Researchers tested the skin, clothing and personal protective equipment, or PPE, of health care workers after caring for patients and found they are routinely contaminated with respiratory viruses, demonstrating the importance of complete hand hygiene and appropriate PPE use and doffing practices to prevent transmission of pathogens, they said.
Writing in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the researchers noted that such contamination can contribute to the spread of pathogens transmitted via contact, increasing the risk for infection in health care workers (HCWs) and the risk for spread to the health care environment. They noted that PPE doffing and donning is one way pathogens may be “transferred to the clothing and skin of HCWs.”
“Frequently the PPE doffing practices of HCWs deviate from those recommended by the CDC, and studies using surrogates (eg, fluorescence and bacteriophage) have found that doffing PPE can result in contamination of HCW hands and faces,” they wrote.
The study enrolled 59 HCWs whose PPE, including glove, face mask, gown and personal stethoscope, clothing and/or skin, were swabbed for viruses from March to June 2017 and September 2017 to April 2018.
The researchers reported that 31% of glove samples, 21% of gown samples and 12% of face mask samples were positive for viruses. Additionally, 21% of bare hand samples, 11% of scrub samples and 7% of face samples were positive for viruses.
No statistically significant differences were observed when the virus concentrations on PPE were compared with the concentrations on skin and clothing under PPE. The researchers found that virus concentrations on personal stethoscopes and gowns were positively correlated with the number of torso contacts (P < .05), whereas virus concentrations on face masks were positively correlated with the number of face mask contacts and patient contacts (P < .05).
The findings suggested that the dissemination of viruses can be prevented or controlled through improved hand hygiene and the appropriate use of PPE, including correct donning and doffing practices, the researchers said. They also recommended the modification of self-contact behaviors to reduce virus presence among HCWs.
“Exposure modeling and quantitative microbial risk assessment should be used to evaluate the importance of the presence and magnitude of different viruses at different locations in the environment and on HCWs for occupational and patient health impact,” they wrote. – by Marley Ghizzone
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.