Hospitals may not be the place to go if you are trying to avoid getting sick.
Israeli researchers have reportedly found that hospital attire do harbor some very nasty organisms. Results of the study were published recently in the American Journal of Infection Control and reported by msnbc.com health writer JoNel Aleccia.
Researchers collected samples from sleeves, waists and pockets of hospital garbs worn by 75 registered nurses and 60 doctors at a busy university-based hospital.
According to the msnbc.com report, more than 60 percent of the tested uniforms carried some potentially dangerous organisms, including germs that could cause pneumonia, and bloodstream and other infections, including those that were drug-resistant.
The researchers, led by Dr. Yonit Wiener-Well of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, said the data suggested that personnel attire could be one route by which microbes were transmitted to patients.
The results of the study, Aleccia said, renewed concerns about the potential of hospital garb spreading infections, especially when health workers wear them in public.
The findings remind me of an American newspaper columnist’s story about her brother catching a fatal infection while in the hospital. She asked a doctor how he could get infected in the very place that was supposed to heal him.
The doctor demonstrated how easily disease-causing organisms could “hitch a ride” in his tie if it got into contact with a patient who might have a contagious disease. Germs from that one patient could be transmitted through the doctor’s tie to another of his patients.
In the Philippines, there’s this alleged botched surgery on a very distinguished personality whose cataract removal resulted in an infection so severe that she lost the use of one eye—the result of very lax regulations in the operating room at one of the country’s most expensive hospitals. People were said to be coming in and out of the OR without changing into the sterile gowns and footwear required, and without wearing surgical masks.
Ties, shirts and jewelry
Even before the Israeli study, many hospitals have already started taking steps to minimize the possibility of medical uniforms inadvertently spreading diseases. Many hospitals now discourage doctors from wearing ties and long-sleeved shirts when attending to patients.
Even the white jackets, as well as the white nurses’ caps, are no longer worn as often as before.
Aleccia added that previous studies in Britain and the United States suggested that not just hospital-worker attire but also jewelry could harbor bacteria that might be passed on to patients.
But other infection experts, he said, stressed that some contamination sources were far more worrisome than clothing or accessories. Aleccia quoted Russell N. Olmsted, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, as saying there was more concern about other surfaces around patients.
Experts said the germs on the uniforms likely reflected poor hand-washing practices, Aleccia wrote. They said hand-washing was an intractable problem at most hospitals. Studies estimated that between one-third and one-half of health workers failed to follow good hand hygiene.
The Israeli researchers recommended that health workers wear clean uniforms daily, boost their hand hygiene practices and use plastic aprons for messy jobs that may involve splashing or contact with bodily fluids, Aleccia said.
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