Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hidden Poker Opponents: Germs, Colds and Staph

Researchers studied five different Vegas Strip
casino chips and found 5,600 micro-organisms
including MRSA
Poker players risk more than money at the felt: they risk their health, as players who go to card rooms regularly are prone to catching germs along with their pot winnings. Dr. Will Sawyer from Cincinnati warns about the common germ sharing at the poker table. “Let’s say you’re sick, you cough into your hands, you pick up the cards and you shuffle and deal. Chances are, [germs] from your cough are now on those cards. And if someone picks up a card and they have an itch and they put their finger in their eyes, nose or mouth, they’re probably going to be sick the next day.”

Students at the University of Wisconsin conducted a study in which they placed men suffering from severe colds with a group of healthy men, making them play together for 12 hours. Twelve of the 18 healthy men became sick from the same cold simply by breathing the same air as the sick players and by touching their own faces, cards and chips throughout the game.

Dr. Sawyer, not surprised by the study findings, explains that “Respiratory illness spreads through direct contact and by floating through the air, but the [germs] only float three feet. So, the biggest problem here is really our hands.”

Sawyer has been committed to educating communities about the importance of hand washing as the best method to avoid food poisoning, colds, influenza and respiratory diseases. He claims if people washed hands at the right time and in the right way, they would rarely get sick again.

However, Americans are not so interested in keeping disease-free, according to the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), a nonprofit institution devoted to educating Americans about proper hygiene. They point out that 68% of the American population doesn’t wash their hands long enough to remove germs, and 36% rarely washes after coughing or sneezing.

The Bluff Towers also made their own study about casino poker chips’ hygiene, for which they hired a team of students and Professor Brian Hedlund from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas to determine how many germs could be found in the chips of five different Vegas Strip casinos. The team found that the chips with the lowest number of bacteria had approximately 5,600 micro-organisms. Of these, staphylococcus – abundant in human skin – was the most common bacterium found in the casino samples. Staphylococcus-induced illness ranges from pimples and boils to the infamous hospital killer MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), which causes infections immune to most antibiotics, killing around 80,000 people a year. The research team also found high numbers of bacillus, which originate in dirt and dust, and the bacillus cereus found is the main instigator of food poisoning.

For card-room lovers, all they have to do to keep healthy is to keep an instant hand sanitizer next to them, such as gels or wipes, and use it before touching their faces while playing, especially when noticing a sick player in their table. It is also important to take frequent bathroom breaks and wash hands properly, and make sure to always clean your hands before each meal.

Hand Gels
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends sanitizing products that are alcohol-based, with a concentration that ranges between 60% and 95%. According to the FDA, hand sanitizers are effective in reducing gastrointestinal diseases, colds and influenza only if they have a high level of alcohol concentration, since many products with lower concentrations do not reduce bacteria effectively and can still allow the transference of germs.

Disinfecting Wipes

The Welsh School of Pharmacy at Cardiff University in Wales conducted a study in which wipes were used in surfaces purposely contaminated with MRSA, which were wiped out in just 10 seconds.

In the U.S., companies that manufacture disinfecting wipes must register them with the Environmental Protection Agency to claim their efficiency to eliminate specific germs.

According to Dr. Bill Rutala from the University of North Carolina Health-Care System, disinfecting wipes are also safe for computer keyboards, for players who like practicing their strategy online after their card-room session. By washing your hands and wiping your keyboards after coming from a casino, you make sure there is no bacterial transference from the casino environment to your home.

Hidden Poker Opponents by EDUARDO SOLANO | Posted: 08/15/2008


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