Posted on January 11, 2019 in Workers Compensation
Most hospitals in the United States are vigilant about preventing the spread of infections, particularly those that are resistant to antibiotics. In order to prevent the transmission of multidrug-resistant organisms like Clostridium difficile or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), hospital staff tend to focus on cleaning and disinfecting non-porous or high-touch surfaces like sinks, counters, bed rails, and medical equipment.
However, experts have found that healthcare textiles like privacy curtains, upholstery, and hospital scrubs, can become contaminated and could transmit these pathogens to healthcare personnel and the patients they treat.
Studies have found that microorganisms that are shed by patients can survive for extended periods of time, even after healthcare personnel have made an effort to clean and disinfect the surface. Researchers also found that there is less attention paid to the process of disinfecting textiles and other soft surfaces.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers recommendations for how to effectively launder contaminated textiles; but the process can be difficult to maintain in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
Recent Study Findings
Hospitals that participated in a 20-question survey reported that they only replaced privacy curtains if they were visibly dirty. Over time, curtains become increasingly contaminated. In fact, nearly 88 percent of curtains that were hung in patient rooms tested positive for MRSA by day 14. The control curtains that were not hung in a patient room remained clean for 21 days.
By the 21-day mark, however, all curtains tested exceeded the 2.5 colony-forming units per centimeter (CFU/cm.) Ultimately, researchers found that the increased contamination was a result of direct contact. Based on this information, hospitals should consider cleaning or replacing the curtains every two weeks.
According to the President of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), it is crucial to maintain a vigilant schedule for cleaning privacy curtains, since they may be a mode a disease transmission. Maintaining a clean environment is an important step in preventing healthcare-associated infections.
In addition to protecting patients, this will help prevent the spread of infections to the doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff who come in regular contact with privacy curtains and other soft surfaces.
Connection Between Hand Hygiene and Soft-Surface Contamination
In a study that examined the connection between hand carriage and privacy curtains at one hospital, a study found that hand hygiene was poor. Half of the participants developed new strains of bacteria after handling hospital curtains, although none were pathogenic.
Other soft surfaces, like waiting room chairs with upholstered fabric, can be a breeding ground for pathogen transmission, such as if a sick patient sheds infectious microbes through saliva, nasal fluid, blood, urine, or feces. Unlike linens and curtains, it is more difficult to disinfect these surfaces. As a result, infections can be more easily spread to hospital workers.
Proper hand hygiene is crucial, as it is the first line of defense against the spread of infections to hospital staff and patients.