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Expensive Hotels Give More Germs for Your Money

Patrick Boshell
October 25, 2016



Regardless if its business or pleasure, who doesn’t want to stay at the best hotel available?  Today with all the great on-line tools, it’s easier than ever to find the best room at the best rate with just a few clicks.  Hotel hygiene is nothing new, and we’ve all heard the horror stories about those nasty germs on TV remote controls or light switches.  But have you ever wondered if spending more and staying at a 5-star hotel is any better when it comes to hotel hygiene?


Well, it turns out, according to a recent study, the higher the hotel star rating, the higher the microbial count.  The study looked at microbe counts by measuring colony-forming units, which are better known as CFU.  The results showed the germ count varied significantly between 3 to 5-star hotels and the types of objects tested. Overall the results were higher for 4 and 5-star offerings. 


Interestingly, the study’s authors speculated some of the CFU variances were due to those added amenities and extra luxuries we all enjoy so much. It seems those decorative features such as pillows and extra seating create more work for the cleaning staff, which can easily result in other cleaning being neglected.  Unfortunately, just because you spend more does not mean that any extra effort is going into housekeeping.  Also, hidden cameras used in the study showed that cleaning frequency and practices varied widely between the various hotels.  For example, some hazardous cleaning techniques included hotel staff wiping countertops with the same towel used to clean the toilet. 


What are the Germiest Hotspots in Hotel Rooms?


Based on bacterial swabs from the various hotels tested, the germiest surfaces in hotel rooms include:


          1. Bathroom Counter   1,288,817 CFU
          2. TV Remote Control  1,211,687 CFU
          3. Desk                     614,907 CFU
          4. Phone                    4,252 CFU


Maybe the most practical tip from the researchers was not to devour room service food with the same hand you use for the TV remote.  The researchers also noted that hand washing has been found to reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16%.  Additionally, they recommended washing hands frequently during hotel stays, disinfecting surfaces before touching them and steering clear of high-risk areas 


Can You Get an Infection from Hotel Rooms?


Now keep in mind that bacteria, viruses, and parasites are everywhere.  So can you acquire an infection from a hotel room?  To answer this question, we turned to Professor Keith Warriner, who is a microbiologist and expert when it comes to human interaction with pathogens.  Warriner also led a CBC television investigation into hotel rooms as a source of community-associated infections.


“Attributing infections to hotels is a problem given no surveys have been performed. From our experiences, we know that if someone in our household suffers a cold or norovirus we can be sure that the rest of the residents will also get it. But what about hotels? Well, there was a study published that illustrated the spread of norovirus within hotels with other guests acquiring infections. Even if we go back over ten years ago to the SARS outbreak, there was the story of the infected Chinese Doctor who visited Hong Kong and booked into his hotel room. Unfortunately, the Doctor died a few days later but not before sixteen hotel patrons contracted the virus and started spreading it across the globe,” says Warriner. 


So What’s the Bottom Line for Your Next Hotel Stay?


If you have a hotel stay coming up, you’re likely wondering what your relative risk is?  According to Professor Warriner, “Patrons can acquire infections from hotels rooms although I suspect this is limited to those most susceptible.  For the rest of us, one could assume our immune system provides adequate protections, but this does not stop us from acting as vehicles for pathogen transfer.  More data is needed to help confirm our relative risk, yet most people do believe the sanitary standards to be much higher.  The bottom line is that it makes sense for all of us to take a few precautions before jumping on the bed and using the remote.”





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