Computer Mice or Trackballs May Get You Sick

Some of the most common sources of viral infections you come in contact with daily hide and reside on commonly used things like shopping carts. A recent report by the Korean Consumer Protection Board analyzed six items typically handled by the public and found shopping cart handles were indeed the worst of the lot with 1,100 units of bacteria per 1.5 square inches.

I suspect the remainder the items measured for bacteria and how they're ranked may surprise you, and, in particular, commonly used computer equipment:

  • A computer mouse used at an Internet cafe: 690 units
  • Hand straps on a bus: 380 units
  • Bathroom door handles: 340 units
  • Elevator buttons: 130 units
  • Hand straps on subways: 86 units

In reaction to bacterial studies like this one, you're seeing more places than ever, particularly stores that sell food, offer free antibacterial wipes that contain agents like triclosan that kill human cells as well as bacteria.

Even worse, a growing number of experts believe the increased use of such products may lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As in many things involving optimal health, the simple things -- washing your hands with plain soap and water, cleaning those handles on your shopping cart or wearing gloves -- are often the best means to protect your health.

That said, I am not a big fan of blaming bacteria for illness, as it is your impaired immune system that allows you to get sick. Your impaired immune system typically results from not enough sleep, uncompensated emotional stress, not enough sunlight or exercise or eating sugar or too many grains.

However, clearly bacteria and viruses can and do cause illness when your immune system is impaired and it most likely makes sense to reduce obvious exposures. If you use a community keyboard, mouse or trackball, consider cleaning it regularly with peroxide wipes prior to using it. You could also isopropyl alcohol but I would advise against it as it is far more toxic to your tissue than peroxide and it is no more effective in killing these germs.

I also urge you to review an article I ran three years ago on infected keyboards too.

The Age.com.au February 15, 2006

Science a Go Go February 15, 2006

MSNBC February 14, 2006

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