By Andrea Pyka
Contributing Writer

To protect yourself from the worst flu season in four years, toss aside those pricey herbal remedies and look to the root of the virus-spreading factor, your computer keyboard.

A recent report from National Public Radio (NPR) revealed that a computer keyboard can contain twice as much bacteria as a toilet seat.

According to the American Society for Microbiology, a computer keyboard can house flu and cold germs for several weeks, during which the virus can easily spread from person to person.

To help combat the flu bug, Seal Shield, a corporation that specializes in manufacturing washable computer devices, recently released an antimicrobial keyboard.

Scott Filion, vice president of sales for Seal Shield, said that the idea to create a dishwasher-safe keyboard originally stemmed from the demand for disinfectant solutions within the healthcare market.

“Hospitals began using alcohol, bleaches and other disinfectants on their keyboards, but that isn’t enough,” Filion wrote in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press.

Filion explained that the hidden areas between the keys make keyboards ideal breeding grounds for bacteria. He said that in order to protect the public from contracting a virus, the keyboard needs to be both washable and antimicrobial.

According to Filion, the washable keyboard, which utilizes nanotechnology, contains miniature glass cylinders that encase the essential antimicrobial component, silver ions. These nano-particles are embedded in the keyboard’s plastic outer covering that release the virus-killing ions upon contact with water or moisture.

Additionally, the keyboards — which can be purchased from most computer dealers — have small designated holes that allow liquids of up to 140 degrees to pass through and disinfect the area under the keys.

Other computer companies, including Unotron and Adesso, are following in Seal Shield’s footsteps by offering similar washable keyboards. However, according to the Seal Shield website, many of these antimicrobial keyboards are not washable and contain a thin coating of antimicrobial solutions that can begin to wear off after a few years.

“Many companies [are] incorporating silver ion technologies into their products, so the concept isn’t completely new, [but] our tests were more focused on culture-testing different types of bacteria on the surface,” Filion said.

While Seal Shield continues to change the face of computer technology, Filion hopes that the antimicrobial keyboard will help fight infections that thrive in the tight quarters at schools and workplaces. Seal Shield plans to expand their line of antimicrobial products to include remote controls, handheld phones, pens and computer mice, Filion added.

“Any component you can think of that is shared by multiple people should be antimicrobial and washable,” Filion said. “It is the age of the germophobe.”

_For more information about the Silver Seal antimicrobial and washable keyboard visit www.sealshield.com._

_For breaking health and science-related news, read CHP’s “Did you know?” section for a look into little-known and interesting facts about the health and science world._