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Study Reports Hospital Patients do not Wash their Hands Enough

Update Date: Oct 07, 2014 02:36 PM EDT

Within a hospital, keeping things clean is vital in preventing the spread of infections. However, according to a new study, even though hospital visitors, staff members and medical professionals are sanitizing their hands, hospital patients are not doing it enough.

For this study headed by Dr. Jocelyn Srigley, a researcher from McMaster University in Canada, the team examined the hand hygiene of 279 patients from three multi-organ transplant units at a teaching hospital. The researchers examined the patients' hand washing behaviors over a span of eight months.

Overall, the researchers found that the patients washed their hands 30 percent of the time in the washroom. The rate of hand washing was slightly higher at 40 percent during meal times. However, the patients' hand washing behaviors dipped drastically in other aspects. Only three percent of them washed their hands in the kitchen areas of their units, three percent washed their hands upon entering their rooms, and seven percent of them washed their hands when they left their rooms.

"This is important because getting patients to wash their hands more could potentially reduce their risk of picking up infections in the hospital," said Srigley according to Medical Xpress.

The different types of bacteria that are common include Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and other respiratory viruses. The researchers stressed the importance of educating patients about the importance of washing their hands and preventing the spread of bacteria.

"At the hospital where this study was conducted, patients were not given any specific information about hand hygiene," said Srigley. "We can't expect patients to know when to wash their hands if we don't inform them, so it's not surprising that they wash their hands infrequently. In particular for washing hands when entering and exiting their room, it's not something that I would expect patients to think of doing unless they were educated and reminded to do that."

The study was published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

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