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iPhone, BlackBerry, Droid: purveyors of pestilence

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Your smartphone or touchscreen tablet is not your friend — not with flu season approaching.

"If you're sharing the device, then you're sharing your influenza with someone else who touches it," warns Stanford University doctoral student Timothy Julian, discussing deadly digital disease-delivery devices with The Sacramento Bee.

Julian was a co-author of a virus-transmission study in Risk Analysis, published by the sure-to-be-the-life-of-the-party guys 'n' gals at the Society for Risk Analysis.

The study by Julian and his band of bug boffins determined that viruses can easly be transmitted by touch — so stop sharing your phone, especially if the person to whom you're about to pass it has rheumy eyes, a raspy voice, or just coughed into their sleeve.

"If you put virus on a surface, like an iPhone, about 30 per cent of it will get on your fingertips," Julian warned, noting that "a fair amount of it may go from your fingers to your eyes, mouth or nose."

Or, as the abstract for his study describes his team's research methodology: "We develop a stochastic-mechanistic model of exposure to rotavirus from nondietary ingestion iterated by simulated intermittent fomes-mouth, hand-mouth, and hand-fomes contacts."

A "fomes", by the way, is the singular of "fomites", which our dictionary defines as "objects or materials that are likely to carry infection, such as clothes, utensils, and furniture."

Or your iPhone, Droid, BlackBerry Torch, iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, or any number of other 21st-century touchscreen plague rats.

Although Julian's study focused on viruses, bacteria also have an affinity for phones. After testing 30 mobile handsets, Which? magazine determined: "Mobile phones can harbour on average 18 times more living bacteria than a flush on a gents' toilet."

Although the Which? testing discovered the highest crud count to be of relatively benign bugs, their "hygiene expert" also turned up other lovelies such as "faecal Coliforms (often associated with faecal matter) and Enterobacteriaceae (which includes bugs such as Salmonella)."

Of course, where there is danger, there is also opportunity — and the accessorizers at Proporta have carped the diem, and added disease defense to their portfolio: the steriTouch line of bug-busting cases for the iPhone and iPod.

A Proporta spokesperson told the Bee: "The filthiest things we encounter on a regular basis are computer keyboards and our mobile phones," claiming with jaw-dropping pathogenetic precision that the average mobile phone has 25,127 germs per square inch.

The conclusion is clear: your touchscreen phone or tablet — or that of your closest mate — is a seething caldron of infectious evil. Touch it, then touch your own sweet self, and pestilence awaits. ®

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