Admit it. We’ve all done it. Quickly picked up a piece of dropped food from the floor, stated the 10 second rule, and popped it into our mouths. And we’re still here to tell the tales. But, how dirty are hospital floors? Very! Hospital floors harbor dangerous germs, often with dangerous, disease-causing pathogens. So, don’t follow “the 10-second rule” while in the hospital as a patient or visitor.
How many floors did researchers examine?
In a recent study, researchers tested 318 floor sites from 159 patient rooms (two spots tested in each room) in five Cleveland-area hospitals. The rooms tested were isolation rooms for C. diff infection and non-C. diff isolation rooms.
How dirty are hospital floors?
The study found that floors in patient rooms were often contaminated with MRSA, VRE, and C. diff. The most frequently found pathogen was C. diff – in both the C. diff isolation rooms and non-C. diff isolation rooms.
What else was contaminated?
And it’s not just the floors themselves that are of concern. It’s also items that touch the floor, that patients, guests and/or staff later touch. Of the 100 occupied rooms tested, 41% had one or more high-touch objects in contact with the floor, including personal items, medical devices, and supplies. The study found that germs were frequently transferred from the floor to a hand, through contact with an object that had been on the floor.
How dangerous are these germs?
Clostridium difficile, often called C. difficile or C. diff is a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. C. diff infections have become more frequent, severe and difficult to treat. Even mild to moderate C. diff infections can quickly become fatal if not treated promptly.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as MRSA is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It’s tough to treat because it’s resistant to some commonly used antibiotics. It often causes mild skin infections, but it can also cause more serious skin infections or infect surgical wounds, the bloodstream, the lungs, or the urinary tract. Though most MRSA infections aren’t serious, some can be life-threatening.
Vancomycin-resistant enterococci, referred to as VRE, are enterococci bacteria that have developed resistance to the antibiotic Vancomycin. They can cause serious infections, especially in people who are ill or weak.
Cleaning staff often ignore the floor.
The study found that disinfection efforts generally focus on surfaces frequently touched by the hands of healthcare workers or patients. Since people generally don’t touch floors with their hands, cleaning staff pay limited attention to the floors. However, problems can arise since contamination frequently resides on floors in hospital rooms. More research, and updated cleaning policies, will hopefully lead to improvements.
What can you do?
I suggest the following:
It goes without saying that you should NEVER eat any item that has dropped on a hospital floor. You should also take care when touching anything in a hospital room, since germs can contaminate any surface. Items in contact with the floor, or any other surface, can pick up disease-causing germs. Regularly wiping down surfaces with wipes containing bleach can reduce the risk of exposure for patients and guests.
For more information on dangerous germs in hospitals, read my blog posts: