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Infection Control

The price of privacy — germs

September 23, 2011
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CHICAGO — A new U.S. study suggests that the privacy curtains that separate care spaces in hospitals and clinics are frequently contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria, according to a press release.

To avoid spreading these bacteria, which can include the dangerous "superbug" methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), health care providers should make sure to wash their hands after routine contact with the curtains and before interacting with patients, the release stated.

According to the release, health care providers often touch these curtains after they have washed their hands and then proceed to touch the patient.

Members of the study took 180 swab cultures from 43 privacy curtains twice a week for three weeks, which were located in the medical and surgical intensive care units and on a medical ward of the University of Iowa Hospitals, the release noted.

Tests detected Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, including the especially dangerous MRSA, as well as various species of Enterococci, gut bacteria, some resistant to the newer antibiotic vancomycin, the release added.

"The vast majority of curtains showed contamination with potentially significant bacteria within a week for first being hung, and many were hanging for longer than three or four weeks," said Michael Ohl from the University of Iowa.

Click here to read the complete release.

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