Could the ATM be where you pick up the flu? Here's where you need to be on alert for germs

As flu season begins, it's time to start thinking about where you can pick up germs left behind by others.

When you pick up that pen to sign your credit card receipt, did you ever think of how many people touched it before you?

How about the keypad on that gas pump, parking kiosk or the ATM?

And speaking of ATMs -- what about the touchscreen?

RELATED: Doctors urging people to get flu shots by end of October

Just look at the fingerprints and you'll understand why the folks at American Family Care are warning people about germs at the start of flu season.

Physician's Assistant Orlinda Martinez sees patients at the AFC Urgent Care in Cary, North Carolina.

She saw her first flu patient weeks ago but most who visit for flu concerns are wanting vaccinations.

"At AFC Urgent Care, we're giving out a lot of flu shots -- probably five to 25 a day. We're keeping very busy," she said.

"Germs live on anything we basically touch," she said. "For example when you're checking out, you're touching the pen. You're not thinking about the fact that seven, or 30, or 150 different people have touched that pen before you. Likewise when you got to an ATM you're pressing buttons. When you go to get your gas you're touching things that other people have touched. Unfortunately, germs and bacteria can live on those surfaces."

On Monday, Martinez was seeing Cayse Woods of Cary.

Woods, who has already had her flu shot, said she thought about germs on the pen she used to sign her credit card receipt at the urgent care.

"That's disgusting, right?" she said. "I was thinking about that here at the doctor's office when I used the communal pen. But thankfully here they had the hand sanitizer. So I took advantage of that."

And she's also thought about germs on public keypads and touchscreens.

"I always use my knuckle. I do that. But then I will like rub my eyes," she said while laughing. "So I don't know if it helps or not. But, yeah, being more conscious of those things always helps."

Martinez was glad to hear that Woods is aware of high-tech germ hiding places.

By the way, that includes that smart phone you hand to friends and co-workers so they can swipe the screen to peruse your latest family pictures.

Martinez says awareness could be the key to helping make this a mild flu season.

"Unfortunately the flu is very easy to spread. And it can have a lot of bad consequences," she said. "Here at the urgent care we are giving a lot of flu vaccines. That's the best way to prevent it. But the second best way is hand hygiene and making sure we're conscious about the things we are doing during flu season."

And experts also want to remind us that if all precautions fail and you end up getting the flu, stay home so you don't give it to others.
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