The professional cleaning industry generally focuses on specific surfaces that can harbor germs and contaminants-as well as how to eradicate these unwanted guests.

But according to Dr. E. Neil Schachter, a professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, there are also specific places that tend to harbor more germs and potentially dangerous contaminants than others.

Schachter has found that the following are the five “germiest” places many of us are likely to visit:

* Public transportation. The more crowded the bus or train, the more likely it is that germs will spread from one person to another. Additionally, specific surfaces on buses, trains, and subway cars can be germ transmitters.

* Public restrooms. Many people have long mistrusted the sanitary conditions of these facilities, and for good reason. Bacteria and viruses thrive in the moist areas of all public restrooms, including sinks and soap dispensers.

* Schools and daycare centers. Having lots of children in one location always creates the opportunity for colds, the flu, and other diseases to spread.

* Doctors’ offices. Many illnesses are spread in doctors’ waiting rooms. In fact, some pediatricians now have separate waiting rooms for “well” and “not so well” children to avoid cross-contamination risks. And many doctors’ offices provide face masks at check-in for those patients who are sick.

* Other public spaces. Any location where lots of people congregate-including concert venues and sporting events-is likely to be a gathering place for germs and bacteria as well.
You may be asking yourself, is there any way to avoid contamination, short of avoiding public locations?

“There are ways to defend yourself,” says Matt Morrison, communications manager for Kaivac, developers of the No-Touch and OmniFlex cleaning systems. “Wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizers, and try to avoid contact with commonly touched surfaces like handrails and even elevator buttons. We have to be proactive when it comes to protecting our health in public areas.”