By Fran Lowry
Thu Sep 22, 2011 5:19pm EDT
(Reuters Health) – The privacy curtains that separate care spaces in hospitals and clinics are frequently contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria, researchers said in Chicago this week.
To avoid spreading those bugs, health care providers should make sure to wash their hands after routine contact with the curtains and before interacting with patients, Dr. Michael Ohl, from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, said at the 51st Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
“There is growing recognition that the hospital environment plays an important role in the transmission of infections in the health care setting and it’s clear that these (privacy curtains) are potentially important sites of contamination because they are frequently touched by patients and providers,” Dr. Ohl told Reuters Health.
Health care providers often touch these curtains after they have washed their hands and then proceed to touch the patient. Further, these curtains often hang for a long time and are difficult to disinfect.
In their study, Dr. Ohl and his team took 180 swab cultures from 43 privacy curtains twice a week for three weeks. The curtains were located in the medical and surgical intensive care units and on a medical ward of the University of Iowa Hospitals.
The researchers also marked the curtains to keep track of when they were changed.
Tests detected Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, including the especially dangerous methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), as well as various species of Enterococci — gut bacteria — some resistant to the newer antibiotic vancomycin.
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