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Lunchtime working could make you sick

Keyboard meals could harm doctors and their patients

Lisa Hitchen

Thursday, 01 May 2008

Doctors might think twice about taking their lunch break over their computer keyboards after research has shown just how much the habit could affect their health.

And they might want to advise patients that keeping their keyboards clean could be one way to reduce their own infection rates.

The consumer organisation, Which? sent testers into its own London office to analyse bacteria samples taken from keyboards in January.

They tested 33 keyboards. Four were hazardous to health and one harboured 150 times the recommended limit of bacteria – more germs than found on one of Which?’s toilet seats in the same office.

Some of these bacteria could lead to users becoming infected with cold viruses or developing gastroenteritis or other complaints, said Dr Peter Wilson, a microbiologist from University College Hospital, London.

The most common reasons for growth in bacteria were people eating at keyboards and dropping food inside. Poor hygiene with not washing hands after a trip to the toilet might also be a factor, said Which?.

The survey also found just under half of the office workers surveyed cleaned their keyboards once a month with 10% saying they never did.

Which? computing editor Sarah Kidner said people should take proper lunch breaks away from their keyboards.

She advises on regular cleaning by turning keyboards upside down to shake out all the bits, and dusting and cleaning the surface with alcohol wipes.


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