By Wendy Sarubbi | January 7, 2013 11:15 am

Computer keyboards that allow us to literally communicate across the planet are also hosts to harmful and potentially deadly bacteria, especially in a health care setting. That’s why a Florida-based company recently donated infection-control computer products to the UCF College of Medicine that are so waterproof they can be cleaned with water and bleach.

“We’re here to help prevent the spread of germs and to save lives,” explained Ernest Coulouras, director of sales for Seal Shield, which manufactures keyboards, mice, TV remote controls and other common touch devices used in health care facilities, the workplace and at home.

Seal Shield recently donated 30 silicon keyboards to the UCF College of Medicine’s Anatomy Lab; 40 infection-control keyboards and mice to the Clinical Skills and Simulation Center; and 100 protective iPads sleeves to the Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library.

Seal Shield’s computer equipment contains a silver-based antimicrobial that protect the products from mold, mildew and the spread of microbial bacterial and viruses from the item’s surface. In addition, the equipment has patented waterproof technology that means it can be submerged in disinfectant and is even dishwasher safe if the water temperature does not exceed 140 degrees.

Keyboards and mice are breeding grounds for bacteria because they are in constant contact with human hands. You cough or sneeze and keep typing. You pet the dog and keep typing. You use the restroom or take out the garbage and then return to the computer. By some estimates, the average keyboard has 400 times more germs than the average toilet seat.

Keyboards in health care settings pose even higher risks of cross-contamination. Medical students touch keyboards during Anatomy Lab dissections. Health care providers touch keyboards after treating patients. Gloves may protect the student or provider, but they don’t keep bacteria from spreading to the computer keyboard. In fact, the American Journal of Infection Control reported in 2010 that a study at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu found that about 25 percent of the keyboards in their intensive-care unit contained the multidrug-resistant super bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus.

Seal Shield CEO and Chairman Bradley Whitchurch said the company wants to increase public awareness of the fact that computer keyboards and mice are a major source of cross contamination infections. “Our goal is to further the implementation and use of effective infection control products and protocols with the result of eliminating cross contamination infections in health care, the work place and the home,” he said.

The College of Medicine received the donation indirectly and through the help of a founding charter class scholarship donor Bill Dillard, who serves on the Seal Shield Board of Directors and the Orlando Health Foundation. A Seal Shield intern, who was a UCF alumnus, suggested the company provide test equipment to the university to use in science labs. UCF thought the equipment might be relevant to the new medical school’s state-of-the-art Anatomy Lab. Jennifer Parson, director of anatomical lab services, was eager to test it. During a subsequent tour of the medical school, Dillard saw a Seal Shield keyboard in the Anatomy Lab. He then worked with the company and Development Assistant Vice President Charles (Chip) Roberts to donate almost 200 pieces of equipment.

“I saw an opportunity for Seal Shield and the Dillard Family to fill a very important need by providing tools to increase prevention of infection in the Anatomy Lab and increase the awareness of our UCF students on the importance of infection prevention as their careers advance,” Mr. Dillard said. “It is an incremental step in focusing on a major problem in health care facilities of all types.”

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