Report: iPhone, iPad glass crawling with bacteria and viruses

During the winter months in most of the world, you can see pump bottles of antibacterial gel scattered around most businesses as workers and visitors try to keep their hands free of pathogens. Now, a spate of suspiciously similar news items today are warning that the glass screens on iPhones, iPads, and iPods can harbor bacteria.

While that's kind of a big "Duh!" moment -- after all, who hasn't looked at a smeary iPad screen and wondered what kind of bugs are multiplying on the glass -- British researchers in one study found that mobile phones carry 18 times more bacteria than a flush handle in a men's room. Ewwwww. For viruses that have taken up residence on iPhone screens, a single touch can easily transfer them to your fingertips, which then pass the viruses to your eyes, mouth, or nose. Hello, flu!

This isn't something new; the New York Daily News swabbed four iPads in NYC Apple Stores in June, and lab results found Staphylococcus aureus (a common source of staph infections), Candida parapsilosis (a yeast), and Corynebacterium minutissimum (a common source of skin rashes). There are just so many people handing Apple devices at the stores in a typical day that it's almost impossible for them to not pick up bacteria of some sort.

How can you keep yourself from being overrun by disease vectors while using mobile electronics? There are a couple of ways. First, don't share your phone or iPad with others. That's more easily said than done in households with small children, for who Mom and Dad's phones and iPads are just another toy. Second, try to keep the screen clean by using approved cleaning sprays and wipes on a regular basis. For example, I use the Apple-approved iKlear spray and wipes on my iPad and iPhone. Finally, if you do touch a device that has been used by many other people, wash your hands thoroughly after use or use a sanitizing gel.

The reports coming out today might give you pause about handling your iToys, but using a little common sense and regular hygiene practices should keep you from contracting an infection from your devices.