Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Can You Get Coronavirus From Your Phone?


When I see someone at the grocery store checkout counter with fruits and vegetables that aren't in plastic bags, I want to tell them that the counter is filthier and less sanitary than a public toilet seat. So far I haven't told anyone that andI feel bad for not doing so. And the plastic bags at the fruit and veggies sections are free. There's no reason not to put your fruits and veggies in them. "The conveyor belt on the checkout line is rarely, if ever, cleaned, and can last for up to 30 years. On top of that, they’re made from petroleum-based PVC, which is porous and nearly impossible to clean. A study by the International Association of Food Protection showed that yeast, mold, staph, and coliform live and grow on the belts, and a study by Michigan State University found bacteria on 100 percent of belts tested. 

Ewwwww... right? Your phone might be as filthy and disease carrying, according to some reporting from USA Today (last year, pre-coronavirus). Dalvin Brown wrote "What's the one item that never leaves your side? It goes into the bathroom with you. You use it in the kitchen. It often touches your face, your desk and, well, just about any other surface within arm's reach. It's your smartphone, of course. And the tasks listed above are just some of the reasons it's a breeding ground for germs and a cesspool of bacteria." But don't just take his word for it:
Fecal matter can be found on 1 out of every 6 smartphones, according to a 2011 study done by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

"Mobile phones have become veritable reservoirs of pathogens as they touch faces, ears, lips and hands of different users of different health conditions," researchers observed in a 2009 study of bacteria removed from personal calling devices.

A study by the University of Arizona found the typical worker's desk, which tends to be your smartphone's home for about 40 hours a week, has hundreds of times more bacteria per square inch than an office toilet seat.

Other studies have found serious pathogens on smartphones such as Streptococcus, MRSA-- which is a type of bacteria that is resistant to several antibiotics-- and even E. coli.

So, why exactly is your phone so nasty?

"We touch more surfaces than any generation in history, from ATM machines to self-checkout counters," said Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. "So, you're picking up germs all the time on your hands and fingers, putting them on your cellphone and bringing them close to your nose, mouth or eyes."

These germs can make you, your family and anyone else you come in contact with sick. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 80 percent of all infections are transmitted by hands, and our smartphones have basically become an extension of that.

"Mobile phones are now mobile germ devices," Gerba said. "You get a germ on your hand, and you use your phone. Then you go wash your hands later, but the germs are still on your phone."

On average, Americans check their phone once every 12 minutes – burying their heads in their phones 80 times a day, according to global tech protection company Asurion. That's plenty of opportunities for microorganisms to migrate between your fingers and your phone.

The worst culprits are teenagers, according to Gerba, whose research found that people who work in the food service industry along with adults who work with children tend to get the most contamination on their hands.

Think about all the surfaces you touch throughout the day, from subway poles and light switches to remote controls to bathroom doors. All of the bacteria picked up during your day-to-day activities ends up on your daily dialing devices, and odds are, you don't clean them often or well enough.

"All cellphones are going to have bacteria on them because we hold them up to our face," says Susan Whittier, director of clinical microbiology at New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center.

"Normal bacteria that's being transferred from cheeks and ears isn't anything to worry about. But, if you’re coughing into your phone, those viruses can live on those surfaces for hours and can be transferred to others."

Apple advises against using liquids or disinfectants on its devices. Instead, the iPhone maker offers a detailed list of how to clean your phone depending on the model that you have.  Motorola suggests using a microfiber cloth-- the kind you might clean your glasses with-- with a little water.

As for Google's Pixel phone, the company has given the OK to use household soap if necessary.

There are other ways you can safely clean your device depending on the type of phone you have. You may need the following materials:
Microfiber cloth
Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
Cotton swabs
Cleaning gloves
If you're worried about using disinfectant, consider an option like "PhoneSoap," a device that first gained attention on the ABC show Shark Tank.

It uses UV light to kill 99.9 percent of the germs on your smartphone, according to its manufacturer. It costs about $60 and can be grabbed from Amazon. A quick 10-minute stint inside the PhoneSoap not only cleans your phone but charges it, too.

Or, you can just use a standard microfiber cloth, like the one included with some smartphones.

Gerba said that it's probably best to sanitize your phone daily. He cleans his twice a day.

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