Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hospital Elevator Buttons Coated with More Bacteria Than Bathroom Surfaces

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hospital Elevator Buttons Coated with More Bacteria Than Bathroom Surfaces

Article excerpt

Elevator buttons more buggy than bathrooms

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TORONTO - You might want to use an elbow to push the elevator button the next time you are in a hospital.

A new study suggests that elevator buttons in hospitals have more bacteria on them than surfaces in public bathrooms in hospitals.

Analysis of the swabs taken in the study found most of the bugs were benign. But that might not always be the case, said senior author Dr. Donald Redelmeier.

And where people -- hopefully -- wash their hands after going to the bathroom, they might not think to take the same precaution after doing something as simple as pushing a button to call an elevator and another to select a floor.

"The motivation here is they" -- elevator buttons -- "are ubiquitous inside hospitals, they're active really every moment of the day and they're touched by multiple people and it's almost always with ungloved hands," said Redelmeier, who is director of clinical epidemiology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

"It's a theoretic risk. But the main point here is that it's also an avoidable risk through hand hygiene."

While elevator buttons are certainly among the surfaces hospital cleaners target, they are touched so often, by so many people, that it's a bit of a losing battle.

"They can't be cleaned again and again and again, every second of the day," Redelmeier said. "Once they're clean, they don't stay clean very long."

With the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria and outbreaks of C. difficile diarrhea, concern about infection control in hospitals has grown in recent years. As a result, numerous studies have been conducted to identify where bacteria hide in hospitals and how they are transmitted to patients.

Studies have found bacterial contamination on neckties worn by male doctors, lab coats, stethoscopes, curtains separating beds in multiple-bed rooms, computer keyboards as well as smart phones and digital tablets health-care workers use to enter and check patient data. …

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