A shared computer: A fomite transmission route of viruses in the indoor environment

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, March 2020, Volume 3, #102

It is documented in the literature that people touch their faces at least more than 20 times within an hour. What does this mean? The risk of every human in transferring viruses and other microbial pollutants to their nose, eyes, mouth, and other parts of their face is more than 20 times per hour. Of particular concern is that most of the hand to face contacts occur unconsciously.

Unfortunately, human hands inevitably touch many surfaces, especially in the indoor environments, that may be contaminated with biological, chemicals, and particle pollutants. Thus, surface, otherwise known as fomite transmission route, is a major route of viruses becoming contagious. This is of greater concern during a contagious virus outbreak.

If someone infected with coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, sneezes, or coughs, droplets containing the contagious viruses will be deposited on surfaces, and the deposited viruses could stay viable for hours or even days, especially when the environment is conducive to the viability of viruses.

Indoor environments, especially the air-conditioned environments, create such a conducive situation for viruses to be viable for days – Refer to an article in this journal referenced Volume 3, #99 (February 2020). The probability of having a higher concentration of contagious viruses on a surface will be higher if the infected person stays and sneezes or coughs repeated at the surface for an extended period.

What kind of activities would make one stay close to a particular surface for an extended period? One example is the use of a computer. Imagine in an educational institution where sharing of institution computers among students is very common, and someone infected with the coronavirus – SARS-CoV-2 – sneezes and coughs repeated on one of the school keyboards and mouses for several hours.

Hours and days later, several students will use the same keyboard and mouse, and unknowingly touch the viruses and transfer them to their noses, eyes, and mouths through frequent hand to face contacts.

Such a scenario would increase the risk of students being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID 19 if the institution administrators did not identify the potential source of hazard and vulnerability of students using the institution shared computers. So, if you have to share a computer, sanitize the monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc., before usage.

Most importantly, get hand sanitizer ready as you may not have the luxury of washing your hands regularly. Try not to touch your face as much as you can. Take care of yourself, stay safe to protect people around you.

Do you want to know more about this topic? Read La Rosa et al. (2013), Kwok et al. (2015), Stobnicka et al. (2018), and Xiao et al. (2017) papers.

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