Mobile phone use by clinicians may pose hospital infection risk

mobile phone

Mobile phones harbor germs and may pose an infection risk to patients if doctors and nurses don't wash their hands after using them, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection.

The study, conducted by a team from the Laboratory of Infectious Agents and Hygiene and the University Hospital of Saint-Etienne in France, sampled a random group of cellphones and hospital cordless phones belonging to 114 staffers (a combination of senior physicians, residents, nurses and nurses' assistants) at the University Hospital. Virus RNA was found on nearly 39 percent of the mobile phones tested.

Rotavirus was the most common, according to the study, and was present on 39 of the 42 contaminated phones in the study, with respiratory syncytial virus present on three and metapneumovirus on one.

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The team also polled the sample to determine how often mobile phones were used in the course of a work day compared to hospital phones. Medical personnel were more likely to use their personal phones than paramedics, and staff who work on adult wards were more likely to use mobile phones than those who worked on pediatric wards.

Elisabeth Botelho-Nevers, M.D., one of the study authors and a physician with the Laboratory of Infectious Agents, told European Pharmaceutical Review that the team was surprised to find that a significant number of studied clinicians--20 percent--admitted to not washing their hands before or after using their personal phones.

The team cautioned that the data pool was small, so it does not suffice as a true correlation between infection risk and mobile phones. However, they said that it should encourage better hygiene for physicians and medical staff who use personal phones on the job.

“Promotion of frequent hand hygiene before and after (mobile phone) use, along with frequent cleaning of (mobile phones), should be encouraged,” they wrote.

Recent study data also suggests that, though promoting hand hygiene is key in hospitals, contaminated gloves also pose an infection risk.

- here’s the study
- read the European Pharmaceutical Review article

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