Students should be cautious of keyboard cleanliness, study says

Shared computer labs are a breeding ground for bacteria


Reported by Kim Lau

According to a 2016 U.S. study, computer keyboards are over 20,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat.

And while the toilets at Langara are cleaned two to three times a day, the same cannot be said of the college’s lab computers.

In a study by Oregon-based CBT Nuggets, an IT training company, they found that keyboards contain over 3.5 million bacteria per square inch, while over the same surface area, the average toilet seat has 172. This can include such harmful bacteria as E. coli and streptococcus.

Gabriel Black, a second-year UBC medical student who works in Langara’s health services, said the study’s findings did not surprise him.

Keyboard caution

“Keyboards do have a lot of bacteria and germs on them. When you’re typing on the keyboard and also eating food at the same time, that’s a big way that you can end up swallowing bacteria that may cause some sort of gastrointestinal upset later down the line and other problems related to that,” Black said.

According to the U.K.’s health agency NHS, bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, can survive weeks.

Viruses such as the Norovirus can also remain infectious for weeks.

This means transfer between different computer users in a communal setting is possible.

Most Langara students will wash their hands after using washrooms – not necessarily after typing at the lab computers.

Wash your hands

Robert Axworthy, a business student, said the problem is made worse by hundreds of students sharing campus computers.

“It is kind of terrifying,” he said. “The keyboards we have at school that everybody shares, I’m probably sure they’re even more dirty than the average keyboard.”

Black said the single cheapest effective way is to clean your hands with a bar of soap and a sink, instead of hand sanitizer, which is slightly more expensive.

Health services, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control also warn about the overuse of hand sanitizer, stating it is not as effective as soap and water.

Hand sanitizer is installed around campus and in some computer labs for students and staff to use.

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