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Computer Filth – How our Workstations Harbour MRSA and other Bacteria

This article explains how computer keyboards can harbour 400 times as many germs as a toilet seat and that can include the deadly superbug MRSA which has implications for the health care sector.

A recent study by the University of Arizona has discovered that computer keyboards house more germs than toilet seats harbouring deadly bacteria such MRSA. Microbiologists discovered there is an average of 3,300 microbes per square inch on our keyboards and 1,700 per square inch on a mouse, which is compared to just 49 microbes on a toilet seat!


With the increasing use of computers in the health profession there is a worry that an increase in hospital infections could be imminent as keyboards can act as as ‘superhighways’ for bacteria and viruses, transferring them to our hands and vice-versa, possibly making us ill through infection and transferring the microbes to other people and surfaces.


Bacteria levels increase dramatically during break times, the researchers discovered, as food spills such as coffee and biscuit crumbs harbour entire microscopic eco systems.


And the deadly ‘superbugs’ such as MRSA, which are untreatable with regular antibiotics and claim over 5,000 lives each year in the UK alone, are present on at least a quarter of all keyboards.


Of course regular cleaning of workstations would cut back possible infections and reduce the number of microbes present, however cleaning keyboards is not normally a priority in a busy working day and keyboards and mice can be difficult to clean, with plenty of nooks and crannies for germs to hide in such as the raised keys.


Computer keyboards are also pieces of electrical equipment and do not react kindly to fluids and any over enthusiastic cleaning could result in a broken keyboard, or even worse an entire computer.


Of course in hospitals, the problem of infections from keyboards is well known and with the increased reliance on computers to store patient’s records it is feared the risk of infections being transferred from keyboards to patients is going to rise dramatically over the next few years.


However, several companies are now producing keyboards and other computer equipment that is completely waterproof, easy to clean and made from bacteria resistant silicone.


These keyboards are also flat, compared to a conventional keyboard, allowing no hiding place for germs, making it easy to scrub every inch with either an anti-bacterial cloth or even a complete emersion in water. Waterproof mice are also available made from the same bacteria resistant silicone.


These medical keyboards and peripherals are now gaining popularity in hospitals and other medical environments with the aim to curb the number of infections, like MRSA, caught in hospitals but other computer users that are either worried about infections or needing a keyboard that can be easily cleaned are opting to use waterproof keyboards.

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Richard N Williams is a technical author and a specialist in the industrial computer industry helping to develop industrial pc enclosures and protection for all environments. Please visit us for more information about industrial computer solutions.

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