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Friday, December 6, 2019

Kids, Coughs and Viruses on Healthcare Workers


This week we received an email from my son’s teacher confirming what I already knew – respiratory viruses are in abundance and wreaking havoc in schools, offices and anywhere people congregate. We have a nasty virus floating around my office that keeps taking people down one by one.  The only way to manage cold and flu season is to keep as healthy as you can in order to fight off the germs that plague us, keep our environment clean and wash our hands frequently.

Due to the number of kids sick and differing types of infections – phlegmy coughs to bronchitis and pneumonia, I sent a canister of wipes to school with my son, gave his teacher a few tips on what surfaces she may want to wipe down with more frequency and suggest she engage the kids in helping to “wipe out” the germs.  She did just that and my son said it was fun helping to wipe down his area.

With the number of respiratory viruses floating around it was interesting to come across a recently published study in ICHE that investigate the level of virus contamination on PPE, skin, and clothing of healthcare workers.  The researchers that 31% of glove samples, 21% of gown samples and 12% of face mask samples, 21% of bare hand samples, 11% of scrub samples and 7% of face samples were positive for viruses.  This level of contamination can contribute to transmission of pathogens via contact and increase not only the risk for infection in health care workers but increase the risk of contaminating the environment.

The study highlights the ease and frequency of viral contamination on PPE, clothes, and skin of HCWs which emphasizes the significance of appropriate PPE use, and hand hygiene in preventing transmission via both direct and indirect contact.  Of further interest, there was an association between the number of self-contacts by HCWs with their gloves, gowns, or masks and the concentration of virus their PPE meaning the more self-contacts, the more virus was found.  The strongest correlation identified was between self-contact with the gown (torso) and virus concentrations on a personal stethoscope, which as we know is often draped around the neck.

A study published in BMC Infectious Diseases earlier this year looked at contamination of masks by respiratory viruses and found similar results. In this study, 10% of the masks tested were found positive for respiratory pathogens and the risk is higher with longer duration of mask use (> 6 h).  The researchers concluded that finding respiratory pathogens on the outer surface of the used medical masks may result in self-contamination.

Unfortunately, respiratory viruses cannot be avoided.  Whether you’re a teacher, student, parent, coach or healthcare worker you’re likely to come into contact with someone who is infectious and spreading their virus with each cough, sneeze or touch of their dirty unwashed hands on surfaces you then touch.  What’s as important is that the PPE we wear to protect ourselves can also become contaminated and we can unwittingly contaminate ourselves.  In the end, the best prevention is cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces and wash our hands with increased frequency!

Bugging Off!
Nicole

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