Our worlds have been turned upside down, as millions of people have set up their desks in their apartments and houses to do their jobs while working from home during the pandemic. Those work areas, though, may be dirty. And that may be a problem.
NBC News investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen tested for invisible living cells on her computer, mouse and desk at home to find out just how many germs had infiltrated the area.
She used a device to swab and take samples from each spot, with a number score as a result. The higher the number, the dirtier the surface. High-touch hospital surfaces are expected to be under 100 and Vicky’s desk score of 7,506 was more than 75 times that figure.
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Some of Vicky’s colleagues on the consumer investigative team reported numbers higher than hers, including one person who scored more than 12,000. The keyboard proved to have the most germs, averaging more than 6,100.
Conversely, Vicky’s desk at work at 30 Rock proved much cleaner. She performed the same tests and the keyboard was again the dirtiest, although at a much cleaner 251.
All of this testing may make you wonder what kind of bacteria is lurking on these surfaces. Vicky and her team collected samples and took them to Columbia University microbiologist Dr. Susan Whittier, who said she found “a lot of different types of bacteria, most of which are normal.”
Whittier identified eight kinds of microorganisms living on the desks. Most were harmless, although one proved to be an exception: a bacteria called staphylococcus aureus.
“It certainly could cause an eye infection. It causes skin infections, soft tissue infection. So that was rather surprising,” Whittier said.
The good news is we are not helpless when it comes to minimizing germs in a workspace. Whittier recommends cleaning it twice a week with soap and water or a disinfectant wipe, with an emphasis on those areas you touch most frequently, such as a mouse or keyboard.
You should also make a point not to eat at your desk and keep pets away from your workspace. Also, do not be alarmed by what may be by your workspace.
“I don't want anybody to be a germaphobe. We’re surrounded by bacteria. We're covered in bacteria. It's normal,” Whittier said.