Your cellphone can give you the flu

Published: Monday, Nov. 12 2012 11:04 a.m. MST

The phone that's in contact with your ears, nose and mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria, an investigation by the Wall Street Journal finds.

Scientists tested eight random mobile phones from a Chicago office, finding "abnormally high numbers" — 2,700 to 4,200 units — of coliforms, a bacteria indicating fecal contamination on each phone, the Journal reports. Drinking water, they say, is supposed to have less than one unit of the bacteria per half-cup

“People are just as likely to get sick from their phones as from handles of the bathroom,” Jeffrey Cain, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and chief of family medicine at Children's Hospital Colorado, told the Journal. The bacteria found in the study can result in diarrhea, pinkeye or flu, Cain said.

According to an infection-disease expert in Australia, playing with iPads and iPhones at Apple stores is risky, given that the germs on the screens spread more easily to hands than many other surfaces, Time reported.

“You wouldn’t have hundreds of people using the same glass or cup, but theoretically, if hundreds of people share the same keyboard or touchpad, then effectively that’s what you’re doing,” Peter Collignon told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Our hands can frequently have germs that can cause anything from the flu to multi-drug-resistant diseases.”

Your first line of defense is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water (or an alcohol-based hand rub), get a flu shot and lean your gadgets, USA Today said.

Avoid using alcohol-based cleaners and cloths or paper towels that can scratch the screen, USA Today suggested. Be sure to unplug the devices and power down the tech gear, and avoid spraying cleaners directly onto electronic items where liquids can seep into openings.

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at rachel.lowry@gmail.com or visit www.rachellowry.blogspot.com.

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