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Studies reveal hidden -- and potentially deadly -- infection hazards in hospital rooms

In the event you find yourself in a hospital room in the near future -- whether as a patient or a visitor -- chances are good you'll be struck by how clean the room seems and how much emphasis seems to be put on fighting the spread of infection. Indeed, surfaces may be gleaming, linens changed frequently and hand sanitizer readily available.

It isn't your imagination, as hospitals across the nation are making a concerted effort to fight the spread of bacteria such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff), Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Vancomycin-resistant Enterococc (VRE) that have taken a very real and very deadly toll on patients. 

Consider that statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that there were an estimated 722,000 infections in U.S. acute care hospitals in 2011 alone and that roughly 75,000 of these affected patients died during their hospitalizations.

While efforts to curb deadly infection risks in patient rooms are to be commended, two recently released studies suggest that they may not be going far enough.

Earlier this week, researchers from the renowned Cleveland Clinic published a study in the American Journal of Infection Control showing that more attention might need to be directed to disinfecting the floors in patient rooms.

Here, the researchers swabbed high-touch surfaces -- floors, call-buttons, clothing, etc. -- in 159 rooms spread throughout five Cleveland metro hospitals. They found that many of the floors were contaminated with pathogens like MRSA, VRE and C. diff, and that 41 percent of high-touch surfaces came into direct contact with the floors.

"[L]imited attention has been paid to disinfection of floors because they are not frequently touched,” said the lead study author. "The results of our study suggest that floors in hospital rooms could be an underappreciated source for dissemination of pathogens.”  

As if this wasn't shocking enough, another recently released study performed by researchers at the University of Virginia and published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, found that hospital sinks might also pose a hidden infection risk.

As part of the study, the researchers built five sinks that were exact replicas of those found at the UVA's Charlottesville hospital, contaminating each with E. coli bacteria. They discovered that the pathogen colonized in the drainpipes before moving up toward the strainers and ultimately into the sinks themselves.

Here's hoping that hospitals take note of these studies and introduce the necessary precautions to keep patients safe.

If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one to what you believe was medical negligence, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your options for pursuing justice. 

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