A new study has found that shoppers using self-service checkout screens risk getting infected by bugs associated with fecal matter.
The investigation, led by researchers from the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON) in Liverpool England, collected swabs from everyday objects which are touched by multiple people. Self-service screens were found to contain fecal bacteria and microbes known to cause urinary tract infections (UTI). E.coli, known for inducing vomiting, was found on almost all surfaces.
Computer keyboards contained microbes causing UTI and other infections. Candida albicans—a bug that can cause yeast infections and is usually found in the gut, vagina, throat, and mouth—was found on an escalator handrail.
“The self-checkout samples had one of the highest bacterial loads, as we found five different types of potential disease-causing bacteria surviving on them,” Dr. Adam Roberts, chief researcher at iiCON, said in a statement, according to South West News Service.
“This included Enterococcus which is found in human feces, and while this is usually harmless, it can of course lead to disease, particularly in those who may have weakened immune systems.”
Bacteria like E.coli and klebsiella, which exist naturally in the intestines and feces, can cause “quite severe diseases” in human beings, Roberts said while stressing the importance of washing hands before and after eating when working with computers.
He also advised shoppers to regularly wash hands, especially if they have gone to the bathroom. If people do not wash hands frequently and get infected by such bacteria from these everyday objects, they risk transferring microbes to other objects and people, he warned.
The study is part of the Simple Things campaign supported by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) in Cheshire and Merseyside. The investigation was launched after it came to light that two-thirds of people were concerned about the potential spread of infectious diseases during the winter season.
The Simple Things campaign recommended washing hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds as one of the easiest ways to ensure you are protected against illnesses like flu, norovirus, common cold, food poisoning, and so on. In the absence of soap or water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is recommended.
Washing hands is advised every time when using a toilet, changing a nappy, preparing or handling food, blowing your nose or sneezing, touching animals or their belongings, before and after visiting a hospital, dealing with cuts or wounds, and touching surfaces that come into regular contact with multiple people.
In addition, Simple Things also supports regular sanitizing surfaces like handles, worktops, light switches, etc., that can become contaminated with germs.