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Germ consciousness needs 21st century update

by on25 September 2007


What lurks in your keyboard?


Just when you thought you had enough things to worry about -- such as the threat of terrorism, the economy, keeping your kids safe, your credit score -- a new concern comes along:  computer keyboards have been identified as objects that can spread diseases and germs, particularly in places such as medical facilities where cleanliness is a key factor.

Lurking inside those computer keyboards are crumbs, dust, dirt and food particles that, when you think about it, are just kind of creepy.  But, to make sure that it is safe to go back to work and use that keyboard that someone else has (ewwww) sneezed on, or eaten their lunch over, vendors have come to the rescue of those unsanitary keyboards. 

The U.S. subsidiary Taiwanese company, Aten Technology, Inc., located in Irvine, California, reports that it has started applying antimicrobial nanocoatings to its keyboard, video and mouse (KVM) switches that allows use of the devices by multiple users in data centers while keeping the devices sanitary for other users. Another U.S. company, Seal Shield Corporation, located in Jacksonville, Florida, claims to have created a keyboard that it is selling to hospitals that is dishwasher-safe.

Can computer keyboards and other commonly accessed equipment really make you sick?  Yes.  Keyboards in hospitals are a common place to find Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) bacteria.  This is the type of staph bacteria that has become resistant to  antibiotics, can cause skin infections, pneumonia and life threatening bloodstream and/or surgical wound infections. 

Some research even suggests that commonly used devices such as the keypads on ATM banking machines contain more germs than are found in a public restroom, and objects in offices that are shared, such as telephones, fax machines and office entry keypads, are also sources of vast amounts of germs.

If your company doesn’t have the microbial resistant keyboard coatings, researchers suggest using disinfectant wipes before you touch a device, hand sanitizers, and most importantly, frequent hand washing.  And the key factor:  don’t put your fingers into your mouth without washing your hands first, and don’t chew on your pencil or pen. 

Freaked out enough?  We are.  According to Charles Gerba, an environmental microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona, we have entered the “Electronic Age” without updating our hygiene habits.  It’s time for an upgrade.

Read more here.

Last modified on 25 September 2007
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