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Hospital privacy curtains may harbor dangerous germs: New study

09/26/2018

 

Contact: Shannon Quinn
202-657-7364
shannon.quinn@mslgroup.com
 

Hospital privacy curtains may harbor dangerous germs: New study


Arlington, Va., September 26, 2018 – Without timely intervention, privacy curtains in hospitals can become breeding grounds for resistant bacteria, posing a threat to patient safety, according to new research published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), the journal of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

The longitudinal, prospective, pilot study tracked the contamination rate of ten freshly laundered privacy curtains in the Regional Burns/Plastics Unit of the Health Services Center in Winnipeg, Canada. While the curtains had minimal contamination when they were first hung, the curtains that were hung in patient rooms became increasingly contaminated over time – and by day 14, 87.5 percent of the curtains tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a pathogen associated with significant morbidity and mortality. In contrast, control curtains that were not placed in patient rooms stayed clean the entire 21 days.  

None of the rooms where the curtains were placed were occupied by patients with MRSA. Four curtains were placed in a four-bed room; four were placed in two double rooms; and two controls were placed in areas without direct patient or caregiver contact. Researchers took samples from areas where people hold curtains, suggesting that the increasing contamination resulted from direct contact.

“We know that privacy curtains pose a high risk for cross-contamination because they are frequently touched but infrequently changed,” said Kevin Shek, BSc, the study’s lead author in the article. “The high rate of contamination that we saw by the fourteenth day may represent an opportune time to intervene, either by cleaning or replacing the curtains.” 

By day 21, almost all curtains exceeded 2.5 CFU/cm, the requirement for food processing equipment cleanliness in some locations, such as the United Kingdom.

“Keeping the patient’s environment clean is a critical component in preventing healthcare-associated infections,” said 2018 APIC President Janet Haas, PhD, RN, CIC, FSHEA, FAPIC. “Because privacy curtains could be a mode of disease transmission, maintaining a schedule of regular cleaning offers another potential way to protect patients from harm while they are in our care.”

The study authors acknowledge the small sample size of this pilot study and recommend additional research to understand the clinical consequences of contaminated curtains.

 


ABOUT AJIC
AJIC (www.ajicjournal.org) covers key topics and issues in infection control and epidemiology. Infection preventionists, including physicians, nurses, and epidemiologists, rely on AJIC for peer-reviewed articles covering clinical topics as well as original research. As the official publication of APIC, AJIC is the foremost resource on infection control, epidemiology, infectious diseases, quality management, occupational health, and disease prevention. AJIC also publishes infection control guidelines from APIC and the CDC. Published by Elsevier, AJIC is included in MEDLINE and CINAHL.

ABOUT APIC
APIC’s mission is to create a safer world through prevention of infection. The association’s more than 15,000 members direct infection prevention programs that save lives and improve the bottom line for hospitals and other healthcare facilities. APIC advances its mission through patient safety, implementation science, competencies and certification, advocacy, and data standardization. Visit APIC online at www.apic.org. Follow APIC on Twitter: www.twitter.com/apic and Facebook: www.facebook.com/APICInfectionPreventionandYou. For information on what patients and families can do, visit APIC’s Infection Prevention and You website at www.apic.org/infectionpreventionandyou

NOTES FOR EDITORS

“Rate of contamination of hospital privacy curtains in a burns/plastics ward: A longitudinal study,” by Kevin Shek, Rakesh Patidar, Zeenib Kohja, Song Liu, Justin P. Gawaziuk, Monika Gawthrop, Ayush Kumar, and Sarvesh Logsetty, appears in the American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 46, Issue 9 (September 2018).

Authors:

Kevin Shek, BSc

College of Medicine, BSc Med Research Program, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Services, University of Manitoba

Rakesh Patidar, PhD
Department of Microbiology, University of Manitoba

Zeenib Kohja, BSc
College of Medicine, BSc Med Research Program, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Services, University of Manitoba

Song Liu, PhD
Department of Biosystems Engineering, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Manitoba

Justin P. Gawaziuk, MSc
Manitoba Firefighters’ Burn Unit, Health Science Centre

Monika Gawthrop, BN
Manitoba Firefighters’ Burn Unit, Health Science Centre

Ayush Kumar, PhD
Department of Microbiology, University of Manitoba

Sarvesh Logsetty, MD
Manitoba Firefighters’ Burn Unit, Health Science Centre
Department of Surgery and Children’s Health, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

 

 

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Contact Info

Liz Garman

202-454-2604
egarman@apic.org