[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 12 March, 2004, 14:50 GMT
Lifting the lid on computer filth
computer keyboard
Flu germs can be transferred
Office workers are exposed to more germs from their phones and keyboards than toilet seats, scientists reveal.

Work stations contain nearly 400 times as many microbes than lavatories, it is claimed.

Office equipment should be regularly disinfected to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria responsible for disease.

The reality of our grubby working environments is exposed in a study by the University of Arizona.

A desk is capable of supporting 10 million bacteria and the average office contains 20,961 germs per square inch, according to research.

Desks are really bacteria cafeterias
Charles Gerba, microbiologist
The key offenders are telephones, which harbour up to 25,127 germs per square inch, keyboards 3,295 and computer mice 1,676.

By contrast, the average toilet seat contains 49 germs per square inch, the survey showed.

Microbiologist Dr Charles Gerba, of the University of Arizona, who carried out the research, said: "When someone is infected with a cold or flu bug the surfaces they touch during the day become germ transfer points because some cold and flu viruses can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours.

"An office can become an incubator."

Dr Gerba's study found bacteria levels increased drastically during the day, peaking after lunch.

The superhighways for bacteria are hands and the surfaces we touch
Professor Sally Bloomfield, microbiologist
Food spills, such as tea and biscuits, can support mini eco-systems, but cleaning of keyboards and phones is not always given high priority.

Dr Gerba said: "Without cleaning, a small area on your desk of phone can sustain millions of bacteria that could potentially cause illness."

The study found that where office workers who were told to clean their desks with disinfecting wipes, bacterial levels were reduced by 99%.

British microbiologist Professor Sally Bloomfield said the study reinforced the need for good hygiene practice both at work and in the home.

She said: "The superhighways for bacteria are hands and the surfaces we touch.

"Viruses are transferred by our hands, especially cold viruses."

She said it was impossible to turn our surroundings into sterile zones, but we can minimise the risk by washing our hands regularly and using alcoholic wipes on office furniture like phones and keyboards.

Computer filth exposed
13 Sep 00  |  Science/Nature

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific