The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that one in 20 people spending the night in a hospital will get an infection. Not surprising, considering research from the American Journal for Infection Control found that 92 percent of hospital privacy curtains were contemned with potentially dangerous bacteria such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococcus) within one week of being laundered.

This research, conducted at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, advances a growing body of knowledge pointing to contaminated surfaces within the patient environment as a potentially strong contributor to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). According to a press release, the same research group is conducting a controlled study titled, "Hospital Privacy Curtains are Frequently and Rapidly Contaminated with Potentially Pathogenic Bacteria."

The study monitored 43 privacy curtains over a three-week period in a medical ward, surgical intensive care unit (ICU) and a medical ICU. Privacy curtains were chosen for the study as they are frequently touched by healthcare workers before coming in contact with patients, and because the curtains are difficult to clean and disinfect. As such, in most hospitals, privacy curtains are infrequently changed, often only after dirt is visible.

Studies show 20 to 40 percent of HAIs can be traced to the contamination of healthcare worker's hands. The immediate action healthcare workers can take today is to wash their hands after touching privacy curtains and before touching the patient. In addition, a developing market for antimicrobial products, for both soft and hard surfaces, holds the potential to help hospitals continuously reduce the bioburden on frequently touched surfaces.

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