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Friday, August 21, 2015

Crisp sheets can lead to death....

I admit there are times when I could and often consider living in a bubble.  I wholeheartedly believe that there is such a thing as knowing too much and today tipped the scales.  I have placed my order and hope my bubble arrives in 3 – 5 business days.  Why you ask?  It’s simple.  I love crisp sheets.  Seriously, is there anything better than climbing into a bed that has been freshly made with clean, crisp sheets that smell like lavender, linen or whatever dryer sheet or fabric softener you use? 

My morning seemed to start out normally; I checked my emails, scanned through my various e-newsletters and alerts.  It was really a fairly quiet day...and then I saw the article “Bed linen scare at Hong Kong hospitals shows needs for all sectors to pitch in for a clean city”.  I’ve been to Hong Kong, it’s a great city and while I admit it was not as clean as we may be accustomed to in many North American cities I didn’t really give it much thought.  Perhaps I should have, because according to the article, linens can be contaminated with fungi and can lead to transmission of fungal infections in patients. 

Certainly I knew from a previous blog “Environmental Contamination – is the cloth more concerning than the patient?” that laundering of cleaning cloths could still result in bacterial contamination which theoretically could potentially contaminate surfaces via redeposition.  The study certainly highlighted the fact that from an infection prevention perspective we need to thoroughly consider how dirty cleaning cloths (cloths that we would EXPECT to be contaminated with bacteria and other bugs) are laundered.  I never really considered that the laundry process itself could serve as the reservoir for contamination that would lead to infection.  Wasn’t I wrong!  In the Hong Kong case, 6 patients were infected and through the outbreak investigation fungi were detected in the washing, drying and ironing stages.  Further, the bed sheets were packaged while still moist and warm....perfect conditions to nurture fungal growth.  I don’t even want to try to visualize what the laundry department looked liked based on the article’s description as “a dusty and stuffy prison”.

The truth is that this is not an anomaly.  According to an article published in 2014 in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, five children died at Children’s Hospital in 2008 and 2009 after coming in contact with a deadly fungus transmitted to them through the linens they slept on. 

Needless to say, my excitement of sniffing freshly cleaned linens and basking in the glory that only crisp sheets can bring has dwindled.  I will now endeavour to make sure I move my laundry along, ensure that I leave the door to the washing machine open to dry out and bake my linens on the highest temperature setting my dryer can do.  In the meantime I will wait with baited breath until my bubble suit arrives and try to contemplate how I am going to handle laying my head on the pillow and pulling up the sheets in the next hotel room I’m in......

Bugging Off!


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