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Is your rental car a vector for illness and disease?

What goes through your mind when you are at car rental facility? Do you wonder if the car you are renting is going to make you sick? Most people don't. Typically you wonder about upgrading to a larger vehicle or maybe renting a convertible. You get in the rental expecting that it will be clean. You worry about how to get where you are going without getting lost. That may all be about to change.

Just because you cannot see dirt, grime and bacteria do not mean that they are not there. We learn about this in food safety with illness such as Salmonella. It gets worse than just Salmonella. In a recent set of tests performed by a medical grade, laboratory results showed some pretty gross things that were swabbed off of the clean looking surfaces of rental cars. Top on the list was traces of poop from one cars steering wheel. That's where you put your hand and then touch your face. That process is transferring someone else poop to your face.

By now you are likely making the connection that rental cars can be dangerous to your health. The fact is that rental cars are a public health concern. What would happen is say the person who rented the car before you did was sick with the Meningitis. The Center for Disease Control has an entire section on infectious disease related to travel. The flu virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours. The virus that causes Hepatitis C can live outside of the human body for up to 4 days, according to the CDC. These are some serious medical concerns.

When it come to picking up bacteria or virus, your hands are the primary source of contraction. We touch everything. When we get into a rental car the first thing, we touch are the keys. The next thing we touch are the door handles. These are all items that the other people have touched too. Then we get into the car, and we adjust the seat, push buttons and grab the steering wheel. All of these surfaces are prone to collecting dangerous organisms. Remember that steering wheel from earlier that tested positive for poop. Every time you are in that rental car you have to touch the steering wheel to drive. That is a lot of time that your hands could be in contact with someone else's poop.

What Can you do to stay healthy?

First, do not assume the car is clean. If you travel a lot then consider antibacterial wipes. They fit easily into your luggage, briefcase or purse. Consider wearing driving gloves which would prevent your hands from touching the surface of the car. Inspect the car for filth. If it smells funny or looks dirty just exchange it for a different car. Rental car companies are usually pretty easy to deal with, especially when there is a problem like a filthy car.

For more safety, traffic and auto news check out IMPROV Defensive Driving and Traffic School blog.