Bacteria Making Themselves at Home in Your Reusable Bags

It’s grocery shopping day and you are ready to conquer the crowds by zipping in and out of the story with your handy list and reusable grocery bag.  Not so fast! Did you know that reusable grocery bag of yours could contain bacteria that may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially death? That’s right, the norovirus has struck again!

Bag O’ Germs?

A soccer team in Oregon recently became infected with the norovirus and experts traced it to a sick teammate’s reusable grocery bag.  The bag was in the hotel room with the sick teammate and particles of the norovirus landed on the bag, which the other teammates were then exposed to.

The virus can live on objects for a lengthy time period.  The bag in question tested positive for norovirus two weeks later.

Back in 2010, a study was conducted that tested 84 reusable bags for coliform bacteria, a category that included E. coli. The report says researchers found E. coli in seven of the bags tested. Though the risk for infection is small,  researchers also found 97 percent of the people interviewed never washed their bags.

Some have dismissed this study because it was funded by the American Chemistry Council which represents makers of disposable plastic bags, saying they may have a vested interest in showing people their reusable bags are covered in germs.

The good news is that washing these bags regularly decreases contamination by 99.9 percent. As always, proper hygiene and hand washing also dramatically decreases your chance of becoming infected.

CDC Norovirus Fact Sheet

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“Outbreak Signs Encouraging”

We’re seeing encouraging signs,” CDC Acting Director Richard E. Besser said in a television interview this morning. “And the encouraging signs have to do with severity.”

Nevertheless, he said on NBC’s “Today” show, the virus is still spreading, “and we expect that we’ll see it very soon reported in all 50 states.”

In Geneva, the World Health Organization said that although travel-related infections have spread to different parts of the globe, there is still no evidence that the disease is spreading within communities outside Mexico, the United States and Canada.

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