Tracking and controlling soft surface contamination in health care settings

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Abstract

Background:

Study objectives were to track the transfer of microbes on soft surfaces in health care environments and determine the efficiency of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)–registered soft surface sanitizer in the health care environment.

Methods:

Soft surfaces at 3 health care facilities were sampled for heterotrophic plate count (HPC) bacteria, Staphylococcus spp, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Escherichia coli followed by a tracer study with a virus surrogate seeded onto volunteer hands and commonly touched surfaces. The occurrence of microbial contaminants was determined along with microbial reductions using the soft surface sanitizer. Soft surfaces were swabbed pre- and postintervention.

Results:

Tracer viruses spread to 20%-64% and 13%-41% of surfaces in long-term health care facilities and physicians' offices, respectively. Only 1 pathogen, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, was recovered. The waiting room chairs had the highest concentration of HPC bacteria before disinfection (145.4 ± 443.3 colony forming units [cfu]/cm2), and the privacy curtains had the lowest (39.5 ± 84.2 cfu/cm2). Reductions of up to 98.5% were achieved with the sanitizer in health care settings and up to 99.99% under controlled laboratory conditions.

Conclusions:

Soft surfaces are involved in the spread of microbes throughout health care facilities. Routine application of an EPA-registered sanitizer for soft surfaces can help to reduce the microbial load and minimize exposure risks.

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