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Virtual Reality can make you sick. I don’t mean sick from VR nausea but real life sickness.
How is this possible you ask?

VR Headsets are worn on your head. You lift them with your hands and place them onto your head.

Your eyes, nose, and ears are all in very proximity if not touching the headset. If someone before you wore it and was sick, then it's pretty likely you may get sick too.

Take me for example. I visited VRLA on Sunday and wore many a headset. Many of them were probably worn by 100s or even 1000s of people before me. Then by Tuesday, I had a terrible cold. Is this coincidence? Perhaps, but given this is my first cold in at least five years I find this unlikely.

Let’s delve into the possible diseases that spread by sharing VR headsets. Of course, this mostly applies to those in a public setting. At home, you can control who uses the device.

How do germs spread?

Germs spread in different ways. To catch an infectious disease, you first need to be exposed to a harmful bug. Then it needs to get on or into your body and act in its unique ways to cause disease. Our bodies are good at fighting infections; not everybody who is exposed to germs will get sick, but some will. Here are the most common ways to be exposed:

Touching. Some bugs live in body fluids like mucus, pus, and stool. Even the invisible drops released when people talk, cough, or sneeze can carry germs. Touching a contaminated surface or object, then touching your eyes, nose, mouth, a cut, or other openings in the body, can lead to an infectious disease.

What disease can I catch from a VR Headset?

What kind of highly infectious disease can be spread by sharing VR headsets?

The following are the most common infectious diseases and are usually transmitted by close contact with the saliva or nasal secretions from an infected individual:

  • Cold and Various types of Influenza, aka Flu
    Most commonly spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing. 

  • Strep Throat
    Strep throat is a contagious illness that is spread from person-to-person. It is usually transmitted by close contact with the saliva or nasal secretions from an infected individual

  • Various eye infections such as Pink eye
    Pink eye can be contracted numerous ways. You can contract viral or bacterial conjunctivitis simply by touching your eye after touching an infected surface or object such as a doorknob or shopping cart, or by using contaminated mascara or eye drops. Shaking hands or sharing towels and pillows with someone who is infected can also result in transmission of the disease.

  • Meningitis
    There are two types of Meningitis. Bacterial and viral. The bacteria variety can spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing. 

  • Head lice (Not a disease but certainly not pleasant)
    This little guy could be crawling on someone's head, then onto a VR strap, then onto your head.

I want to be infected. Where do I go?

Any public setting where VR headsets are shared is going to be a germ fest. Most people demonstrating the device do not disinfect the equipment between each use.
Chuck E. Cheese is already a place to take your kid to help build their immune system. Chuck E. Cheese last year added the rift to 29 locations including Dallas, San Diego, and Orlando.

Roger Cardinale, president of Chuck E. Cheese’s owner CEC Entertainment, says of the roll out:
“Kids today have unprecedented access to game consoles and tablets,”  “Our challenge is to deliver an experience not available at home, and there is no doubt virtual reality does just that. Oculus Rift technology is the next frontier in the gaming industry, and we’re thrilled to be able to say it’s part of the Chuck E. Cheese’s lineup.”
So there you have it. You probably see VR headsets in a whole new light. Think twice next time you pick up a VR headset to place onto your head. Better yet take some wipes with you and give it a quick clean first.
It's VR and therefore all worth it (sneezes)