Heres Kathleen Homs February 3, 2009 Washington Post Health section story.
A Show of Hands Reveals the Value of Good Hygiene
may look like an art project your kid brought home, but its actually a
startling visual lesson in the importance of hospital hygiene. During a
year-long study at Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, doctors
discovered a 24-year-old patient densely colonized by
methicillin-resistant staph bacteria — better known as MRSA — even
though he showed no symptoms.
MRSA, the scare bug of the 21st
century, is resistant to drugs usually prescribed to treat it and is
associated with 19,000 U.S. deaths a year, according to a 2007 article
in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
To show how
infected — and contagious — an asymptomatic carrier could be, a
physician examined the patient with an ungloved hand and then pressed
his hand into a petri dish like the one on the right. After incubation,
researchers were surprised to see MRSA bacteria growing in the dish so
thickly, left, that images of the physicians fingers are easily
According to Curtis Donskey, chairman of the
hospitals infection control committee, this demonstrates the need for
hospital staffers to wash hands thoroughly even after examining
‘patients who you wouldnt otherwise expect would be at high risk of
Tell you what: Im convinced.
But then, Ive been a fanatic about clean hands and gloves ever since the early 1980s, when the disease that would come to be known as AIDS was first described in a report from doctors at UCLA, where I was on the anesthesiology faculty.
When I left L.A. and came to Charlottesville, the other faculty in my Podunk university towns teaching hospital laughed at me because I wore gloves 100% of the time in the OR.
I told them, ‘just wait.’