Is your cellphone carrying COVID-19?
BATON ROUGE- With the global spread of COVID-19, preventative actions have been emphasized, such as handwashing, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, and staying home if possible. One surface that may be overlooked could be found in the palm of your hand.
Cellphones can be carriers of microbial life forms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Health professionals warn that these germs can survive on surfaces long enough to be transmitted to you or another person.
“Touch screens on our devices are an often overlooked source of microbes that can be brought into our personal space,” Dr. David Westenberg said, associate professor of biological sciences at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
In routine with handwashing and disinfecting the surfaces you touch, sanitizing your phone, or other highly used electronic devices, should become part of the process, Dr. Westenberg says.
With every tap, swipe, and click, the average person touches their cellphone over 2,000 per day, according to a 2019 study with 100,000 participants.
Each device is unique in the way that it is made and intended to be cleaned.
Many manufacturers, including Apple, have provided step-by-step instructions on how to properly disinfect devices due to COVID-19.
One of the many tips on Apple's website reads, "Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces. Don't use bleach. Avoid getting moisture in any opening, and don't submerge your Apple product in any cleaning agents. Don't use on fabric or leather surfaces."
Apple also says to unplug all power sources and cables while sanitizing, avoid aerosol sprays, and use a soft, lint-free cloth to wipe.
For most smartphones, experts recommend removing the phone from its case, powering it down, and gently wipe with a gentle cleanser, avoiding all ports. Finally, allow the device to dry before replacing the case. Steps should be repeated with the phone case as well.
Dr. Donald W. Schaffner, an extension specialist in food science, says the most likely way your device could become contaminated with the virus is for someone to sneeze or cough near it. Microscopic droplets containing the virus could settle on the phone, Schaffner explained.
It is a good idea to clean your phone regularly, according to Westenberg, but he says it is not necessary to do so each time you touch it.
“If you are putting your phone down on a potentially contaminated surface, washing your hands infrequently, et cetera, then I would recommend more often,” he said.
While it is important to stress, Schaffner says, "I don’t think there’s any reason to clean your phone more than once a day unless it's potentially been exposed to the virus."