Recently I spent my Friday night at the hospital emergency. Thankfully everything turned out fine, but as I sat in the waiting room, I couldn’t help but view things from an infection prevention perspective. Call it a professional hazard, but watching out for potential infection transfer seemed to help pass the time.
Hand Hygiene, Infection Prevention and Food Safety Blog
If you live in a major city, chances are you use public transit either daily or often. It's likely so incorporated into your commute or daily errands, that it has become automatic and you don't give it any thought. Try to think back when you first started using public transit and you stepped into that subway, that bus or that train to find hundreds of strangers packed into a small space, breathing, coughing and perspiring. Were you squeamish then? Well considering 80% of bacteria is transmitted by hands and 76 out of 100 people either don't wash their hands at all or don't use soap, you might have reason to be. Let's have a look at what is lurking in our public transportation system.
I was waiting for a connection at Lisbon airport when an Assistant Producer from the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) called my mobile to gauge interest on undertaking a study to determine the sanitary status of hotel rooms. Of course there have been a number of studies performed over the years on hotel rooms but the majority were small and only designed to fill a 5 min feature on a slow news day. The CBC Marketplace people were more ambitious and planned to visit over 54 hotel rooms from six national chains in three major cities. The study encompassed looking at un-cleaned hotel surfaces using a black-light, followed by ATP swabs to get a general indication of microbial loading. Microbial testing included enumerating total aerobic counts, methicillin resistant bacteria (primarily MRSA), Clostridium difficile and the fecal indicators Escherichia coli/coliforms. Other studies had taken samples all over the room but our plan was to focus on frequent contact surfaces- TV remote controls, phones, alarm clock, bed covers, bathroom countertop and toilet seat.
Most of us know at least one person in our lives whose birthday falls on another special day, such as New Year’s, Canada Day, Halloween, and of course, Christmas. For these lucky individuals, there are two opportunities for revelries as they mark the day of their birth as well as a traditionally known day of joy. For those of us within the close circle of that individual, we also get to share in the multiple festivities.
Ever heard of the Butterfly Effect? It’s a phenomenon conceptualized by the late MIT professor, Edward Lorenz, in which small, seemingly insignificant events such as the flapping of the wings of a butterfly can lead to dramatic differences in the larger context; in this case, a tornado thousands of miles away. The goal of Lorenz’s work was to point out the fragile nature of weather forecasting in a chaotic world but his analogy has become a staple in many different realms, including infection control.
Although healthcare workers’ hands are the main source of bacterial transmission in hospitals, physicians’ stethoscopes appear to play a role. To explore this question, investigators at the University of Geneva Hospitals assessed the level of bacterial contamination on physicians’ hands and stethoscopes following a single physical examination. The study appears in the March issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.