A prob­lem you can’t pa­per over

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS -

The next time your doc­tor hands you your dis­charge plan, you may want to wear gloves. It turns out that pa­per—one of the sur­faces in hos­pi­tals that can’t be scrubbed, dis­in­fected and san­i­tized—is quite good at hold­ing on to nasty bac­te­ria.

Re­searchers from uni­ver­si­ties in Ger­many and Aus­tria con­tam­i­nated pieces of of­fice pa­per with sev­eral forms of bac­te­ria, in­clud­ing E. coli and Staphy­lo­coc­cus au­reus. They then used vol­un­teers who pressed their bac­te­ria-laden fin­ger­tips onto ster­ile pieces of pa­per to test trans­mis­sion.

The bugs sur­vived for sev­eral days on pa­per and were eas­ily trans­ferred to other sur­faces by hand, the re­searchers found. Like many in­fec­tion con­trol-re­lated prob­lems, the best de­fense, not sur­pris­ingly, is hand­wash­ing, they say.

“Our re­search shows that bac­te­ria can be trans­ferred to pa­per, sur­vive on it and sub­se­quently con­tam­i­nate hands,” the au­thors wrote in the study, which ap­peared in the De­cem­ber is­sue of the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Nurs­ing. “Pa­per, there­fore, can serve as a ve­hi­cle for the cross-con­tam­i­na­tion of bac­te­rial pathogens if cur­rent rec­om­men­da­tions on hand hy­giene aren’t metic­u­lously fol­lowed.”

The cringe-wor­thy re­sults of the study may pro­vide yet an­other rea­son to con­sider elec­tronic med­i­cal records. And it will also prob­a­bly make Out­liers think twice be­fore reach­ing for that wait­ing-room copy of Peo­ple mag­a­zine.

GETTY IM­AGES

What dan­ger lurks on those pa­per forms? E. coli and staph, oh my!

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