January 04, 2012, 3:42 PM — Is ignorance bliss? Or is forewarned forearmed?
If you are aware of a situation that is unquestionably gross and could threaten your health, but has so far caused no obvious problems, should you be allowed to continue ignoring it, despite knowing the risk?
Yes, of course. There are so many unacknowledged risks to modern life that simply acknowledging each individually would halt all forward progress, stall the economy, halt the creation of jobs and…well, never mind.
The point is that nearly everyone willing to spend time at work reading up on things that are interesting rather than those relevant to their jobs already know that the filthiest, most disease-ridden thing they touch all day is not a subway platform, a toilet a rest-room-door or an investment banker.
The germiest thing most office workers touch all day is the thing they're touching all day – their computer keyboard.
Today a startup called Vioguard announced it got FDA approval for a device the company said can kill up to 99.9 percent of pathogens using ultraviolet light.
'99.99%' effectiveness is more like 67% even when Vioguard funds the studies
The truth is probably less bright.
A clinical study published in the American Journal of Infection Control (June, 2011) found the Vioguard product only 67 percent effective at eliminating pathogens and did not eliminate the need to clean the keyboard by hand.
Vioguard – launched by a couple of former Microsoft hardware designers – has been selling the self-(mostly)sanitizing keyboard to consumers for around $900.
Now, with the FDA approval, it is pitching the keyboard for use in hospitals, which are to the infectious-diseases world what Kenya is to world-class marathoning.
Hospitals tend are filled with people sick, among other things, with bacteria, viruses, prions and other invisible pathogens that are far more successful at making humans sick than those that infect people who don't end up in the hospital.
That alone would guarantee hospitals are a great source for the most virulent bugs.
Germs compete, evolve and survive in exactly the same way larger organism do, however.