Are Cell Phones a Source of Contamination?

Cell phones have become an essential means of communication worldwide and a major factor on the way jobs are performed.  Although cell phones have enabled us to perform various tasks, a study conducted on 226 Australian hospital staff members between January 2013 and March 2014 demonstrate that cell phones are potential sources for pathogenic bacteria in a hospital setting.  The study concluded that there may be greater contamination of cell phones used by junior medical staff, specifically interns.

Health care workers are to follow hygiene standards to prevent transmission of infection or bacteria to patients.  Most doctors and medical students in hospitals depend on cell phones as a source of communication, collaboration, and information sharing.  In this study, of the 226 samples taken from individual cell phones, 168 (74%) were contaminated with bacteria.  Out of 226 staff members, only roughly two-thirds reported cleaning their phones routinely utilizing alcohol wipes.  The study also showed that those who cleaned their cell phones with alcohol daily saw no growth of pathogens on their phone.  This raises the possibility that phones cleaned daily with alcohol wipes may reduce the chances of carrying pathogenic bacteria.

Cell phones are rarely cleaned and are often touched during or after examination of patients and handling of specimens without proper hand washing.  Guidelines for decontamination of cell phones with alcohol wipes alongside infection control procedures (i.e., hand hygiene) should be standard practice for everyone, especially in hospitals.  With frequent cleanings, you can feel a bit better about what’s on your phone’s surface.