Cellphones carry infectious bacteria

by Staff Sgt. Dinah LaDuke
59th Medical Wing Hand Hygiene Compliance Team

2/27/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Most people know to wash their hands to prevent germs, but completely forget to sanitize their phone.
Cellphones also carry viruses and bacteria and phones are taken just about everywhere. Many people use their cellphones in bathroom stalls and then text while eating a meal.

Live bacteria can survive on your phone for weeks, including the Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. MRSA causes infections that are resistant to most commonly used antibiotics. The bacteria can end up on a cellphone after touching the skin of an infected person or coming into contact with a contaminated surface.

According to research study results published for Global Handwashing Day, one in six cellphones tested in Britain had traces of E. coli bacteria, which is found in feces. Researchers cited poor hand hygiene as the cause.

In the study, researchers in 12 cities took 390 samples from volunteers' hands and cellphones. They analyzed the samples to record the type and number of bacteria they found. More than 90 percent of the phones and 80 percent of the hands had bacteria on them; 16 percent of the hands and phones harbored E. coli bacteria.

Ninety-five percent of the volunteers participating claimed they washed their hands with soap whenever possible, but the researchers' test results proved otherwise. There are many people who do not wash their hands often enough, the proper way or for the recommended length of time.

If interested in knowing about the risk a cellular device could have on your health, take the quick quiz at http://theoatmeal.com/quiz/phone_germs.

Depending on how much bacteria a person is exposed to, how strong their immune system is and how often germs are spread, a cellphone can cause illness.

The bacteria can easily be killed by wiping it down with an antibacterial wipe or cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. It's recommended to clean the phone every few days.

Throughout Joint Base San Antonio bathrooms and medical facilities, there are signs stating, "A germ is a terrible thing to spread." These signs give directions for proper hand hygiene. By following these instructions and maintaining proper cellphone hygiene, a person can lessen their risk of illness this year.