A study headed up by Dr. Birgit Winther, an ear, nose, and throat doctor at the University of Virginia, tested hotel rooms that guests had just stayed in for rhinoviruses, the viruses that cause many of the common colds.
They took volunteers they knew already had colds, had them spend the night in a hotel, and then they tested the items the volunteers said they had touched.
Results surprised the researchers. While they had expected to find some viruses, they hadn't expected to find so many. Seven out of fourteen door handles, six out of fourteen pens, and six out of fifteen light switches all had rhinoviruses living on them. These little buggers are hardy, too. If you wipe your nose, flick off the light switch on the way out the door, and you may leave a rhinovirus there that will still be alive four days later.
Since people come and go from hotel rooms like...well, like people checking into and out of hotel rooms, they are a likely place to catch viruses left behind and spread them around. Of course, the rooms are supposed to be cleaned between each visit, but this study suggests that simple wipe down of the sink and bathtub isn't going to do the trick. While you're enjoying the latest Tom Cruise movie and ordering your room service dinner, a rhinovirus may well be taking up residence in you.