Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Condoms for Keyboards

Boy, that title should get some attention!

Crawford Kilian at H5N1 blog points to common vector of bacterial transmission: keyboards.

Current stories about MRSA -- the deadly antibiotic-resistant infections -- should give legs to this story. (Excuse the image...I couldn't resist.)

A paper he received made the point.
The role of computer keyboards used by students of a metropolitan university as reservoirs of antibiotic-resistant staphylococci was determined. Putative methicillin (oxacillin)-resistant staphylococci isolates were identified from keyboard swabs following a combination of biochemical and genetic analyses.

His comment:

This evening I used a computer in my classroom; it had been used all day by other teachers. We have computer labs all over campus where scores and hundreds of students bang away on keyboards before leaving them to still other students.

And while I've long been aware of the unpleasant look of "plaque," the dirt and grease we see on so many keyboards, I hadn't thought about the possibility of picking up a serious infection from just another public computer.

This is like the famous pump handle in London whose removal is said to have ended a cholera epidemic in the 19th century. If computer keyboards are vectors of disease, we're going to have to develop some new habits. Fast.

I blogged about this a couple of years ago.

Here is a link for washable keyboards.

One solution may be a "virtual Keyboard" (PDF link).

A search for "vinyl keyboard covers" turns up a lot of results. Here is one that looks good to me. I never thought about it, but I noticed several products made to protect keyboards from children...sticky fingers, snack foods, etc.

And if you don't mind a few sideways glances, disposable surgical gloves may be the way to go. Next time my computer goes down and I have to use those in the public library, I think that's what I'll do.

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