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Flu season: public places with the most germs

Flu season is here, and for baby boomers especially, it's important to be cautious in these public places.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Studies show baby boomers are skipping flu shots more than any other generation even though they have one of the biggest risks of getting the virus.

According to the CDC, one-third of people between ages 65 and 74 skipped the flu shot in 2016. This doesn't bode well when weaker immune systems already make seniors more susceptible to the flu. The CDC found 90 percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.

The flu shot is covered by Medicare, and most professionals suggest seniors get the vaccine to protect themselves. In the mean time, there are some public places everyone, but especially seniors, should be aware of that typically carry lots of germs.

  • Public restrooms: Most people realize bathrooms can be germy, but it's even more important to consider in public because of the many different people who use them. Many people believe the toilet is the spot to avoid, but germs in the sink can survive the longest.
  • The mall: Turns out the rags we see employees using to clean those food court tables are usually pretty dirty and can spread bacteria like E. coli. Handrails on stairs and escalators are also a common place to pick up germs.
  • Grocery stores: It makes sense when you realize grocery stores are a pretty popular place for sick people. A quick run to grab some orange juice, chicken noodle soup and cold medicine leaves a lot of time for spreading germs. A University of Arizona study found about 70 to 80 percent of shopping carts had E. coli on them.
  • Restaurants: Just like the food court at the mall, busboys often use rags that aren't actually clean to wipe down tables.
  • Libraries: Many people touching the same books, computers and keyboards means many germs spread.

We've all heard the tips to combat spreading germs in public places: wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap, keep hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes with you, and use paper towels to open doors when possible.

If you are in the Indianapolis area and have not yet gotten a flu shot, Community Hospital East is offering free flu shots Thursday and Friday. They'll also have free flu shots at the Irvington Halloween festival Oct. 28.

The Marion County Public Health Department is offering low-cost flu shots for children ages 2 to 18 at eight walk-in clinics in the upcoming weeks. Click here to see a list of locations and times where you can get the $20 flu shot. Flu shots for children younger than 2 are free.