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Your keyboard could be dirtier than a toilet (Sanitation Pathways)

posted 15 Aug 2013, 05:46 by Sekuma Peter   [ updated 15 Aug 2013, 05:47 ]
Every day, our bodies fight trillions of germs from the most unlikely places writes Richard Wetaya . A toilet, to most people, is one of the dirtiest places imaginable. But do you know that your computer’s keyboard could actually be dirtier than a toilet? A recent study by microbiologists at the University College of London revealed that computer keyboards harbour more bacteria than a toilet seat. 
The microbiologists deduced that one of the leading causes of dirt on keyboards was users eating food, leaving crumbs at their desk, which encourages the growth of bacteria.  
And it is not just keyboards. Many of the things we touch are actually dirtier than a toilet. Abudullah Ali Halage, a lecturer at Makerere University School of Public Health, says recent research has shown that poor hygiene habits, not toilets, account for 75% of Uganda’s disease burden. 
On any given day, our bodies fight against trillions of tiny invaders from various contaminated sources within our environment. 
“We are products of dirty environments where disease-causing germs easily live and spread. Ignorance makes our situation worse. People should know that it is not only toilets that spread germs.
Though the toilet is dirty, there are many other potential germ carriers, we come across as we go about our daily routines,” Halage says.
Door knobs/handles
That door handle you touch every day at home or at the office could leave you with an illness if you are not cautious.       
“Door knobs are invariably touched by many people so they are disseminators of germs. Somebody may wash his or her hands regularly but re-infection is easy,” Rudolf Buga, a microbiologist at the School of Public Health, Makerere, says. 
Peter Bwire, a chapati seller in Kampala, touches dirty surfaces, paper bags and old tattered money notes as he makes and sells his chapattis. 
Asked if he washes his hands after touching money, he answers: “Few of my clients ask me to wash hands before I serve them. I have also never seen any public health official coming here to caution me on hygiene. All I do is receive money and pack chapatis for my clients,” he says.
Money, like many other items we touch and use every day, can be a hazardous source of contamination. Once it is in circulation, different unclean hands contaminate it with disease causing micro-organisms. 
It has never occurred to Bwire that money is a carrier of germs and bacteria. “Most times, the money I get is old, dirty and tattered. Some of it may be clean, but I mostly care about whether it is real or fake,” he says. 
“Women are fond of bags, but bags can expose one to infection,” Mbale-based dermatologist, Catherine Onyait says.
“Ladies handbags are constantly looked through, yet they are rarely washed. It is the same hands that then touch different surfaces. The risk of passing on different germs or infections through them is high,” Onyait says.
  She adds that leather handbags may have the greatest bacterial infestation. This is because their texture absorbs bacteria like a sponge, providing the ideal conditions for bacteria of all kinds to spread and thrive.
“We touch dirty taxi seats day in, day out, and they are not safe, given the fact that many people use them and they are hardly ever washed,” Buga explains. Before you munch on anything after leaving the taxi or bus, wash your hands with soap first. 
“A sneeze or cough sprays a mist of germ-laden droplets in the air and on surfaces or objects that people use during the course of their work, for example, computer keyboards,” Buga explains.
Once a computer keyboard has germs, anyone who uses it runs a risk of catching an infection. As with office environments everywhere, keyboards are often shared among workmates.
This is one of the reasons why your keyboard might have more germs than a toilet seat. 
Office cups
That office coffee and tea cup you are so inclined to could also expose you to germs and bacteria. Trasias Mukama, a public health researcher, says up to 18% of office cups carry thousands of bacteria.
The source of these bacteria, Mukama says, lies in those hard-to-disinfect cleaning sponges and scrubs in the kitchen. 
“Before you take your tea or coffee, make sure not only your hands, but your cup or mug is properly washed,” Mukama says. It is preferable to wash cups with hot water and soap or detergent to ward off germs.
While you carry out your transactions at that ATM, watch out not just for thieves, but for germs as well, Buga cautions. 
  “Because our ATMs are regularly touched by many people yet they are rarely cleaned, you could be running a health risk if you do not wash your hands after using it. Money also has germs on it. To be safe, one can carry a hand sanitiser to rub one’s hands with after using the ATM,” Buga says.