Pat Vickers' article "Techs can avoid cold/flu viruses by washing hands" examined the threat techs face from constant exposure to cold/flu germs on computers, keyboards, monitors, telephones, and mice. Pat also offered several suggestions to help techs stay healthy. In response to this information, TechRepublic members responded in force with personal experiences and suggestions. Unfortunately, due to the volume of feedback, it's not possible to publish every one of these responses. Instead, here's a sampling of member comments, presented in what I believe is the best balance of all the submissions.
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TechRepublic members respond
Kim G.: Beware of sticky keyboards"You can only imagine what lives in users' keyboards. Back in the days when I used to be a PC tech, I was disgusted at how filthy the keyboards and mice were. There would be clean spots on the keys users would use most, surrounded by caked-on, God-only-knows what. I remember one time I was replacing a keyboard, and it was full of crumbs. Definitely wash your hands."
Jeffery B. Afraid to touch anything
"Great discussion topic! 20/20 or 60 Minutes did a report on bacteria in the workplace and at several public environments. Several bacteria experts took samples out of restrooms, cash registers, escalators, doors, phones, computers, and other commonly touched areas. Know what they found? E. coli, feces, urine, and so on."Think about computer users. If you sneeze and don't have proper manners, where do the germs go? Right on the keyboard. If you cough and at least put your hand over your mouth, you then touch the mouse and keyboard."I work at a college, and believe me, some of the computers the students use you wouldn't want to touch with at least a 10-foot pole. For those of you who repair PCs, be careful of the dust inside of them as well. It can be just as unhealthy to breathe. I wash my hands after touching any computer because you don't know the cleanliness of the previous user. I haven't been sick in four years (knock on wood)."I don't think there's a quick and easy solution to this problem other than to carry around a backpack full of handiwipes. Just try to keep your hands off of your face and make sure you always wash your hands."
Benoit B. Let the user do the work
"I'm a network admin, and I support around 50 users. Many of them have kids in day care, and honestly, they are just walking germs. Every single day, someone different gets sick. Our flu season in our office lasts 12 months/year. I stopped touching users' computers. When they have a problem, I go to their office and I tell them what to do. This way, I avoid touching any infected items."
Don S.Keep it clean
"I also like to have users 'do the driving' while I'm teaching them a new technique, but I'm not a fanatic about it. I still think I can be more effective in problem solving if I sit down and handle the mouse and keyboard myself. However, I recognized long ago that frequent hand washing kept me healthier. I'd like to point out one item that I will not use unless absolutely necessary, and even then I'll clean it first-someone else's telephone. Just one look at some handsets' earpieces can turn my stomach! No way I'm putting that greasy, gross piece of plastic on my ear and cheek. Yucckk! Thank God for hands-free mode!"
John A. Concept applies to health professionals
"I currently work as a firefighter paramedic, and every day and every call to every home/building we respond to (since most of our calls are for sick people), we come in contact with other people and their physical personal items and take all their germs back to our station. So, since I currently am working towards a degree in CIS/MIS, I can see and I also believe that [Pat Vickers'] theory is true! Our sick time in the winter jumps through the roof. Just remember how bad last year's flu season was. All the hospitals were jammed for months with people in the halls waiting for beds. Experts are expecting the same this year, so wash, wash, wash!"
Louise R.: Hand washing best prevention
"As a nurse of 36 years, hand washing has always been the number one prevention to the spread of disease. I agree 100 percent!"
What steps are you taking to stay healthy this winter? How practical do you think these suggestions are?
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.