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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA prof warns against using germ-ridden cell phones

    A new study conducted by UA researchers may have cell phone users worried about more than just an expensive bill.

    Results from a series of tests on the cleanliness of cell phones showed they are covered in germs and bacteria.

    Environmental microbiology professor Charles Gerba tested 11 phones through a device he calls a “”germ meter”” and found that five of them failed the test, carrying thousands of types of bacteria.

    Higher amounts of bacteria on a cell phone means that the bacteria and germs are forming on the surface, making users vulnerable to cold viruses and skin infections every time they pick up the phone, Gerba said.

    This risk increases any time a cell phone is shared, as germs are quickly passed from one person to another, he added.

    “”Eighty percent of cold or flu cases and diarrhea are spread through the environment, so there are measures you can take to prevent getting sick,”” Gerba said.

    The germ inspection also included office hygiene, and Gerba found that desktops rank high on the list of filthy places.

    As for bathrooms, Gerba said that the common assumption that bathroom doorknobs are dirty is misleading, since people usually wash their hands before touching them, but he still advises people to watch out for main entrances, which are usually covered in germs. Another germ-infested place is the first-floor button in elevators, due to constant usage.

    “”You’re always gambling with germs,”” Gerba said. “”But the whole idea is to keep the odds at your favor.””

    Of on-campus buildings, Gerba said the Student Union Memorial Center bathrooms are probably some of the dirtiest places, because so many students use them per day.

    Sonia Paracha, a psychology senior, said she never noticed the student union bathrooms to be very dirty.

    “”I generally got the impression that the union bathrooms were well-kept and odorless,”” Paracha said. “”But I guess it’s all the gunk you don’t see that’s the worst.””

    Students should always wash their hands after being in the bathroom and use a hand sanitizer like Purell, which will kill 30-50 percent of germs accumulated throughout the day, Gerba said.

    “”Really, during cold season you can’t wash your hands enough,”” Gerba said.

    As far as cell phones go, Gerba recommends keeping them away from your face by using a headset or the speaker device and by keeping conversations to a minimum.

    He also said that students in particular, because they often chat or study in groups, should avoid sharing phones and all other electronic devices, as doing so increases the chances of spreading illnesses.

    “”When it’s your own germs, you don’t have to worry as much,”” Gerba said. “”But when germs are spread from one person to the next, the likelihood of contracting skin infections or the flu or cold virus becomes a much more real factor.””

    Alla Lulu, a biology sophomore, said she usually uses her own phone but has occasionally needed to borrow one.

    “”I used my friend’s cell phone when we went out of town because she has free roaming, and the next day I had nasty, connect-the-dot acne on one side of my face,”” Lulu said.

    Problems like this are all too common, Gerba said. He said he thinks his niece was infected with a transmitted staphylococcus skin infection from sharing a cell phone.

    When he tested her phone he saw it contained several bacteria related to methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, a common skin disease.

    “”The main thing is if you share it, you share germs,”” he said.

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