The keyboard as we know them today were built in the early 1870’s by the combined effort of Christopher Sholes, Carlos Glidden, Samuel Soul, and James Densmore. It was during this time that the keyboard-typewriter was used mostly commercially.
Speeding up to today’s time, we enter a much different world of technology. Now, the world is at your fingertips…and so are viruses and bacteria that can lead to sick days from work or school. We live in a society that allows us to view, listen, and communicate on just about anything that we want to in an instant. Having access to so many distant and intangible things, though, makes us forget the threats that lurk right in front of us.
Think about all of the nights you spent working on projects for school or the office, and how sometimes you had to use one of the public computers because you did not have your own. These computers could potentially harbor hundreds of thousands of bacteria and viruses which could be caught from the moment you write your first sentence. British microbiologist James Francis tested 33 keyboards, a toilet set, and a toilet door handle. Out of the 33 keyboards tested, 4 had potentially harmful bacteria on them, including e. coli and staph, and 1 keyboard had 5 times the amount of bacteria found on the toilet seat. Your keyboard is dirtier than your toilet seat – give that a minute to download and process. E.coli and staph on your keyboard and now on your fingers. On your phone and face and hands and everything you touch. The UFE (Urine Feces Everywhere) did a study and 83% of those polled admitted to never cleaning their keyboards.
Aside from the general disdain of that revelation, there are serious potential health threats here. Studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2007 revealed that an outbreak of norovirus infected 100 people at an elementary school in Washington, D.C.. One of the contributing factors of any outbreak is shared equipment, and offices are in danger of similar infections caused by computers. Sharing computers and office equipment should be treated as risk factors in spreading infections just like sharing a beverage.
Here’s a thought: A room full of kids who all share the same computer at school, and they also share the same habits of cleanliness…hardly relevant. All of those kids pass germs around like it’s a game of “hot potato”.
Here’s another thought: You are working on a project at work and someone from your team came down with illness, but decided to come in to work anyway (yah) and they sneeze or cough in their hands and then use the computer you were just using. Yep, you guessed it, a one way ticket to a day or two in bed with E. coli.
Schools, offices, libraries, and any venues with public access to computer equipment need to be aware of the risks that come from sharing equipment. Computer labs at schools and libraries should be wiped down daily, and measures taken to keep the equipment as clean and hygienic as possible. If you use public equipment, thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.
While certain areas are out of your personal control, you can still take steps to protect yourself. A 2011 study showed that adults spend an average 2 ¾ hours a day on the internet. Yet how often do we clean our phones and computers? How many times do you clean your house and say “crap, I forgot to clean my computer!”? Chances are, you probably never cleaned it unless you spilled food on it, and even then, just wiping the crumps on the desk does noy solve the problem. For some, it’s a lack of awareness. For others, it’s a matter of not knowing how. Computers and phones are electronic devices, so you can’t very well go scrub them with soap and water. There are several options, though, for proper computer cleaning.
For a phone, just take a disinfectant wipe and gently clean the surfaces of the phone, making sure the wipe is not too saturated. For the keyboard, one method is to remove the keys entirely and wash them with warm water and a little soap, making sure to thoroughly rinse and dry them. This is a little risky unless you know how to put them back on, so try at your own risk. If you do not want to remove them completely, wipe them down carefully with a disinfectant wipe, again making sure the wipe is not too wet. If you would rather not deal with the keys directly, you can purchase removable, washable key covers that protect your keyboard while also allowing you to remain hygienic. Or, you could go all out and just invest in a washable keyboard. Whatever method you choose, make sure you do something, unless you want your keyboard to be dirtier than your toilet seat.