10 hospital objects that breed infection-causing bacteria

Reader's Digest compiled a list of hospital objects that can hold large amounts of bacteria and other microbes, including elevator buttons, faucets and patient privacy curtains.

Here are 10 hospital objects that have been found to breed infection-causing bacteria:

1. Privacy curtains. The privacy curtains that surround patients' beds can be contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, according to a recent study. The researchers tracked the contamination of 10 freshly cleaned curtains. Within two weeks, about 90 percent of the curtains were colonized by MRSA bacteria.

2. Bed rails. Bacteria and other microbes can live for weeks on stainless steel and other hard surfaces in hospitals, such as bed rails, studies show.

3. Tables placed over patient beds. In a study examining frequently-touched surfaces in hospitals, researchers defined over-the-bed tables as one of five high-touch objects. The other four high-touch surfaces were bed rails, bed surfaces, supply carts and intravenous pumps.

4. IV poles. The metal poles used to hang IV bags may hold colonies of MRSA and antibiotic-resistant Enterococcibacteria, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. To help fight off infection, patients can use medical-grade hand sanitizer at regular intervals during the day, said Charles Gerba, PhD, microbiologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "It may be hard to handwash often, especially post-surgery or if someone is very ill," he said. "Using hand sanitizer is such an easy thing to do and it is very effective."

5. Elevator buttons. Researchers swabbed 48 different elevator buttons and found more than one-third were contaminated by MRSA, according to a study published in Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control. They also found Escherichia coli and Acinetobacter bugs that can cause pneumonia and meningitis. "Elevator buttons are one of the neglected sites in a hospital, often not cleaned or disinfected and can become a potential site for bacterial colonization," the researchers said.

6. Visitor chair armrests. Researchers examining hospital furniture and equipment found a risky level of antibiotic-resistant Enterococci bacteria that can cause wound infections or urinary tract infections.

7. Telephones. A recent study published in the journal Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control found that an "alarming" number of phones in intensive care units were contaminated by drug-resistant bacteria.

8. Water faucets. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, hospital researchers found faucet handles were one of the high-touch objects contaminated with illness-causing bacteria.

9. Door handles. As healthcare workers, visitors and patients move from room to room around a hospital ward, studies have suggested that up to 30 percent of door handles may be contaminated by MRSA.

10. Objects nurses use often. Any objects touched frequently by nurses and other providers can build up bacteria, meaning patients and staff should use hand sanitizer whenever possible and avoid touching supply carts, touch-screen equipment, keyboards and other objects used often during the day.

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