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Hospital privacy curtains laden with germs: study12th of October 2011
The privacy curtains between hospital beds and clinic treatment areas are frequently contaminated with bacteria including MRSA, according to a study.
And healthcare providers are being urged to wash their hands after touching them to avoid contaminating their patients.
The study was carried out at the University of Iowa Hospitals in the US where regular swab cultures were taken from 43 privacy curtains over a three-week period.
Of the 13 privacy curtains tested, 12 showed contamination within a week and virtually all privacy curtains tested - 41 out of 43 - were contaminated on at least one occasion. MRSA was isolated from one in five curtains and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci from four in 10.
"There is growing recognition that the hospital environment plays an important role in the transmission of infections in the healthcare setting," said Michael Ohl from the University of Iowa. "it's clear that these privacy curtains are potentially important sites of contamination because they are frequently touched by patients and providers."
Healthcare workers often touch the privacy curtains after washing their hands and then proceed to touch the patient. Ohi claims that strategies such as frequently disinfecting the curtains or using microbial resistant fabrics could work.
"However, the most intuitive, common sense strategy is for healthcare workers to wash their hands after pulling the curtain and before seeing the patient."