPER: It doesn't look that bad.

COLLINS:'re talking about one million bacteria per square inch.

COOPER: It smells a little actually.

COLLINS: You want to put your nose on it?


COLLINS: I wouldn't do that either.

Even Professor Gerba was disgusted. GERBA: Well, this is pushing a 2 or 3 in terms of the germiest places I've ever seen. We ran one past in the whole office area. We tested all day, which is really unusual.

COLLINS: So what should you do? Gerba says you should wash your hands frequently for at least 60 seconds. You say you don't have time? Then Gerba says pick up a hand sanitizer and wash your hands with that. And wipe down your desk with disinfectant every day.


GUPTA: Heidi, thanks a lot. I think come Monday, everyone's going to be cleaning those desks for sure. And more tips for avoiding germs, coming up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your office is one thing, but what about your house? We followed the mold busters after the break. And antibacterial soaps. Touted as better than average soap, are they doing more harm than good?

First, take today's quiz. What is the most infectious source of bacteria in your home? Don't touch the remote. The answer, coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Checking our quiz, we asked what is the most infectious source of bacteria in your home? The answer, sponges or scrubbers. They can be traced to five major germs.

And if you're just tuning in, we're talking about germs, where they are, how you can avoid them as well. Many people investing in antibacterial soaps to combat the germs. Now some infectious disease experts are saying these soaps may be doing more harm than good.

Our Christy Feig has the story.


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost all soaps you use for hand washing have been beefed up to be antibacterial. They come in convenient bars, liquids, even gels that don't need to be rinsed with water. Many people use them on the go to fight common illnesses.

Antibacterial products work differently than most soaps. Regular soaps separate the bacteria from the hand. Those bacteria are then washed down the drain or become attached to the towels when the person dries their hands.

But in antibacterials, they don't clean that way. And just rubbing them on doesn't always work.

DR. STEPHEN PETERS, GEORGETOWN UNIV. HOSPITAL: You have to incur a lot of friction, that's the design, in order to alleviate soap's bacteria and dirt from the skin. And most people, unfortunately, don't do that.

So taking these antibacterial soaps institutes a false sense of security.

FEIG: Many infectious disease experts say these cleaners, especially those that use chemicals instead of alcohol or bleach, may eventually create super germs that if deposited into the draining system, could become resistant to antibiotics in our environment.

PETERS: Those organisms are shed into the environment. You find them everywhere in the environment.

FEIG: The Soap and Detergent Association welcomes the FDA review and says there now exists compelling and well-regarded research demonstrating that antimicrobial products render higher levels of bacterial reduction than those without an active ingredient.

I'm Christy Feig, reporting from Washington.


GUPTA: All right, Christy, thanks.

The lesson, no matter what kind of soap you use, use it. Experts agree the number one way to keep germs at bay and not get sick is to wash your hands. Simple advice.

And a recent survey found that while the majority of people do wash their hands after using the restroom, only 32 percent wash their hands after coughing or sneezing. That's another great way to pass along germs.

Now when we talk about germs, we're talking about everything from the common cold to E. coli. And now here's something else you can worry about -- musty, mildewy mold. It's harmless much of the time, but as Gary Tuchman reports, mold can also cause lasting health problems.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You can call them the mold busters. They've seen it all, from black mold on walls, to moldy fungus on high chairs, to mushrooms actually growing out of the carpet.

Their job? To literally rip it all out of your house. And here in the Kansas City area, mold busters, more formally known as remediators, get a lot of their references from this doctor.

JAY PORTNOY, CHILDREN'S MERCY HOSPITAL: If you think about it, it makes a lot more sense to pay a plumber $200 to fix a leaky pipe that's leading to mold than it does to pay a $9,000 intensive care unit bill.

TUCHMAN: Almost all homes have some, although it's not always visible. It can cause reactions ranging from teary eyes, to rashes, to asthma attacks.

KATHLEEN SHEERIN, DR., ALLERGIST: Microscopic spores come up in the air. And it's actually the spores that get you. It's the circulating part of the mold, not the disgusting mold that's in the corner or on your ceiling.

TUCHMAN: At Kansas City Children's Mercy Hospital, the man in charge of the hospital's allergy department is also in charge of its unique environmental health program.

PORTNOY: We treat the patient's house as well as the patient.

TUCHMAN: And Jay Portnoy's environmental team is inspecting the Kansas City home of the Nash family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You may want to talk to a professional remediator about the mold removal with the children in the home.

After that point, then you could clean any of the visible mold that we pointed out as along the wall, anything on the rafters. Make sure the wood is completely dried out.

TUCHMAN: The reason there is so much concern in this house is because little Leo Nash has respiratory problems and serious eczema. The doctor's diagnosis, it all may be the result of too much mold in the house.

Does it make you feel like guilty in any way that possibly the house caused some of the issues?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes. Overwhelmed too.

TUCHMAN: This family will now likely end up calling the mold busters. Whether you working or observing, you have to wear these suits and masks in order to protect yourself from the mold spores, which could fall on your (INAUDIBLE) or your skin. The people who live here are protecting themselves. They're on vacation right now.

Remediation isn't cheap. A typical house job can cost between $8,000 and $10,000. And it could cost as much as $20,000, which is too much for some families like the Keepers of Topeka, Kansas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you say ahh?

TUCHMAN: Who abandoned their rented house after a multitude of mold was found. All four of their children have had respiratory problems.

So what do you do in your house before the mold get too bad? We do see moisture reduces mold. Air-conditioners help a great deal. Humidifiers do not.

Dr. Portnoy says of all of the things people are allergic to, mold in the house is one of the most common, which means the old- fashioned medical house call now has a new relevance.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Kansas City, Missouri.


GUPTA: All right, Gary, thanks.

Up next, makeup counter hazards. You're not going want to miss this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting something for free could leave you more than you bargained for, breeding bacteria right under your nose. And a look at a border town in the midst of an epidemic. Why this woman cares and you should, too.

First, this week's medical headlines in "The Pulse."


FEIG: It is the kind of high-fiber foods once thought to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, whole wheat bread, brown rice, even popcorn apples and oranges.

But now a new study pooling information from 13 clinical trials shows eating those high-fiber foods does not significantly reduce the risk or recurrence of colorectal cancer.

However that doesn't mean you shouldn't eat fiber. Because a diet high in fiber can help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

And in another cancer-related study, researchers find women who drink two cups of tea per day might reduce their risk of developing ovarian cancer by as much as 46 percent. Reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the study cautions that more research is needed before a definitive link is certain.

Christy Feig, CNN.



GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. We told you about bacteria in your office and mold in your homes, but now we're heading to the mall. Ladies in particular need to hear this.

CNN's Randi Kaye found out those samples at the make-up counter may be giving you more than you bargained for.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sitting out in the open, colors just begging for a test drive, creams and concealers you can't pass up and lipstick so inviting, but there may be an ugly side to getting beautiful.

ELIZABETH BROOKS, PROFESSOR: It was horrible, where women would actually just pick up the lipstick and put it on their lips directly, and then put it back.

KAYE: And then you come along, and you have no idea that somebody has done that.

BROOKS: Yes, exactly. Yes.

KAYE: Professor Elizabeth Brooks discovered it as part of a project with her students at Rowan University. With permission from stores she promised never to identify, they headed out to collect samples.

BROOKS: The sterile swab, which means we know that there's no bacteria on it.

KAYE: They tested lipstick, shadows, blushes and creams, anything you might put on your skin when sampling at the make-up counter.

(on camera): Dr. Brooks and her students visited about 12 stores, took more than 400 samples. They brought them back here to the university's lab and tested them. What they found was, well, gross.

BROOKS: We found bacteria, but what was alarming is the numbers. You know, it was just very, very high microbial counts. And more specifically, we did find that E. coli, which does set off the alarm bells there.

KAYE (voice-over): Alarm bells she says because the E. coli came from one source, fecal matter.

BROOKS: Basically what that says is that someone had poor bathroom hygiene, touched the makeup, and then you and I come along and try the make-up on.

KAYE: In a sense.


KAYE: What are we doing at that point?

BROOKS: We're putting feces on our face. Not a fun thing to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ooh! That's kind of gross.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm definitely never going to do that again because that's kind of gross.

KAYE: Don't worry, ladies, none of the bacteria Dr. Brooks found will kill you.

BROOKS: If you introduced it into your eyes, you could get conjunctivitis. But you know, a zit, that's pretty much it. But it's just that ick factor. Who wants that on their face?

KAYE: Professor Brooks did have some tips for make-up shoppers, like ask stores to sanitize samples, test the make-up on your hands instead of your face, and never put anything near your eyes, nose, or mouth. because while the germs may not be lethal...

BROOKS: We put it on our face and we are basically feeding these little critters and making them grow.

KAYE: Yuck.

BROOKS: Yes, big time yuck.

KAYE: It is certainly enough to make your skin crawl.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Glassborough, New Jersey.


GUPTA: Thanks, Randi, I think. Professor Brooks actually had one more tip as well. Tests conducted on weekends showed the most contamination. So head to the store counters mid-week to reduce your chances of getting a sampling of those germs.

More HOUSE CALL after the break.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up, find out why one dietician says eating like a baby will help you survive the holiday buffet. Stay tuned.



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The holidays are festive. Family, friends and food, lots of food. People often find themselves overeating.

Registered dietitian and author of "Small Changes, Big Results" Ellie Krieger has five tips on feeling fuller faster.

ELLIE KRIEGER, REGISTERED DIETICIAN: Take a small plate, the smallest plate available. Because if you take a small plate, you'll be satisfied with less food.

COSTELLO: Don't go to the party hungry. Another tip is to eat something before you go. Soup or oatmeal is a good option. Also...

KRIEGER: Fill up on fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. So at a party, go for the crudites. Fill that plate up with lots of vegetables and some dip.

COSTELLO: And don't keep the food on your plate. And choose of buying the smaller package of food you're preparing. And Ellie's best holiday advice?

OK, another cool tip that you have is you should eat like a baby. Eat like a baby?

KRIEGER: Right. When babies eat, they eat when they're hungry. And they push the food away when they've had enough.

COSTELLO: Carol Costello, CNN.


GUPTA: Childhood obesity levels are on the rise all over the country. CNN's Kelly Callahan traveled to what some consider ground zero for this epidemic, southwest Texas.


KELLY CALLAHAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Take a drive down Main Street in Eagle Pass, Texas, and you'll see signs of Mexican and American culture.

When dietician Peggy Visio first came here, she saw children at the elementary school who had trouble walking a block.

PEGGY VISIO, DIETICIAN: We found that 54 percent of the boys by the time they were 10 years old were overweight or obese, and 37 percent of the girls.

CALLAHAN: Visio has done nutrition research and training in towns along the Texas border. And Eagle Pass was next.

GEORGE KYPUROS, UNITED MEDICAL CENTERS: For many people, going from six tacos for breakfast to two tacos for breakfast is being on a diet.

CALLAHAN: George Kypuros says people here suffer from soaring childhood obesity levels, hypertension, and diabetes.

KYPUROS: It's a multi faceted problem because some people know what's wrong, but we don't do anything to change.

VISIO: So how long would you have to play outside to burn off that many calories?

CALLAHAN: Visio picked 20 seriously at risk children and their families as her focus. Visio's passion comes from her own life long weight struggle. But she says it really hit home when her own children started packing on pounds.

VISIO: I felt badly about being a dietician and having a weight problem. So we changed our whole way of eating and exercising.

CALLAHAN: And those lessons are now passed on to the folks of Eagle Pass.

VISIO: We encourage the parents to play with the children, eat smaller portions, and also cut down the fat in their diet and replace the fat with fruits and vegetables.

CALLAHAN: Nine weeks later on graduation day, there were success stories. Elizabeth Ozuno lost 13 pounds. And young daughter Ashley shed 5.5 pounds. Even though the program has ended, for many, a healthier way of life is taking hold. As for Visio, the joy of her job is seeing the community come together.

VISIO: So what we really want is that all adults will be role models for the children, not just the parents.

CALLAHAN: Kelly Callahan, Eagle Pass, Texas.


GUPTA: Kelly, thanks.

Unfortunately, we're out of time for today. Make sure to tune to a special show next weekend. Some children struggling to cope and some amazing stories of recovery. We're going to revisit the areas devastated by last year's tsunami. That's next Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 Eastern.

Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.