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Infection Control Corner: Bacteria hits the floor

By Thom Wellington
From the June 2017 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

Just when you thought things were improving with hospital safety and health care associated infections (HAIs), new research shows health care associated pathogens remain active on all types of surfaces for extended periods of time.

Research concerning high-touch objects in patient rooms has led to many product advances and innovations. They include new cleanable TV remote controls, copper-embedded IV poles, washable keyboards and even silver-impregnated privacy curtains all designed to reduce the bacteria burden. A study published in the “American Journal of Infection Control” detailed a survey of five Cleveland-area hospitals where samples were collected from patient room floors and found to be contaminated with dangerous pathogens.

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You may be thinking: are the pathogens just going to jump off the floor?

According to the study, floors are now being identified as an underappreciated source for pathogen dissemination. Take, for instance, patients wearing non-slip socks. Testing found something as simple as the socks patients are wearing to be frequently contaminated with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C diff) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE). Changing the socks and then touching another surface, well, you get the picture, more items are contaminated. It’s not just socks. Other items are touching the floor and then picked up by people. Clothing, walking canes, shoes, purses, blood pressure cuffs and remotes all can touch the floor. The research found that 41 percent of the rooms had at least one high-touch object make contact with the floor.

Based on this new research, an infection preventionist at a large hospital demanded the environmental services (EVS) department change the floor cleaning chemical to a disinfectant to combat the active pathogens. Soon, patients and staff were complaining of the floor’s “stickiness” from the disinfecting solution and a psychological feeling that something inappropriate was spilled on the floor.

According to Darrel Hicks, EVS director at GCI Certified and author of “Infection Prevention for Dummies,” the issue of whether the floor should be disinfected is unresolved. According to Hicks, “the law of gravity turns floors into depositories of everything from soiled tissues, dust and microscopic organisms.”

Hicks commented that combining a good neutral cleaner with a microfiber mop and a properly trained EVS technician would be just as effective and about one-tenth the cost of an in-use dilution of disinfectant.
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