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Touch Screens, Cell Phones Can Make You Sick

Your electronic devices, according to two new studies, have the potential to make you very sick.

A recent study from the Journal of Applied Microbiology says viruses can easily be transferred from nonporous glass surfaces, such as the touch screen of an iPhone -- up to 30 percent of a virus can be transferred from the screen of your device to your fingers.

A separate British study says mobile phones are covered with up to 18 times more bacteria than a toilet handle.

CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton demonstrated with baby powder how easily germs can be passed onto your device.

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Video Series: Dr. Ashton's Health and Wellness

Ashton explained, "Imagine these are germs, bacteria or viruses. You see how you touch your phone all day long. Before long, it is covered with bacteria, viruses, germs.

"You know, we live in an environment that's not clean, but when you talk about putting something like this near your face or touching it all day long and putting your fingers to your nose and mouth, you can see how easy it is. ... If you hand someone your phone or put it down and don't clean your hands, you see how this is a petri dish."

Ashton said people can catch any number of bugs, from cold and flu viruses to E. coli and norovirus.

"Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith joked, "Try to keep your iPhone off a side of beef."

"Right," Ashton said. "I actually saw a patient who got MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) from their phone."

Smith said, "OK. OK. I should be taking this more seriously."

Ashton replied, "Exactly."

So what can you do?

Ashton suggests:

Special Cleaners: To clean your product, you can wipe them down with special wipes you can buy at an electronics store. They also have cleaners you can buy if you're concerned about damage.
I'd also recommend wipe down your regular phones and work areas with sanitizing wipes.

Basic Hand Washing: Wash your hands with soap and water. Wash them for at least 15 seconds or as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday." You can also use a hand sanitizer as well.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth -- and don't forget to cover your cough and sneezes.

With children in mind, Ashton added parents should clean their electronics as often as possible.

She said, "Listen, you can't live your life in a sterile environment and certainly day-care centers are ripe with germs, also, but you want to be aware that you do pick these things up from somewhere. If you hand one of these to your toddler to occupy while you are doing something, they can get sick from these so keep them clean. I wipe mine down with alcohol; I try to, once a day."

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