Hospital floors could transmit germs more easily than previously thought

Germs on hospital room floors can move rapidly to high-touch surfaces and then healthcare worker hands, thus making dirty hospital floors more of an infection risk than previously thought, according to a study in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Researchers cultured 318 floor sites from 159 patient rooms in five Cleveland-area hospitals, as well as gloved and bare hands and other high-touch surfaces like clothes, call buttons and medical devices.

They found floors often were contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and VRE, as well as Clostridium difficile, which was the pathogen most frequently found on floors.

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Additionally, high-touch items like call buttons or blood pressure cuffs often come into contact with the floor, according to the study — of the 100 occupied rooms surveyed, 41 percent had one or more high-touch item in contact with the floor.

Then, those high-touch objects can transmit pathogens to healthcare worker or patient hands. Of the 31 hand or glove cultures, MRSA showed up 18 percent of the time, VRE 6 percent and C. diff 3 percent, respectively.

"We found that floors in patient rooms were frequently contaminated with healthcare-associated pathogens and it was not uncommon for high-touch objects such as medical devices, personal items, and linens to be in direct contact with the floor," the study's authors concluded. "Touching these objects frequently resulted in transfer of pathogens to hands. These results suggest that floors in hospital rooms could be an underappreciated source for dissemination of pathogens."

Linda Greene, RN, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, added, "Even though most facilities believe they are taking the proper precautions, this study points out the importance of ensuring cleanliness of the hospital environment and the need for education of both staff and patients on this issue."


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