Abolish the White Coats and Save Lives

We know them by their white coats. But with hospital-acquired infection (HAI) rates galloping out of control, with over tens of thousands of deaths per year, they may go the way of well, wikipedia.

A new study has found that doctors' white coats are great carriers of infection as they pass from hospital room to hospital room, according to newswise.com. 

“White coats, neckties, and wrist watches can become contaminated and may potentially serve as vehicles to carry germs from one patient to another,” the Web site quotes Mark Rupp, M.D., chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and one of the authors of recommendations issued by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), one of the world’s top infection control organizations.

Rupp acknowledges that there is not incontrovertible evidence that this is true but "Until better data are available, hospitals and doctor’s offices should first concentrate on well-known ways to prevent transmission of infection -- like hand hygiene, environmental cleaning, and careful attention to insertion and care of invasive devices like vascular catheters.”

Washing hands, it's long been known, is the number-one way for all of us -- not just medical professionals -- to avoid getting, and giving, harmful germs to each other.

My son, just getting over strep, is sick a lot and his pediatrician says it's probably because he's a "toucher." Certainly not of the dishes I ask him to place in the dishwasher or the sheets on the bed I ask him to make! But he likes to touch his lips and his eyes absently and this is a kid who wouldn't know a bar of soap if it turned up as a video game.  Which means he brings home just about every infection known to man.

Even though I wash my hands after touching shopping cart handles, opening doors and just about anything else (they don't call me a germophobe for nothing!), I still got the stomach virus (interestingly, he didn't -- at least, not so far), and I'm just waiting for the strep.  Again.

Dr. Rupp did say that supplementary hospital-acquired infection prevention measures could include "efforts to limit the use of white coats and neckties or at least making sure they are frequently laundered."  Yeah, you think?


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