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Patients’ cell phones may carry dangerous bacteria

Consumer Reports News: June 02, 2011 04:28 PM

Hospital-acquired infections often stem from poor hand washing or a mishandled catheter, but there’s another culprit right at your fingertips—your cell phone, suggests a study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. It found that cell phones used by patients and their visitors were twice as likely to be contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria as those carried by people who worked in the hospital.

Researchers looked at 200 cell phones from patients, visitors, and health-care workers at a hospital in Turkey, and took swabs of the phones’ keypad, mouth piece, and ear piece. Roughly 40 percent of the patient’s phones and close to 21 percent of health-care workers’ phones tested positive for pathogens. Seven of the patient phones were contaminated with drug-resistant germs such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Bottom line: While this study is small, the results identify another way dangerous bacteria can get into the hospital. So we recommend using alcohol-based disinfectant wipes on your cell phone to help prevent the spread of germs. And of course, it always wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer—whether you’re the patient or a visitor. Finally, insist on clean hands from all hospital staff.

Read more on preventing hospital infections.

Do mobile phones of patients, companions and visitors carry multidrug-resistant hospital pathogens? [American Journal of Infection Control]

Prevalence and Type of Microorganisms Isolated from House Staff's Mobile Phones before and after Alcohol Cleaning [Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology]

Ginger Skinner

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