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Just wash your hands? Does MOHLTC superbug slogan shift the blame?

A new US study indicates that hand contamination by the MRSA superbug is as likely to come from touching environmental surfaces in hospitals as from touching the patient's skin.  

Infection Control Today reports that the risk of any gloved-hand contamination after contact with the skin sites and the environmental surfaces was not significantly different (40 percent versus 45 percent ). There was also no significant difference in the number of colony-forming units per gloved handprint after contact with skin and environmental sites . The most frequent skin and environmental sites associated with hand acquisition were the abdomen or chest and the call button, respectively. 

The study authors suggest that "healthcare workers need education regarding the importance of the environment as a source for hand contamination." They also note that "because MRSA may survive for long periods on surfaces, our findings reinforce the importance of environmental disinfection after discharge of MRSA patients." Finally, they conclude that "it is possible that daily disinfection of high-touch surfaces in MRSA isolation rooms might reduce the level of contamination and decrease the risk for acquisition on healthcare workers’ hands."

There's been little question about the significance of environmental cleaning for containing C. Diffcile, and this new study adds to the literature regarding MRSA.  

Every time I hear the provincial government's longtime superbug slogan, "Just wash your hands," I practically want to spit.  Clean hands are important, of course.  But JUST wash your hands?   This moves the focus from the range of issues behind the rise of superbugs to just one: careless hospital workers.  

Somehow those others issues, for which government must take the blame (such as record high hospital overcrowding and cuts to hospital environmental staff), just don't make the cut.


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