Mobile phones as fomites for pathogenic microbes: A cross-sectional survey of perceptions and sanitization habits of health care workers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Abdulla Albastaki, Matthew Olsen, Hanan Almulla*, Rania Nassar, Syrine Boucherabine, Lobna Mohamed, Reem Almheiri, Barbara Kachigunda, Simon McKirdy, Rashed Alghafri, Lottie Tajouri, Abiola Senok

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

BACKGROUNDS: In 2022, smartphone use continues to expand with the number of smartphone subscriptions surpassing 6 billion and forecasted to grow to 7.5 billion by 2026. The necessity of these 'high touch' devices as essential tools in professional healthcare settings carries great risks of cross-contamination between mobile phones and hands. Current research emphasises mobile phones as fomites enhancing the risk of nosocomial disease dissemination as phone sanitisation is often overlooked. To assess and report via a large-scale E-survey the handling practices and the use of phones by healthcare workers.

METHODS: A total of 377 healthcare workers (HCWs) participated in this study to fill in an E-survey online consisting of 14 questions (including categorical, ordinal, and numerical data). Analysis of categorical data used non-parametric techniques such as Pearson's chi-squared test.

RESULTS: During an 8-h shift, 92.8% (n/N = 350/377) use their phone at work with 84.6% (n/N = 319/377) considering mobile phones as an essential tool for their job. Almost all HCWs who participated in this survey believe their mobile phones could potentially harbour microorganisms (97.1%; n/N = 366/377). Fifty-seven respondents (15.1%) indicated that they use their phones while wearing gloves and 10.3% (n/N = 39/377) have never cleaned their phones. The majority of respondents (89.3%; n/N = 337/377) agreed that contaminated mobile phones could contribute to dissemination of SARS-CoV-2.

CONCLUSION: Mobile phone use is now almost universal and indispensable in healthcare. Medical staff believe mobile phones can act as fomites with a potential risk for dissemination of microbes including SARS-COV-2. There is an urgent call for the incorporation of mobile phone sanitisation in infection prevention protocol. Studies on the use of ultraviolet-C based phone sanitation devices in health care settings are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-26
Number of pages8
JournalInfection, Disease and Health
Volume28
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2022

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