It turns out that our phones can be incredibly dirty microscopically without us even knowing it. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus can be carried on fomites, increasing its transmissibility. Fomites are any inanimate object that can harbor an infection. Your phone could be one of these troublesome fomites.
In a 2006-2009 collection of studies, cell phones specifically were assessed to determine their risk of being contaminated with viruses, bacteria, or fungi. The study concluded that 68% of the mobile phones tested were positive for, “…bacteria but also viruses, fungi, and protozoa in the thousands,” according to Lotti Tajouri, one of the study authors. Although these studies were done before the advent of COVID-19, Mr. Tajouri and his team are convinced that, “…mobile phones are responsible for the rapid propagation of COVID-19.”
This is because although we usually take our cell phones with us wherever we go, not many of us take the time to properly sanitize them. This is particularly dangerous for a virus that can live on certain surfaces for days, and likely comes into contact directly or indirectly with many people every day, and is in close proximity to your nose and mouth often. It’s not like we wash our hands after every time we touch our cell phones. So think about how many things and people you touch in a day. This becomes a ripple effect that can be profound. In fact, Mr. Tajouri warns that, “no other type of everyday object can compete.”
So what can we do? Before you wash your hands, first wash your phone. Most of us wash our hands repeatedly throughout the day, so once this becomes a habit, you won’t even have to think about it anymore. It’s not like we can dunk our phones into hot soapy water, so how to we effectively disinfect them? Tajouri recommends thinking of your phone as your “third hand,” and “using a soft microfiber cloth with 70% alcohol.” Just to be safe, check with the manufacturer of your phone before you do this to make certain that the phone will tolerate it.
This is just one more way you can help to keep yourself and others safe during this time, and in the future.