Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dirty Keyboards and Sick Children

During one particularly bad flu and cold season several years back, my building had 3-5 kids missing from most of our classes due to a nasty virus that was going around. I was standing in the computer lab listening to the kids coughing and sneezing. I watched one young man sneeze. He shielded his face from the kids on either side of him and directed the stream of germs right onto the keyboard. He wiped his hands on his pants and continued typing. Besides getting grossed out, I started thinking about how germs are spread.

We started talking to the kids the next day in the technology department about washing their hands and explained that like their hands, the keyboard was one way to transfer the cold and flu virus. I bought some wipes and we started cleaning the keyboards daily. If I had a student who was actively coughing, I made sure that keyboard got cleaned before the next child sat down. I was lucky to have a sink in one of the labs and was always making the kids wash their hands. A lot.

I don't know if it helped limit the overall spread of disease in our school, but after that, I got sick less. I was reminded of this event by this post on ars technica: Study: keyboards make excellent homes for nasty bacteria. I love this quote from the article:
"...several keyboards were highly contaminated, and at least one was removed on the scientist's advice as it harbored four times the amount of harmful bacteria compared to a toilet seat"
I never used the toilet analogy with my students and staff before but I will from now on. I can hardly wait to put together my new graphic.

[Note: This story seems to have gained some momentum since I read it last week. Here are some related posts from ABC news.
[Image:Uploaded on March 9, 2006 by Lawrence Whittemore: Creative Commons]

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