Hospital rooms without a thorough scrub down could make you sick - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Avoiding germs in hospital rooms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says infectious diseases are the leading cause of sickness and death around the globe.

In the US alone, the cost of treating infectious diseases is about $120 billion.

That's why hospital rooms are required to be thoroughly cleaned before new patients arrive.

Despite the best housekeeping practices, harmful germs may still be lingering on items in a hospital room where you least expect them to be.

The reality is, germs are on everything we touch.

Most bacteria are harmless, but some can make you extremely sick, especially if you're already immune compromised.

That's why medical facilities are required to disinfect these rooms before new patients arrive.

According to a study by Xavier University in Cincinnati this doesn't always happen as well as it should.

Researchers found three out of four hospitals taking part in the survey didn't scrub the hospital bed mattresses to remove blood and infection before dousing them with disinfectants.

Furthermore, the cleaning products used in some facilities weren't even approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use on soft surfaces like the plastic protecting hospital bed mattresses. 

And don't be fooled if you see fresh, new sheets on a bed. Germs and infection could come through the bedding contaminating the next patient if the mattress isn't clean.  

Dr. Stephen Keener is the medical director for Mecklenburg County, NC. He says hospitals can't afford to make the mistake of inappropriately cleaning patient rooms.

"They have to ensure that the new patient has a reasonable guarantee of not getting sicker when they come to the hospital than when they arrived," Keener said.

Recently, America Now was given permission to observe an employee cleaning a hospital room.

The worker dusted the blinds, wiped down the paper towel dispenser and mopped the floor until it shined, among other things.  

Researchers say there are surfaces in many hospital rooms, like the adjustment panel that raises and lowers a patient's bed and the nurse call button, that don't always receive this same level of attention. 

Viruses on a hard surfaces like a remote control can live up to 72 hours, and they can be germier than most toilet seats according to a researcher at the University of Arizona.

And do you remember when male doctors wore ties?

"A few years back, maybe you notice that males in healthcare stopped wearing ties. The reason is they can carry germs just like privacy curtains," Keener said.  

A University of Iowa study found that 92 percent of privacy curtains in hospitals were contaminated with dangerous bacteria one week after they were washed because so many people touched them including staff and visitors.

So, what can you do to reduce your exposure to hospital room germs?

Make use of antiseptic foam stations in common areas like the lobby or the elevators. 

"What this does, number one, is it protects the patient from germs we bring in. Number two, it protects the visitor from germs they may take out," Kenner advises.

Two, avoid touching your face.

"Your eyes, your mouth, and your two nostrils – those are the places where cold viruses and influenza viruses, especially, can access your body," he says.  

If you see a doctor or nurse touch a contaminated object after they sanitize their hands, you should speak up.

"If it were me, I would take that as constructive criticism and I would apologize and say –‘You know, you're right. Let me get some foam on my hands and we'll try again,'" Kenner says.

And remember, if you or your kids are sick, just stay home. Don't even think about going to a hospital to visit a friend or loved one until you are completely well.

If you are going to the hospital either as a patient or to visit someone, take a container of disinfectant wipes with you. When you enter the room, you can wipe down the items you will be touching the most. 

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.

Additional Information:

  • Click here to read more about the study conducted by Xavier University in Cincinnati <
  • Click here to read more about "Dr. Germ" by University of Arizona Professor Charles P. Gerba <>.
  • Click to here to read more about the University of Iowa study evaluating germs on privacy curtains in the article "Study finds PurThread Hospital Privacy Curtains Resist Superbug (VRE) Contamination 8 Times Better than Control Curtains"
  • The following information is from a publication entitled "Understanding Microbes in Sickness and in Health" published by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. <>
  • Many bacteria, however, prefer the milder temperature of the healthy human body. Like humans, some bacteria (aerobic bacteria) need oxygen to survive. Others (anaerobic bacteria) do not. Amazingly, some can adapt to new environments by learning to survive with or without oxygen. Like all living cells, each bacterium requires food for energy and building materials. There are countless numbers of bacteria on Earth—most are harmless, and many are even beneficial to humans. In fact, less than 1 percent of bacteria cause diseases in humans. For example, harmless anaerobic bacteria, such as Lactobacilli acidophilus, live in our intestines, where they help digest food, destroy disease-causing microbes, fight cancer cells, and give the body needed vitamins. Healthy food products, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and cheese, are made using bacteria. Some bacteria, however, produce poisons called toxins, which can make us sick. For example, botulism, a severe form of food poisoning, affects the nerves and is caused by toxins from Clostridium botulinum bacteria.
    According to healthcare experts, infectious diseases caused by microbes are responsible for more deaths worldwide than any other single cause. They estimate the annual cost of medical care for treating infectious diseases in the United States alone is about $120 billion
  • The number of bacteria living within the body of the average healthy adult human are estimated to outnumber human cells 10 to 1. Source: Science Daily, Humans Have Ten Times More Bacteria Than Human Cells: How Do Microbial Communities Affect Human Health? <>
  • An initial study of six subjects identified 182 bacterial species. Subsequent studies continued to add more species to the point where Blaser now estimates the number of different bacteria species living on the skin could approach 500. Source: Science Daily, Humans Have Ten Times More Bacteria Than Human Cells: How Do Microbial Communities Affect Human Health? <>
  • The following is listed online at It is estimated that 500 to 1000 species of bacteria live in the human gut[2] and a roughly similar number on the skin. Source: Wikipedia under "Human microbiome." <>

The following information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an article entitled "Why is handwashing important?" <>

  • Healthcare specialists generally cite handwashing as the single most effective way to prevent the transmission of disease.
  • In the healthcare setting, handwashing can prevent potentially fatal infections from spreading from patient to patient, and from patient to healthcare worker and vice-versa. In the home, it can prevent infectious diseases such as diarrhea and hepatitis A from spreading from family member to family member and, sometimes, throughout a community.
  • CDC cites five common household scenarios in which disease-causing germs can be transmitted by contaminated hands.
    1. Hands to food: germs are transmitted from unclean hands to food, usually by an infected food preparer who didn't handwash after using the toilet. The germs are then passed to those who eat the food.
    2. Infected infant to hands to other children: during diaper changing, germs are passed from an infant with diarrhea to the hands of a parent; if the parent doesn't immediately wash his or her hands before handling another child, the germs that cause diarrhea are passed to the second child.
    3. Food to hands to food: germs are transmitted from raw, uncooked foods, such as chicken, to hands; the germs are then transferred to other foods, such as salad. Cooking the raw food kills the initial germs, but the salad remains contaminated.
    4. Nose, mouth, or eyes to hands to others: germs that cause colds, eye infections, and other illnesses can spread to the hands by sneezing, coughing, or rubbing the eyes and then can be transferred to other family members or friends.
    5. Food to hands to infants: germs from uncooked foods are transferred to hands and then to infants. If a parent handling raw chicken, for example, doesn't wash his or her hands before tending to an infant, they could transfer germs such as salmonella from the food to the infant.
    Handwashing can prevent the transfer of germs in all five of these scenarios. CDC recommends vigorous scrubbing with warm, soapy water for at least 15 seconds.


Powered by WorldNow

472 Craighead Co. 766
Jonesboro, AR 72401
(870) 931-8888

FCC Public File
(870) 336-1816
EEO Report
Closed Captioning

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and KAIT. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.