Superbugs Found On Hospital Patient Hands And High-Touch Objects

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Superbugs Found On Hospital Patient Hands And High-Touch Objects

You may assume hospitals are ultra-clean and sanitized, but superbugs on patients and in their rooms are a growing problem. 14% of 399 patients tested had superbug antibiotic-resistant bacteria on their hands or nostrils right after admission, a recent study in Clinical Infectious Diseases found. Around 30% of tests for bacteria on high-touch objects in patient rooms (like the nurse call button) also came back positive. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean patients will become sick from the bacteria, it does put vulnerable patients at increased risk.

The Threat Of Multidrug-Resistant Organisms

The study also found 6% of patients without multidrug resistant organisms (MDROs) on their hands when first hospitalized tested positive for them later in their stay. One-fifth of the objects tested in the rooms also tested positive for similar superbugs. Although it’s not yet exactly clear where patients picked up these MDROs, healthcare workers’ hands are still the main method of microbe transmission to patients. The researchers also note transmission may be aided by hospital patients leaving their rooms and walking the halls during their recovery. A relatively healthy person’s immune system can fight off an MDRO if it gets into their system, whereas a more vulnerable patient in the same hospital may catch it and get sick. 

Need For Handwashing And Environmental Cleaning

“This study highlights the importance of handwashing and environmental cleaning, especially within a healthcare setting where patients’ immune systems are compromised,” says infectious disease physician Katherine Reyes, M.D., M.P.H., and lead author of the study. “This step is crucial not only for healthcare providers, but also for patients and their families. Germs are on our hands; you do not need to see to believe it. And they travel. When these germs are not washed off, they pass easily from person to person and objects to person and make people sick.”

Patient Advice: How To Avoid Infection

If a patient contracts an infection during their stay in hospital, they may be eligible for compensation. A medical negligence law firm can help a patient prove their infection was ultimately caused by the negligence of hospital staff and recover compensation for the resulting losses sustained. Fortunately, there are also key steps patients can take to avoid hospital superbugs in the first place. Again, the effectiveness of basic sanitary practices like handwashing at reducing infections shouldn’t be underestimated. Additionally,  patients can also research a particular hospital or doctor’s infection rate and stay mindful of how bacteria and infections are most usually spread in hospitals during their stay.

“Infection prevention is everybody’s business,” says Lona Mody, M.D., M.Sc., the University of Michigan geriatrician, epidemiologist, and patient safety researcher. “We are all in this together. No matter where you are, in a healthcare environment or not, this study is a good reminder to clean your hands often, using good techniques — especially before and after preparing food, before eating food, after using a toilet, and before and after caring for someone who is sick—to protect yourself and others.”

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