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Researchers: Keyboards Can Be Breeding Ground For Germs

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Do you know where your keyboard has been or who has been using it? Researchers at UNC Hospitals wanted answers to those questions, so they studied how often bacteria is passed around by computer equipment.

Most people think of hospitals as safe, sterile environments, but that is not what UNC epidemiologists found when they swabbed 25 hospital computer keyboards in eight nursing stations.

"All of the computers had two or more microorganisms, so 100 percent of the keyboards were microbially contaminated," said Dr. William Rutala, director of epidemiology at UNC Hospitals.

The bacteria could cause skin infections or a variety of other illnesses. Some of those computers are shared by patients and staff members.

If germs are a problem on surfaces in hospitals, then they have got to be a problem in shared workspaces like a newsroom where people share the keyboards, telephones and even the editing equipment.

Germs can also be found on countertops, door knobs and handles. Rutala also studied the effectiveness of six different disinfectant wipes.

"All you need to do is apply the disinfectant wipe across the keys for approximately five seconds," he said.

Rutala found it was 95 percent to 100 percent effective in getting rid of germs, so hospital nurses wipe down keyboards at least daily -- or between patient uses -- or when they are visibly dirty. Disinfecting surfaces does not replace good hygiene.

"Well, the best thing that we can do to protect ourselves is to wash our hands frequently," he said.

When it comes to cleaning your keyboards, UNC researchers found that most disinfectant wipes found in grocery stores do the job, and they do not hurt computers.


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