When most people think of hospitals they think sterile, but that’s not the case – hospitals are dirty places and hospital-acquired infections, like C. difficile, are a common occurrence. Everyday objects in hospitals—from white coats to ultrasound equipment—are well-known harbors’ of bacteria. But, what is one of the dirtiest touch points in a hospital … A new study in the journal Open Medicine has revealed a little-known germ hotspot: the hospital elevator button.
To find out just how the dirty hospital surfaces were, researchers tested numerous touch points by swabbing elevator buttons, handles of bathrooms stalls and toilet flushers. The results, elevator buttons have more bacteria than toilet surfaces! “The prevalence of colonization (with bacteria) of elevator buttons was 61 percent,” the study reads. On the toilets, it was 43 percent.
Now, the study has a few limitations. The samples were taken during flu season, which may have prompted people to use more hand sanitizer. It was also cold outside, when many folks wear gloves. This means the hospital surfaces may be even dirtier than the researchers found. On the other hand, since influenza was in full swing, there may have been more hospital traffic than usual, which would also bias the research.
But there’s some good news: the kinds of bacteria the researchers found had “low pathogenicity,” meaning they are unlikely to make people sick.
That doesn’t mean they’re not possible vectors of disease, however. “Patients remain at potential risk of cross-contamination because of the frequent use of these buttons by diverse individuals,” the study authors wrote. “In addition, a visitor is more likely to come into contact with an elevator button or a toilet than with inanimate hospital equipment and may transmit organisms if interacting with inpatients.”
Interestingly, while they found elevator buttons were dirtier than toilets, they were actually cleaner than hospital computer-keyboards and ultrasound transducers. Maybe this means everything in a hospital should be touchless, or at least as clean as the bathrooms.
Andy Gail is a Facility Solutions Manager at Betco®. To contact a customer service representative, send an e-mail to email@example.com.