Question of the week: Can I get a cold or the flu from my computer or smartphone?
Normally at avast! Antivirus we talk about keeping viruses out of your computer or smartphone, but you asked a question that is important to all of us – how to keep the virus out of you!
Dangerous bacteria is more common on our tech gadgets than on toilet seats, according to a handful of studies.
The London School of Hygiene in 2011 reported that 92 percent of the phones they tested in an experiment were contaminated with bacteria, and 18 percent came back positive for fecal bacteria (that’s from poop if you weren’t sure.)
James Francis, a microbiologist who carried out research for UK organization Which? in 2008, tested an iPad and found that it had 600 units of Staphylococcus aureus, which can lead to food poisoning (which leads to nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Ugh.) This compared with the office toilet which had less than 20 units of Staphylococcus per swab.
He said, “A count of 600 on a plastic device of any sort is incredibly high. It indicates that some people don’t wash their hands a lot.”
Flu viruses can stay active on computer keyboards, mice, tablets, and smartphones for a couple of days, even though people have been conditioned to regularly use sanitizing wipes and sprays, said researchers at the University of Arizona.
The Which? researchers discovered that computer keyboards contained 7,500 bacteria per swab – much more than an average toilet seat, which has 5,400 (toilet seats are starting to look pretty good aren’t they?) And we haven’t even begun to speak about digital touch screens in grocery stores or shared computers in your kid’s first-grade classroom or the local Internet café. But I think you get the idea.
So you would think that if you touch a germy keyboard and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes, chances are good that you’ll get sick, right? Here’s the good news:
The odds of getting sick from the bacteria and viruses that linger on computers and gadgets — even those stationed in the public and used by many grubby-handed people — are about as minuscule as the tiny organisms themselves.
says Dr. Alison McGeer, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
Well, that’s a relief, but it’s still pretty gross.
How to stay healthy with all the grossness everywhere
The CDC has 3 simple things you can do to fight the flu.
1. Get a flu vaccine. A flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that research suggests will be most common.
2. Stop the spread of germs. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid contact with sick people. Clean and disinfect your smartphones, tablet computers and office keyboards with anti-bacterial wipes.
3. Take antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. You wouldn’t stop using avast! Antivirus to protect your computer, so follow your doctor’s instruction if you get meds. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick.
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