...your computer keyboard (or someone else's) could lay you low. Via Scott McPherson, a report that poses a big problem for computer-using educators like me. Excerpt:
A research paper was sent to me by alert blogger Robyn Klein, AHG herbalist, MSc. Medical Botany, and an adjunct instructor with the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology at Montana State University. Her blogsite is http://www.rrreading.com/index.html.
The paper is titled "Public computer surfaces are reservoirs for methicillin-resistant staphylococci", and the authors are Issmat I Kassem, Von Sigler and Malak A Esseili of the Laboratory for Microbial Ecology, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.
The following is just from the foreword!
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.
Of 24 keyboards surveyed, 17 were contaminated with staphylococci that grew in the presence of oxacillin (2mgl1). Methicillin (oxacillin)-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), -S. epidermidis (MRSE) and -S. hominis (MRSH) were present on two, five and two keyboards, respectively, while all three staphylococci co-contaminated one keyboard.
Furthermore, these were found to be part of a greater community of oxacillin-resistant bacteria. Combined with the broad user base common to public computers, the presence of antibiotic-resistant staphylococci on keyboard surfaces might impact the transmission and prevalence of pathogens throughout the community.
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.