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Monday, August 02, 2010

Dirtiest Find in the Hospital: Cell Phones

Several years ago I raised the issue of a problem related to infection control directly related to the cell phone use of doctor's in hospital.

EMF generated by cell phones and other similar EMF producing appliances creates a static charge that draws bacteria to these units. As the doctors go from patient room to patient room they collect and transport ever more dirt!

I liken this to the Ignatz Semmelweiss discovery that hand washing between patient visits reduced hospital infection rates. Disinfecting the cell phone in between rooms might help too, in the more modern health outpost.

A year or so ago some attention was drawn to computer keyboards in the MRSA discussion, and this article supports the issue -
Keyboard that warns users when it is dirty could banish hospital superbugs
By Daily Mail Reporter, 18th June 2008

Health chiefs are spending £1 million on the latest weapon against superbugs - "infection-resistant" computer keyboards.

Experts at University College London Hospital have developed a keyboard which is easier to clean than conventional designs.It also includes an alarm to warn staff when it needs cleaning.

The flat silicone keyboards will be rolled out in hospitals across England, and it is hoped they will save the NHS millions cut rates of MRSA by 10 per cent.

Microbiologist Dr Peter Wilson helped develop the keyboard. Just last month he found the average keyboard was five times dirtier than a toilet seat. Swabs taken from office and hospital desks revealed 150 times the recommended limit for bacteria.

"Should somebody have a cold in your office, or even have gastroenteritis, you're very likely to pick it up from a keyboard," the professor said.

The NHS spends more than £1.6 billion a year on combating superbugs.

There has been a huge drive to encourage nurses and doctors to wash their hands between examining patients but a persistent problem is staff spreading infection by touching keyboards, picking up bacteria and then transferring this to other surfaces.

Research by microbiologists at UCLH has shown bacterial levels on the new style keyboards fall by 70 per cent if they are cleaned every 12 hours.

UCLH microbiologist Dr Peter Wilson, who helped invent the keyboard, said: "Doctors and nurses were going from patient to keyboard without washing their hands.

"That's quite understandable because you would wash your hands between patients but not between a patient and a keyboard."

Traditional keyboards are high-risk areas in hospitals because they can harbour bacteria and cannot be cleaned with water or fluids.

Keyboard covers are also to blame for spreading infection because they are rarely cleaned so hospital workers who use them spread potentially lethal bacteria.

The new type of computer keyboard has hidden sensors to make sure its surfaces are cleaned properly with alcohol wipes.

Manufactured by American company Esterline and distributed by British firm Advanced Power Components, it has incorporated a warning light system that activates every three or 12 hours.

The keyboard is also covered with a hypo-allergenic material resistant to bacterial growth.

Artificial fingernails also became part of this discussion.

And now over six years later, the dirty phone issue raises once more its ugly head.
Mobile phones have 18 times more bacteria than toilet handle

By Andrew Levy
Last updated at 8:51 AM on 30th July 2010

They are pretty much essential, but you may want to ditch your mobile phone for ever after reading this.

The average handset carries 18 times more potentially harmful germs than a flush handle in a men's toilet, tests have revealed.

An analysis of handsets found almost a quarter were so dirty that they had up to ten times an acceptable level of TVC bacteria.

One of the phones in the test had such high levels of bacteria it could have given its owner a serious stomach upset.

While TVC is not immediately harmful, elevated levels indicate poor personal hygiene and act as a breeding ground for other bugs.

The findings from a sample of 30 phones by Which? magazine suggest 14.7million of the 63million mobiles in use in the UK today could be potential health hazards.

Hygiene expert Jim Francis, who carried out the tests, said: 'The levels of potentially harmful bacteria on one mobile were off the scale. That phone needs sterilising.'

The most unhygienic phone had more than ten times the acceptable level of TVC and seven were above the threshold.

This worst handset also had 39 times the safe level of enterobacteria, a group of bacteria that live in the lower intestines of humans and animals and include bugs such as Salmonella.

It boasted 170 times the acceptable level of faecal coliforms, which are associated with human waste.

Other bacteria including food poisoning bugs e.coli and staphylococcus aureus were found on the phones but at safe levels.

Which? researcher Ceri Stanaway said: 'Most phones didn't have any immediately harmful bacteria that would make you sick straight away but they were grubbier than they could be.

'The bugs can end up on your hands which is a breeding ground and be passed back to your phone. They can be transferred back and forth and eventually you could catch something nasty.

'What this shows is how easy it is to come into contact with bacteria. People see toilet flushes as being something dirty to touch but they have less bacteria than phones.

'People need to be mindful of that by observing good hygiene themselves and among others who they pass the phone to when looking at photos, for example.'

Which? has previously found that some computer keyboards carry more harmful bacteria than a lavatory seat.

Read more:

I'd suppose this might give you pause for reflection. It should to the health care CEOs who have a head in the sand approach to the MRSA concern.

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