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.
The first thing I noticed is just how many times people touch their noses and mouths unconsciously (myself included). Statistically, we each do this about 3.6 times per hour and it creates an opportunity for germs to spread from our bodies to whatever we touch. In the course of an average day, there are approximately 86 opportunities where we are exposed to infection and can potentially pass it to others. As a result, all of those emergency waiting room magazines and various surfaces loomed in my mind as potential germ transfer hotspots.
I also noticed several seniors who seemed just as disappointed to spend their Friday night at the hospital as I was. Hopefully, each of them got to go home that night, but for the few that were admitted the chances of bringing home a superbug after their hospital stay is as high as 1 in 4. According to a recent study by the University of Michigan, nearly one quarter or 24.1% of seniors leave the hospital with Multidrug-resistant organisms (MDRO) including MRSA.
Part of the issue is that there is increased contact between healthcare workers, the environment and patients in post-acute environments. The risk of MDRO or superbug cross-transmission increases with elderly patients as they are encouraged to be more mobile outside of their room for rehabilitation, dining and other recreational activities. This means these elderly patients hands are more likely to come in contact with various surfaces and the hands of other patients and healthcare workers.
According to the researchers, “Our study provides critical and emerging evidence that patient hand hygiene is a greatly underappreciated strategy for MDRO reduction efforts in post-acute care facilities as well as acute care hospitals.” The researchers concluded that further interventions and development performance measures to address this issue were overdue.
At the end of the day, improving hand hygiene compliance saves lives, and experts indicate that just a 20% improvement can result in a 40% reduction in the rate of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). Proper hand hygiene including washing hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (when hands are not visibly soiled) is the single best way of preventing HAIs.
1 in 4 seniors have superbugs on their hands after a hospital stay, new research finds
Multidrug-Resistant Organisms on Patients’ Hands, A Missed Opportunity
How to Make It Easier for Patients to Speak Up About Hand Hygiene
The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada, 2013 Infectious Disease—The Never-ending Threat
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