GermaPhones: How your phone spreads the flu

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - This flu season is inescapable, and you could be getting it from your cell phone.

The flu is a virus that spreads every year. However, the timing, the severity, and how you get the flu can shift. Experts say people are attached at the hip to their phones, which are a breeding ground for germs.

The Director of the Medical Lab Science Program at Georgia Southern's Armstrong campus, Dr. Keith Belcher, says we are all guilty of taking our phones to the bathroom, kitchen, wherever - and then putting it to our face.

"Like anybody else, it's kind of part of me," Belcher said.

To see just how grimy phones can be, WTOC brought in a scientist who swabbed Dawn Baker's and David Klugh's phones to see whose is filthier.

'They're both equivalently germy. Both had colony counts that were too numerous to count. We also found bacillus, and we found staph," Belcher said.

However, neither of the two were as foul as something else we use every day: the bathroom.

"The most disgusting was the bathroom door. It's the typical bacteria you would find in your gut, so what it's telling us is some people don't wash their hands when they leave the bathroom," Belcher said.

He recommends you wash your hands, but don't stop there. When you grab a paper towel, keep it in your hand, grab the handle, and then throw it in the trash as you walk out of the bathroom.

Before every flu season, the CDC analyzes flu strains and selects the most popular strain for the flu shot. This year, that prediction was wrong. Belcher says this is no fault of the CDC because flu viruses mutate and change.

"You might predict one thing, but the outcome could be different, and that's what happened this year," he explained.

WTOC's Danielle Lewan asked Belcher, 'So right now, if I pick up my phone, and I'm talking on it, then I pause and I sneeze on it...if I have the flu and I give this phone to you, are you going to get the flu?'

"There is potential that you could contract the flu. It may be able to subsist, in a non-living state, on the surface of that phone for a very long period of time," Belcher said.

When it comes to flu season and you use the bathroom, water fountain, and touch your phone over a thousand times each day, Belcher says the number way to combat the flu is wash...your...hands. He adds, "when in doubt. Wash your hands."

After reading this story, many of you are probably running to clean your phone. You can use any disinfectant as cleaner, but make sure you DON'T spray the phone directly. Rather, spray a cloth or Q-tip first and then clean. Scientists and doctors recommend you clean your phone at least once a week.

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