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Hand hygiene: What's lurking on your computer keyboard?

By Hilda Ben | 59th Medical Wing Hand Hygiene Compliance Team | April 3, 2014

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO- LACKLAND, Texas — When was the last time you cleaned your computer keyboard?

Chances are you don't remember because keyboards are among the most neglected items when it comes to maintaining a germ-free workplace. Essential to our work, we can't stop using keyboards just because they are a breeding ground for bacteria and germs.

Keyboards and mice are often used by more than one person. For health care professionals, they are the means by which to access patient records, view and edit patient information, and give readily available results to other medical providers. The problem is sharing these peripherals is an easy way to transmit harmful bacteria among unsuspecting patients and other health care workers.

Several studies were conducted to determine the impact computers are having on the transmission of germs between patients and health care workers. In one study at a large medical center, 100 computer keyboards in 29 clinical areas were evaluated. Bacteria and fungi growth was discovered on approximately 95 percent of the keyboards sampled. In another study, a contaminated keyboard was linked to two patients who were infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Germs are on all computer keyboards. The good news is that with proper hand hygiene and cleaning habits, the spread of bacteria and germs can be prevented.

Here are some simple steps you can take to help prevent the spread of bacteria:
- Health care workers should practice clean their hands before and after patient contact.
- Avoid touching computer keyboards with contaminated hands or gloves.
- Clean keyboards with a disinfectant wipe daily.
- If used, make sure the keyboard cover can be easily cleaned.

For more information about hand hygiene, call the Hand Hygiene Compliance Team at 210-292-7803.