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Cellphones used in hospitals may spread nasty germs

May 31, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Cellphones used in hospitals may spread nasty germs
Cellphones used in hospitals may spread nasty germs (Frances Jetter / For The…)

Cellphones are everywhere. Perhaps one place they shouldn't be is at hospital bedsides. According to a new study, cellphones used by patients and visitors are twice as likely to contain potentially dangerous bacteria compared with the mobile phones used by healthcare workers. Previous studies have focused on the threat of germs on the phones of healthcare workers but not others who visit hospitals.

The authors of the study, conducted in Turkey, took swabs from 200 cellphones. About one-third of the phones belonged to healthcare workers and the rest belonged to patients and visitors. They found almost 40% of the patients' and visitors' phones tested positive for germs that can lead to hospital-acquired infections, including the bacteria that cause MRSA -- methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

About 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections are reported in U.S. patients each year, causing about 100,000 deaths. Hospitals have worked mightily in recent years to enact standards and practices to reduce theĀ  spread of infections. But germs on cellphones won't be easy to address, the authors of the study noted. Liquid disinfectants and heat, usually used to kill germs, can't be used on cellphones without some risk of damaging the phone. Alcohol-wipes and hand-washing could reduceĀ  some germs as well as special cellphone covers. But it may be necessary to restrict cellphone use in parts of the hospitals, they said.

The study was published Tuesday in the June issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

Related: Cellphones may harm memory, pregnancy, brain cells -- in rats, mice and rabbits. Maybe.

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