Lifting the lid on computer filth
Flu germs can be transferred
Office workers are exposed
to more germs from their phones and keyboards than toilet seats,
Work stations contain nearly 400 times as
many microbes than lavatories, it is claimed.
Office equipment should be regularly
disinfected to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria
responsible for disease.
The reality of our grubby working
environments is exposed in a study by the University of Arizona.
A desk is capable of supporting 10 million
microbes and the average office contains 20,961 microbes per
square inch, according to research.
The key offenders are
telephones, which harbour up to 25,127 microbes per square inch,
keyboards 3,295 and computer mice 1,676.
Desks are really bacteria cafeterias
Charles Gerba, microbiologist
By contrast, the average toilet seat
contains 49 microbes per square inch, the survey showed.
Microbiologist Dr Charles Gerba, of the
University of Arizona, who carried out the research, said: "When
someone is infected with a cold or flu bug the surfaces they
touch during the day become germ transfer points because some
cold and flu viruses can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours.
"An office can become an incubator."
Dr Gerba's study found bacteria levels
increased drastically during the day, peaking after lunch.
Food spills, such as tea and
biscuits, can support mini eco-systems, but cleaning of
keyboards and phones is not always given high priority.
The superhighways for bacteria are hands and
the surfaces we touch
Professor Sally Bloomfield,
Dr Gerba said: "Without cleaning, a small
area on your desk of phone can sustain millions of bacteria that
could potentially cause illness."
The study found that where office workers
who were told to clean their desks with disinfecting cleaner,
bacterial levels were reduced by 99%.
British microbiologist Professor Sally
Bloomfield said the study reinforced the need for good hygiene
practice both at work and in the home.
She said: "The superhighways for bacteria
are hands and the surfaces we touch.
"Viruses are transferred by our hands,
especially cold viruses."
She said it was impossible to turn our
surroundings into sterile zones, but we can minimise the risk by
washing our hands regularly and using an alcohol based cleaner on office
furniture like phones and keyboards.