Germs on Keyboards
More doctors are switching to electronic patient records. The bacteria on hospital keyboards are becoming a problem. Many people could potentially use the same computer and then transmit the bacteria to patients. People who are already sick may be more vulnerable to bacterial infections. Hospital patients may be more likely to become seriously ill from bacteria transmitted from computers and health care workers’ hands. Researchers found that a good way to prevent the transmission of infection is for health care workers to wash their hands and to have computer keyboards disinfected on a regular basis.
Keeping Your Computer Keyboard Clean
Everything you touch does not have to be sterile in order to be safe. There are bacteria all around us and most of them will not make us sick. Having some bacteria on your keyboard will not necessarily hurt you. Washing your hands before and after using your keyboard is a good idea. For everyday hand washing, regular soap and water are effective to kill bacteria.
Keyboards and Bacteria
Research shows that keyboards can have high levels of bacteria on them. Shared keyboards tend to have more bacteria than those used by only one person. Researchers also found that the average desktop has many times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Most bacteria found by researchers are types that tend to live on people, usually in our skin and in our mouths and nasal passages. So likely most of the the bacteria on hospital keyboards came from our hands.
Although many of these bacteria won’t hurt you unless your immune system is weak because of another illness, it could still cause an infection in you have a cut on your fingers (even a tiny one you can’t see). It is still wise to be careful, especially if you are sharing a computer with other people. For example, if the person who used the keyboard before you was coming down with the flu, it is possible that you could catch the flu from using the keyboard afterwards.
A good precaution is to wash your hands before and after using a shared computer, telephone or other equipment and to encourage others to do the same. It is not a good idea, either, to eat at your computer, especially if you share it with others. When you eat and then type, you are probably transmitting bacteria from your mouth to the keyboard and also getting crumbs everywhere.
- Shut down and unplug your computer.
- Turn the keyboard upside down. Shake out the loose debris.
- Use a cotton swab (such as a Q-tip) with water or isopropyl alcohol to clean in-between the keys to reduce bacteria on hospital keyboards.
- Wipe down the rest of the keyboard with the cloth.
Remember, simple hand washing is always the best way to stop the spread of bacteria!