Talk about going viral: Touch-screen devices can harbor flu germs
By Bobby Caina Calvan
Published: Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 - 7:31 am
A squeeze, a flick, a touch – but keep those grimy, germ-infested hands off that iPhone. Who knows where those fingers have been?
Personal touch-screen devices – iPads, BlackBerrys and Droids – are now seemingly everywhere, potentially harboring the germs and viruses that turn voices raspy and send noses running.
Want to peek at a digital snapshot, a friend's Facebook status or to show off the latest YouTube video? Best to just look, not touch – or risk going viral yourself.
"If you're sharing the device, then you're sharing your influenza with someone else who touches it," said Timothy Julian, a Stanford University doctoral student who co-authored a study on the spread of viruses.
As the seasonal influenza strikes again, the ubiquity of touch-screen devices is just another thing for a germaphobe to worry about.
British researchers provide some stomach-churning data: Mobile phones harbor 18 times more bacteria than a flush handle in a typical men's restroom.
According to Julian's study, published online in July by the Journal of Applied Microbiology, the risks of transmitting pathogens from glass surfaces to a person's skin are relatively high.
"If you put virus on a surface, like an iPhone, about 30 percent of it will get on your fingertips," Julian said. In turn, "a fair amount of it may go from your fingers to your eyes, mouth or nose," the most likely routes of infection.
Of course, no one can be sure how many people have gotten sick from sharing touch-screen electronics. But the devices add to the growing list of so-called fomites – frequently handled objects – that can spread pathogens such as the flu virus.