Author: Gudrun Westermann
London, 21 – 22 February 2018
Keyboards – often used, hardly ever cleaned
This was the third Infection control and decontamination conference organised by Markets and Markets and like the previous years, took place just outside of London near Heathrow Airport.
In the keynote speech Prof. Peter Wilson from UCLH NHS Foundation Trust in London reported on the risks of infection transmission by keyboards and hand held devices, such as smart phones or tablets. Such devices and keyboards were used in hospitals by several persons but were rarely cleaned.
Wilson reported on studies into the characteristics of various keyboards amenable to cleaning. The findings demonstrated that users preferred normal keys. Smooth surfaces were less popular, covers were often removed and were thus less suitable.
Investigations into the microbial counts and survival of MRSA on various keyboard components had revealed that these should be cleaned at least every 12 hours since otherwise the microbial counts increased. The height of the keys impacted the cleaning results; fluorescence studies had identified problem areas, e.g. the raised parts on keys F and J, which had been fitted for orientational purposes for visually impaired users.
Alarm functions were designed to remind users in the hospital setting of the need for cleaning. Acoustic alarms or flashing lights were often ignored or overridden. A new software had been introduced with a new window that disabled further activity. This had in fact resulted in a reduction of the microbial counts on keyboards.
Wilson continued by speaking about the problems associated with touchscreens. The main issue here was not the screen – which was very smooth, enabling easy removal of microorganisms – but rather the housing. Studies were carried out on the use of silver coating to help reduce microbial counts.
Wilson concluded that keyboards and hand held devices had high microbial counts. The problem was compounded by increasing numbers of users. In most cases hand hygiene was not observed before or after using the devices. But even simple measures considerably reduced the microbial count.
Read more in Steri-World Issue 02/18.