Can You Get the Flu From Your Cell Phone?

01/27/2013

Cell phones and flu season photo

The CDC says that the seasonal flu virus is decreasing in some parts of the country, but still increasing in other parts. By most accounts we’re still in the midst of a pretty nasty flu season, widespread in nearly every state in the nation except for Hawaii, Tennessee, and Georgia. 

Most recently, AT&T’s chief medical officer has warned that cell phones are another means of spreading the flu. Dr. Geeta Nayyer says that people should use hands-free headsets whenever possible, clean their phones regularly, and avoid talking on their phones in the restroom, according to the AP.

Easier said than done considering that 320 million people use cell phones in the U.S. and 50 million of us are heavily addicted to our smartphones. Even worse, of 1,000 people surveyed, 75 percent admitted to using their cell phones in the restroom. 

"Cellphones are 10 times as dirty as a toilet seat," Chuck Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, told ABC News, reported on Yahoo.

We take these addictive devices with us nearly everywhere we go including the gym, office, and even to bed. 

"If you don't share a cellphone you don't have to worry because it's only your germs," said Gerba on Yahoo. "But if one person has the flu virus on their hands, it will be on the hands of 40 percent of the other people in the office within four hours."

Once hands with flu virus contaminants touch your cell phone, the virus spreads from droplets made when people with the virus cough, sneeze, and talk. Most healthy people are contagious one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days after. Dry winter air makes flu transmission easier.

Photo Credit: Rayes/Thinkstock  

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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