Fitness & Sports Centres


While working in a sports, fitness and/or therapy center, employees are regularly exposed to various bacterial, viral, fungal and protozoan infections. These can be transmitted through contact with contaminated and shared surfaces like workout mats, therapy tables, gym equipment, weights, drinking water fountain handles, etc.

Pathogens can survive on various hard surfaces for up to 24 hours, and recent studies have shown that hands are responsible for the spread of an estimated 80% of common infectious diseases. This places not just those who work in the environment at risk, but also those who share the same facilities. In a survey for Men’s Fitness magazine a clinical scientist in microbiology at University College Hospital, London, was shocked when at one site in a London gym was found to harbor 132 million bacteria in the area the size of a 2p coin.

Maintaining hand-hygiene can be challenging for employees, often due to:

  • lack of availability and proximity of hand-hygiene products;
  • time constraints;
  • dry, chapped or irritated skin;
  • assumptions that hands, not being visibly dirty, are not in need of cleaning.

Exposure to these various bacterial, viral and fungal agents together with poor hand-hygiene can have a considerable impact on productivity, including by way of:

  • absenteeism from work due to illness;
  • reduced efficiency and mistakes at work due to employees being ill;
  • “presenteeism” – where infected employees, being at work, infect others.

The result of poor hand-hygiene impacts upon more than just those who fail to practice it. Those who work in the same surroundings or share the same facilities are equally at risk of infection.

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The Orbel™ Instant Hand Sanitizer Applicator

The Orbel™ is a portable hand sanitizer reservoir and applicator that conveniently dispenses highly effective hand sanitizer by way of a swipe of a hand. Its portability and ease of use makes it a convenient, accessible solution enabling employees to maintain good hand-hygiene irrespective of their activity or location whilst preventing loss in productivity and customer service.

The Orbel™ is available with a highly effective hand sanitizer (ethyl-alcohol or water-based formulations) that can kill and neutralize almost all of the infection threats found in a potentially contaminated sports, fitness and physical therapy facilities. Whether the contamination is from bacterial, viral or fungal agents, the always present and easy to use Orbel™ applicator is just a hand motion away from maintaining health and wellbeing.

With a quick touch, the Orbel™ applicator is always there to protect from infectious diseases that are commonly found in these facilities. Used by Massage or Physical therapists, the Orbel™ provides assurance to clients that therapist maintain the highest level of protection. The Orbel’s protection works both ways to protect client and therapist.

The Orbel™ applicator not only saves time and protects workers and clients from infectious diseases, it:

  • can contribute to an increase in work performance and productivity;
  • can contribute to the reduction and cost of absenteeism due to illness. Reports estimate that absenteeism costs the US economy alone some $227 billion a year due to lost productivity associated with illness;
  • demonstrates commitment to employee health and wellbeing and forming the cornerstone of any workplace wellness program;
  • complements existing hand-hygiene protocols;
  • habituates good hand-hygiene practice;
  • reduces costs associated with illness to employees and improves employer Health and Safety compliance regimes;
  • increases customer perceptions of venue cleanliness;
  • is cost effective when measured by ROI.

In addition to the benefits the Orbel™ brings to employees, it also provides a visible demonstration to customers and the wider community of a policy commitment to hygiene.


to increase hand-hygiene efficiently, reduce infections and save money with the Orbel™ Instant Hand Sanitizer Applicator.
No workplace can afford to be without it. 

For further reading, consult the References section.

For related hand-hygiene meetings and events, consult our Calendar of Events section.

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Outbreaks of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a bacterium that in the past was only associated with hospitals and nursing homes have occurred increasingly in sports and fitness centers. The MRSA bacteria can survive for long periods on surfaces, workout equipment and training tables at fitness centers and gyms (Tubeville et al. 2006; Benjamin et al. 2007; Ellin 2007; Creeden 2013). Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA are common causes of post surgical wound infection in hospitals and now often spread in community settings.

Streptococcal Infections

Infections caused by Streptococcus pyogenes are often associated with skin trauma and contact sports but exercise equipment can also play a role (Goldhammer et al. 2006). Likely sources of infections are often found to be asymptomatic carriers shedding infectious secretions via nasal secretions (Glezen et al. 1972; Goldhammer et al. 2006).

Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections

Other bacteria isolated from fitness equipment include Klebsiella pneumonae causing pneumonia and urinary tract infections, Enterobacter spp. (skin and respiratory tract infections), and E. coli an enteric bacterium typically marker for fecal contamination (Cuomo 2006).

A Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine study found bacteria and viruses on 73% of the weight equipment tested and 51% of the cardio equipment examined in the study (Goldhammer et al. 2006). Klebiella spp. is spread through contact, so shared surfaces--cardio machines, workout mats, weights, water fountains and locker rooms are typical hot spots.

Bathroom soap dispensers using reservoirs have been identified as containing sometimes millions of bacteria per squirt of soap (Zapka et al. 2011). With Pseudomonas and other species capable of causing skin infections in those with weakened immune systems (Melone 2012).


Respiratory Viruses

The common cold (Rhinovirus) and flu (Influenza virus) that cause nose, throat and lung infections are both transmitted via airborne particles but exercise environments are also a good place to catch them. This can occur by breathing in the droplets from someone's coughs or sneezes, or by getting the virus on your hands and touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Drinking fountain handles are often found to be contaminated during the perennial cold and flu season (Goldhammer 2006; Gaynes 2011, Melone 2012).

Human Papillomavirus

Human papillomavirus (the virus known to cause plantar warts and genital warts) exists in many strains. While the strain causing genital warts is almost always transmitted by sexual contact, plantar wart virus is shed on floors and decks in showers and changing rooms (Conklin 1990). The virus is extremely resistant to desiccation and can remain infectious for many years (Johnson 1995).


Molluscipoxvirus is the virus that causes molluscum contagiosum, an innocuous cutaneous infection spread by direct person-to-person contact or indirectly through contaminated surfaces. Affecting children more frequently than adults because of the innocuous nature of the infection the real frequency is not known with accuracy. Since infections occur on arms, the backs of the legs and back, transmission is considered to occur by contact with benches, shared towels and swimming aids in pools or spas (Castilla et al. 1995).

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)

Contact sports are a common venue for HSV transmission with wrestlers, football and rugby players often responsible for outbreaks (Tubeville et al. 2006). Often times MRSA and Streptococcus infections confuse diagnosis of HSV with infections showing up on head, face, neck and lower extremities. HSV infections often start with mild, flu-like symptoms followed by a popular rash and vesicles 1 to 2 days later. HSV can survive for hours on inanimate objects and use of equipment previously used by an infected athlete in conjunction to skin abrasion could easily lead to an infection.


Candida Yeast Infections

Fungi, bacteria, and viruses are common in wet areas such as showers and swimming pool decks. A recent study found that exercise bikes have the potential for harboring bacteria, viruses, and Candida spp. the fungi responsible for yeast infections (Coumo 2006). Candida is the most common culprit in fungal infections, causing a variety of infections from those described as ringworm or jock itch in men to severe yeast infections in women (Goldhammer et al. 2006). Candida is spread via contact and survives well on warm, moist areas of locker rooms, saunas, swimming pools and showers (Reyes 2013).

Trichophyton spp. and Epidermophyton floccosum

Epidermophyton floccosum and various species of fungi of the genus Trichophyton cause superficial fungal infections of the hair, fingernails or skin. Commonly called “athlete’s foot” or Tinea Pedis, symptoms include skin maceration, cracking and scaling with intense itching. Often transmitted by direct person-to-person contact, the fungus has also been found to be transmitted by physical contact with surfaces, such as floors in public showers, changing rooms associated with fitness facilities (Al-Doory & Ramsey 1987; Goldhammer et al. 2006).

Protozoan Infections:

Acanthamoeba Infection

Acanthamoeba species are free-living amoebae that occur in a wide range of habitats, from water and soils to swimming pools. Under adverse conditions, they form a dormant encysted stage where they are highly resistant to disinfection. Acanthamoeba keratitis is a severe and potentially blinding infection of the cornea (Kilvington & White 1994). Contact lens wearers are most at risk from the infection with poor contact lens hygiene practices as recognized risk factors. While failure to follow recommended cleaning and disinfection procedures for rinsing and storing of lenses is the most common risk factors, dirty fingers, swimming or showering while wearing contact lenses and swimming goggles have also been identified as a transmission source when damaged or not cleaned and dried prior to leaving gyms (Sharma et al. 1990).