Peter Hall, professor of public health and health systems at the University of Waterloo, has described phones as “portable petri dishes” that could contribute to the increase in cases of the virus, officially known as Covid-19.
Writing for The Conversation, he said we need “crowdsourcing strategies” that limit the ability of the infection to spread.
Epidemics such as Covid-19 can be prevented by increasing the prevalence of “precautionary behaviours” in the general population, he wrote.
As well as citing familiar advice such as washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth and avoiding contact with the infected, Hall also advocates for less obvious behaviours.
“Mobile device screens are portable petri dishes accumulating bacteria and viruses,” he wrote.
"Antibacterial wipes are necessary here, as they generally kill viruses as well.
"Clean your device at least twice daily, once at lunch and once at dinner time (or linked to another daily routine).”
A recent study by the Journal of Hospital Infection says viruses like Covid-19 may be able to persist for “up to nine days” on smooth glass and plastic surfaces.
Professor Devi Sirdhar of the University of Edinburgh agreed with the advice, telling Yahoo News: "Yes, I think that mobile phones given how often we touch them and use them with our hands are important to disinfect regularly."
But Professor Nicola Stonehouse, of The Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at Leeds University told Yahoo News that hand-washing is the most important measure.
“It is really important to wash hands properly, she said. “Washing your hands with soap and water is the most important thing and essential for infection control.
“If we are touching things with clean hands then we don’t need to worry.”
Hall also cites precautionary behaviours such as moderate exercise, adequate sleep and a balanced diet to keep your immune system healthy.
It is also advised to avoid touching your face, because your fingers are constantly in touch with surfaces that may contain viruses.
Meanwhile, surging demand for face masks sparked has caused a shortage in stores and online retailers, despite the fact that viruses can also transmit through the eyes and tiny viral particles, known as aerosols, can penetrate masks.
Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!
They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!
— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020
Masks are effective at capturing droplets, however, which are the main transmission route of coronavirus.
On Monday, America’s top doctor warned people to stop buying face masks, insisting they “are not effective in preventing” the spread of coronavirus.
Dr Jerome Adams, the surgeon general of the US, said people do not need to wear a mask if they are healthy or not caring for someone who is ill.
“Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!” he tweeted.
“They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if health care providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”