What Is A Shared Device?
Shared devices are objects within a facility that are used by a variety of different people. Workplaces, hospitals, schools, libraries, airport, taxis, buses, internet cafes, crosswalks etc. all contain such devices. These are objects you likely use every single day! If you could visually see the bacteria on these items do you think you would touch them? Objects that have the ability to collect pathogens and bacteria, are known as “fomites.”
Why Are Shared Devices Fomites For Pathogens?
Think about how many people touch the items you touch every single day. Let’s talk about a scenario. You get picked up by an Uber and touch a shared seat belt. You arrive at the airport and touch the shared kiosk to check in to your flight. You use a shared pen to write your name and address on a luggage label. You place your hand on a shared escalator rail on your way to the top floor. You touch the shared bins while going through security. You purchase a muffin for later and touch the shared keypad to enter your pin. You sit at your gate and touch the shared arm rest. You board your flight and touch the shared handle of the overhead bin to store your luggage. You sit down and put on your shared seat belt and adjust your shared head rest. Then without thinking, out comes the muffin. Into your mouth.
Want another one? Your 11-year-old child goes to a local elementary school. There, they have shared desks, microscopes, computer labs, door handles, lockers, pencil sharpeners and so on. Some schools even have shared tablets these days. Did we mention he’s a 11-year-old boy hanging around a bunch of other 11-year-olds? Need we say more? Don’t get us started on pre-teen hygiene.
What is Being Done to Clean Shared Devices?
It really depends on the facility. Some have strict guidelines in place, others do not. But how often are menus cleaned at your favorite restaurant? Probably never. The pen you use to sign documents at the bank? Maybe once in a blue moon. Oh and what about those community toys at the pediatrician that your child is putting in his mouth?! We don’t really know, but why are they always sticky…? Some facilities use chemical wipes, some use cleaners, others are sticklers about employees washing their hands. These are all helpful, but they all have a few major flaws. The first is human error. How easy would it be to miss a spot on a menu? Another flaw is the nature of the cleaner: a.k.a.— almost all cleaners are liquid. Did you know on most disinfecting wipe bottles the instructions tell users to leave the surface wet for several minutes? Who does that?! And how well do your electronics hold up when doused in liquid?
How Long Do Pathogens Live On Objects?
Studies have shown that most gram-positive and many gram-negative bacteria can live on inanimate surfaces for months. Um. How long has it been since you sanitized the phone you are reading this on? These can include VRE, MRSA, E. coli and several types of strep. There are some viruses that can only survive for days on objects. However, the nastiest, spore-forming pathogens like C. diff can survive up to four months on surfaces. FOUR MONTHS.
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