9/27/11

Hospital privacy curtains -- a source of superbugs?

An earlier report indicated potential problems with health care uniforms contaminated by superbugs.  Now, it's privacy curtains.  

Researchers in Chicago reported this week that privacy curtains in hospitals are often contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria.

"There is growing recognition that the hospital environment plays an important role in the transmission of infections in the health care setting and it's clear that these (privacy curtains) are potentially important sites of contamination because they are frequently touched by patients and providers," Dr. Michael Ohl told Reuters Health.

Tests detected MRSA and VRE.  The study found significant contamination that occurred very rapidly after new curtains were placed.

"The vast majority of curtains showed contamination with potentially significant bacteria within a week of first being hung, and many were hanging for longer than three or four weeks," Dr. Ohl noted.

"We need to think about strategies to reduce the potential transfer of bacteria from curtains to patients," Dr. Ohl added. "The most intuitive, common sense strategy is (for health care workers) to wash hands after pulling the curtain and before seeing the patient. There are other strategies, such as more frequent disinfecting, but this would involve more use of disinfectant chemicals, and then there is the possibility of using microbial resistant fabrics. But handwashing is by far the most practical, and the cheapest intervention."

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