Reduce Illness & Absenteeism with a Clean Keyboard

Reduce Illness & Absenteeism with a Clean Keyboard
Kids have returned to school and we are heading into cold and flu season. My son’s school is being quite proactive about preventing the spread of germs. He is fortunate to be able to attend a small, financially sound school that is thinking about providing a personal mouse and keyboard for each child. The reason for this - according to Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, the four surfaces most contaminated with germs are phones, desks, computer keyboards and the computer mouse. The germ count on keyboards and mice can be 400 times greater than on doorknobs and toilet seats as dirt from the hands and the mouth are easily transferred to computer and desk items by touch. And Dr. Gerba states that every 60 seconds, a working adult touches as many as 30 objects. According to his list of nine “germiest” jobs, teachers are most at risk (followed by accountants, bankers, radio disc jockeys, and doctors, television producers, consultants, publicists, and lawyers). The risk increases as work areas and equipment are shared.

Dr. Gerba’s study is backed up by a study conducted by the University of North Carolina that agrees that microbial contamination of keyboards is prevalent. It concluded that keyboards may be successfully decontaminated with disinfectants.
And to add fuel to the fire - a survey by the American Dietician Association found that while 57 percent of workers snack at their desks once a day or more, 20 percent never clean them.

So, what can you do to stay healthy while working? Dr. Gerba makes the following recommendations that could potentially cut absenteeism in half.
  • Wash your hands both before and after using your keyboard and mouse to reduce the transfer of germs - especially if you share a work space or equipment,
  • Keep your work area clean by using disinfecting wipes a minimum of once a week on the desk surface, phone, keyboard and mouse to kill illness-causing germs.
  • Keep a hand sanitizer at your desk and use it throughout the day.
  • Don’t eat at your desk.
  • Wash coffee mugs and glasses used at work on a regular basis.
  • Don’t go to work if you are sick.

Check out this fun but somewhat disturbing link -
How Many Germs Live on Your Keyboard

  • Information for News Media; College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; University of Arizona (
  • Is Your Office Making You Sick?; Entrepreneur;
  • Bacterial Contamination of Keyboards: Efficacy and Functional Impact of Disinfectants; Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol; 2006 Apr;27(4):372-7. Epub 2006 Mar 29

A keyboard skin is a thin silicone or polyurethane covering that protects the keyboard against dirt and spills. It can also be easily removed and cleaned – ideal for an office area that has multiple users on the same keyboard. Some skins even contain an anti-microbial agent. Check out this sample at

Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing at the Hand Therapy & Occupational Fitness Center in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.

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