Your mobile phone may be 'patient zero' for hospital infections

Infection preventionists, hospital staff and clinicians search high and low for weak spots in hospital-setting disinfection and cleanliness, but may need to focus more on what's in their own pockets, according to new research.

In a paper published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, Australian researchers sought to investigate the potential role mobile phones play as reservoirs for infection and bacterial colonization in the hospital setting.

Here are seven things to know about the research.

• The researchers screened a group of 226 staff members comprising 146 physicians and 80 medical students at a regional Australian hospital between January 2013 and March 2014.
• They concluded that 74 percent of staff members' mobile phones were contaminated with bacteria, of which 5 percent was deemed potentially harmful.
• Similar organisms were found on the dominant hands of staff members.

• Junior medical staff members were found to be at greater risk for heavy microbial growth.
• Of the 226 participants, 31 percent reported cleaning their phones routinely.
• Of those who cleaned their phones, only 21 percent reported using alcohol containing wipes.
• The researchers concluded that disinfection guidelines for cell phone use in hospitals should be developed and implemented.

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