We often talk about live animals, people and vehicles as being the highest risk for introducing disease to a farm operation. But what about smart phones as a fomite? Scientists at the University of Arizona found that smartphones had ten times more bacteria than most toilet seats.1 While many of the microorganisms on a smartphone are harmless, some can be pathogenic, such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), E. coli and rotaviruses.2
Porcine rotavirus and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) are responsible for acute diarrhea in young pigs. Moreover, rotaviruses were considered the primary cause of diarrhea outbreaks in young pig herds in Brazil.3,4
Farm workers, veterinarians and other visitors can inadvertently transfer harmful microorganisms by bringing smartphones into the clean area of a barn. In a sample of 115 cell phones, the prevalence of Staphyloccus aureus MRSA was 20%. Sixty-six percent of the infected phones were owned by swine veterinarians.5
Hands are the biggest culprit for transferring microorganisms onto smartphones. It is estimated that, on average, each person touches their mobile up to 200 times a day, providing plenty of opportunity for microorganisms to move from fingers to the device.
Hands are the biggest culprit for transferring microorganisms onto smartphones. It is estimated that, on average, each person touches their mobile up to 200 times a day,6 providing plenty of opportunity for microorganisms to move from fingers to the device. While hand washing is a critical practice in preventing movement of transient microorganisms, it’s also often not done properly, with agriculture being no exception. A 2011 study observed via video surveillance that of 552 visits to poultry barns, 436 (79%) had inadequate handwashing.7
It’s hard to imagine agriculture without smartphone technology. Continuing to improve farm management and using tools such as smartphones depend on taking the necessary precautions.
Bringing smartphones into the clean area of a swine or poultry facility should be limited and controlled. If a device must be brought in, it should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Any object that can carry pathogens from dirty to clean areas are a disease risk. Systems that rely on smartphones being used at the door for entry pose a biosecurity risk. Tablets or smartphones used for management purposes must be dedicated to the clean side or live area of the barn, so they do not act as fomites for disease.
For more information about boosting your biosecurity, visit Farmhealthguardian.com.