When at a hospital, we care for most of the infective things but seldom care for the curtains that hang around the patient beds.
But according to a new study, the next time you're at a hospital, you might want to think twice before touching those privacy curtains.
That's because these curtains can become ridden with bacteria, including the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), in as little as 14 days, the study showed.
The findings puts more emphasis on regularly cleaning of the curtains.
Even though health care workers, patients and visitors frequently touch privacy curtains, these materials are rarely cleaned or changed, according to the study. Moreover, people are less likely to wash their hands after touching certain objects, such as hospital curtains, than they are after touching patients, the researchers wrote in the study, published in the September issue of American Journal of Infection Control.
The results, the researchers found, were concerning. By day three, the curtains showed increased microbial contamination. By day 14, five of the eight curtains tested positive for the MRSA superbug, which can be deadly, especially in people with weakened immune systems.
By the end of the three weeks, all eight of the curtains in patient areas exceeded contamination levels that are allowed for food-processing equipment in kitchens in countries such as the United Kingdom, the researchers said. In contrast, the control curtains, which were placed far away from patients, remained clean for the entire three weeks.
"We know that privacy curtains pose a high risk for cross contamination, because they are frequently touched but infrequently changed," study co-lead researcher Kevin Shek, a resident physician training at the University of Manitoba in Canada, said in the statement. "The high rate of contamination that we saw by the 14th day may represent an opportune time to intervene, either by cleaning or replacing the curtains."
Next time you visit a hospital, don’t forget to clean your hands if have touched a thing there.