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Can I get the Coronavirus from my phone?

iPhone XS
iPhone XS (Image credit: iMore)

Coronavirus

Coronavirus (Image credit: Texas.gov)

What you need to know

  • The Coronavirus is spreading and little is known about it.
  • The CDC still has not confirmed how it is spread.
  • There are things you can do to clean your phone ... just in case.

We're hearing a lot about the recently-discovered Coronavirus in China. The respiratory virus that causes pneumonia was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, but has since been confirmed in a few states in the U.S. and around the world.

The public is still largely in the dark about how the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — AKA: 2019-nCoV — got its start, how it's transmitted, and the best way to treat it. Originally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that it was an animal-to-human transmission, but has since updated its report after confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission.

At this time, the CDC is saying this strain of the Coronavirus could be transmitted respiratorily, based on how SARS and MERS were transmitted from human to human in the past. That means if someone with the virus were to cough or sneeze, those pathogens may be transmitted to a person nearby.

The level of contagiousness is also unknown at this time. It may be easily spread, like the Measles, or it may be harder to spread. Even though the Coronavirus is considered to be a serious health risk, the CDC is saying the health risk in America is low at this time.

With the information we have at hand, it's not likely that your phone could be a carrier of the Coronavirus unless someone coughs or sneezes on it and you then hold your phone up to your face (because it's transmitted respiratorily). However, you might be thinking about how gross and germ-covered your iPhone is and what you can do to get rid of the sick.

What you can do

Mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads are often exposed to germs and viruses through direct or indirect contact. Luckily, you can clean your devices with everyday household items such as rubbing alcohol and cotton balls. We have a guide on how to clean your iPhone for more details.

You could also consider the UV germ-killing PhoneSoap.

Utah-based PhoneSoap (opens in new tab) says the average phone has 18 times more bacteria than a public restroom. There are many reasons for this. For one, we don't clean our mobile devices nearly as often as we should, and certainly less than we wash our hands. Second, thanks to the warmness of our phone's battery and the phone's storage in a pocket or purse, bacteria can thrive. And this says nothing about the airborne contaminant these devices can pick up on public places such as rail stations, airplanes, even the local food market, and more.

To better protect ourselves, PhoneSoap offers a series of cleaning tools that use UV-C light to kills 99 percent of household germs. It explains:

This UV-C light effectively destroys nucleic acids and breaks apart bacteria DNA. With their DNA broken, bacteria can't function or reproduce, and the organisms die.In nature, the UV-C light that causes this germicidal effect is harmful to our eyes but is blocked by Earth's atmosphere. In the PhoneSoap's controlled environment, UV-C light effectively and safely sanitizes your cell phone, as well as anything else that fits inside your PhoneSoap like remotes, keys, tablets, and more.

Noone is claiming PhoneSoap products can destroy the Coronavirus. However, multiple studies have shown UV-C light can have a deadly effect on microorganisms such as pathogens, viruses, bacteria, and others.

Besides, your phone is probably dirty and covered with germs. Why not just clean and disinfect it?

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.