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Why You Shouldn’t Touch Shared Surfaces

The best way to avoid getting sick from a shared surface is to not touch it in the first place.

Touching a contaminated surface can spread disease. The science confirms this.

How long can pathogens remain infectious on surfaces?

• Hepatitis and Rotavirus: months (Boone 1689)
  • Strep and Pneumonia Bacteria: days (Marks 1142)
  • Influenza Virus: days (Oxford 424)
  • SARS-Cov-2 Virus (COVID-19): hours or days (Goldman page 893, Riddell 6, Labos 3)

Many pathogens are believed to spread through aerosols or respiratory droplets (Bazant 1) and contaminated surfaces (fomites) (CDC 2021a). CDC urges frequent hand washing and provides disinfecting guidelines (CDC 2021b), but disinfection may require a dwell time of up to five minutes between uses (EPA List N) and cannot always be trusted (Santos 36, Ribeiro 750). Frequent use of hand sanitizers carries serious health risks (Mahmood 1), and CDC has found no evidence of enhanced protection from antimicrobial coatings (CDC 2019).

An infected person can contaminate an ATM, kiosk or voting machine by coughing, sneezing or even just talking, and subsequent contact carries risk (Boone 1687). People on average touch their face every three or four minutes, completing the path for transmission (Nicas 348).

Surface transmission may be responsible for as many as one in four coronavirus post-lockdown deaths (Meiksin 1). Even fecal bacteria has been found on many touchscreens (Ziemianski 2).

The safest way to use an ATM, kiosk, credit card or voting machine, keypad or shared tablet is to not touch shared surfaces.

(see also Quotations and References)