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Opening the Curtain on Cross-Contamination in Hospitals

Hospital curtains could be a vessel for contamination of some serious bacteria, according to an article in the European Cleaning journal (November issue).

Nearly 90% of curtains could be harbouring MRSA according to data that was originally published in the American Journal of Infection Control. Researchers analysed a small sample of 10 curtains at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, which had all been washed at the beginning of the study. By the end of week 2, over 85% of the curtains tested positive for MRSA. 

None of the rooms where the curtains were used were occupied by patients with MRSA, proving that cross-contamination is the culprit. The researchers took samples from areas where people hold the curtains, suggesting that the increase in contamination resulted from direct contact from either patients or caregivers.

Curtains pose a high risk for cross-contamination because they are so often touched but not so often changed or cleaned. By the end of the 3rd week of the test, almost all the curtains exceeded 2.5CFU/cm*, which is the required maximum level for food processing equipment cleanliness here in the UK. 

Janet Haas, the 2018 APIC President noted that keeping the environment surrounding the patient clean is a critical component in preventing healthcare associated infections. Following that comment, the lead author of the study, Kevin Shek, suggested that the 14th day of use may represent an opportune time to intervene and clean or replace the curtains so as to help prevent the spread of infection. It would appear that there is much to do in regard to helping prevent the spread of potentially life-threatening diseases in hospital environments.

Although the authors of the study acknowledge that the sample size was small for this study, it is interesting to see some clear, and quite shocking results.

*Colony forming Unit per cm. A unit used in microbiology to estimate the number of viable bacteria or fungal cells in a sample





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