There are billions of mobile phones worldwide. They are present on all continents, in all countries and in all cities. The 'smartphones' carry pathogens infectious such as bacteria and viruses, and are likely to be 'Trojan horses' that contribute to the community transmission in epidemics and pandemics.
This transfer of pathogens in mobile phones raises a serious health problem. The risk is that infectious pathogens can be spread through telephones within workplaces – including medical and food-handling environments – and on public transportation, cruise ships, and airplanes.
Currently, mobile phones are largely neglected from a biosecurity perspective, so they are likely to help spread of viruses like the flu and covid-19.
What 56 studies say
A group of experts has reviewed various studies published in magazines that analyze microbes found on mobile phones and published these findings in the 'Journal of Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease'. Specifically, they analyzed a total of 56 studies, carried out in 24 countries around the world between 2005 and 2019.
Most of the studies looked at bacteria found on phones, and several also looked at fungi. Overall, research found that on average the 68% of mobile phones were contaminated.
This number is likely to be less than the actual value, as most studies aimed at identify only bacteria and, in many cases, only specific types of bacteria, collects 'Science Alert'.
Health and biosecurity
Contaminated mobile phones pose a real biosecurity risk, according to these experts, allowing pathogens easily cross borders.
Viruses can live on surfaces for hours to days or weeks. If a person is infected with coronavirus, it is very likely that your mobile phone is also contaminated. The virus can spread from the phone to other people through direct or indirect contact.
If a person is infected with covid-19, it is very likely that their mobile phone is also contaminated with the coronavirus
The mobile phones and other touch screen systemsAs with airport check-in counters and in-flight entertainment displays, they may have contributed to the rapid spread of covid-19 worldwide.
The Phones are almost ideal carriers of disease. We use it to talk, depositing microbes through drops. We often have them with us while we eat and the reservoir of nutrients that help microbes thrive. Many people use them in the bathroom and on the toilet, leading to faecal contamination.
Although phones are exposed to microbes, most of us take them almost everywhere: at home, at work, shopping, or on vacation. In addition to this, we rarely clean or disinfect them. These data suggest that nearly three-quarters of people have never cleaned their phones.
Clean your phone
While government agencies provide guidelines on basic practices for effective hand hygiene, there is little focus on the practices associated with the use of mobile phones or other touch screen devices. People use their mobile phones on average three hours a day. Unlike hands, mobile devices are not washed regularly.
The researchers' recommendation is that mobile phones and other touch screen devices be decontaminated daily, using an alcohol spray 70% isopropyl or other disinfection method.
These decontamination processes must be applied especially in key industries of services, such as food handling businesses, schools, bars, cafes, senior centers, cruises, airlines and airports, medical care.