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A word that is often used in biology, or medical science is FOMITE. Just what does that mean in non-medical language? According to The American Heritage Medical Dictionary, a Fomite is "an inanimate object that is capable of transmitting infectious organisms from one individual to another."
That is just a fancy way of saying a surface like a doorknob or countertop that becomes contaminated can "pass on" that contamination to someone who touches it.
One place that these inanimate objects are of concern is in hospitals. Of all the hospital fomites, patient privacy curtains might be the most often overlooked. These are high-touch surfaces that are cleaned infrequently and could contribute to pathogen transmission.
Investigators with University of Michigan Medical Center & University Hospital in Ann Arbor decided to evaluate the level of contamination of these privacy curtains in 6 skilled nursing facilities in southeast Michigan.
Specifically, the study was designed to determine whether the curtains harbor multidrug-resistant organisms (MDRO).
With consent, the team collected cultures from several patient body sites and high-touch surfaces in the room, including the curtains (near the edges where they were most frequently touched), upon admission, at day 14, day 30, and monthly up to 6 months. A total of 1521 curtain samples were collected from 625 short-stay patient rooms.
“We were particularly interested in concordance between patient colonization and curtain contamination with an MDRO at the same visit and whether this contamination was intermittent or persistent among those with 6 months of follow-up,” investigators reported.
After analyzing the data, the research team saw that privacy curtain contamination in patient rooms was common, and that curtains were most often contaminated with the same MDRO as the patient in that room.
This information is particularly of interest if you or a family member requires a hospital stay. Remember, just because a surface looks clean does not mean that it is actually clean.
Always practice good hygiene and hand washing and make sure that your attending medical personnel and visitors do as well.
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