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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Watches and smartwatches can be a source of hospital infections

When we enter public bathrooms, we often do it like Ripley entering the ventilation ducts of the Nostromo, as if expecting an alien to jump at us at any moment. It is natural that the presence of traces of body fluids from strangers causes us disgust. But when it comes to health risks, the danger is in what is not seen: microbiological contamination. And no, they are not the bathrooms.

Not even a pandemic like the one suffered seems to have been enough to make the population aware of the invisible risk from the world of microbes around us. Poisoning from poorly preserved food (and not, the smell is not enough to know if they are in bad condition). A person loses sight in one eye by not changing the fluid in the contact lenses for an indefinite period of time. Serious infections contracted from believing that sea water is good for wounds. Unhygienic contact with pets. Recently a saleswoman at a chain of clothing stores It was recommended to wash purchased clothes before wearing them.and many users were surprised.

A work table contains 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, and a cell phone 10 times more.

And yes, a lot of apprehension with public bathrooms. But studies have shown that the really dirty places, in the sense of biohazard, are the surfaces we touch and that are not cleaned as they should. The published data: A work table contains 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, and a cell phone 10 times more. Almost one in five cups in an office kitchen contains fecal matter (presumed to be transferred by hand contact, although you never know). The most contaminated place on an airplane is not the bathroom, but the seat back tray. And at the airport, the dirtiest thing is the water fountain button. In an average home, The toilet seat ranks only eleventh in the ranking of the most contaminated, below others such as the toothbrush holder, sink, bathroom doorknob or pet utensils. And of course, among the dirtiest are ATM keypads.

Luckily, and without us realizing it, Our immune system is working at full speed at all times, neutralizing threats that could otherwise kill us. But people with serious or chronic illnesses, immunocompromised or elderly are at greater risk. Let us remember that, before antiretrovirals, people with AIDS died from infections, and it is difficult to imagine the anguish and helplessness they must have felt when they saw how the microorganisms were colonizing their bodies without being able to reject them.

And there is still a growing threat that affects us all: antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It so happens that These infections lurk above all in hospitals. For many people it may seem paradoxical that a hospital, the place where people go to be cured, is also the place where people can catch an illness that they did not have when they entered: an infection, possibly serious, and even resistant to most treatments. known antibiotics.

Colonies of the bacteria 'Clostridium botulinum' growing in a culture dish.

But there is no paradox. If bacteria lurk where there is a lot of human contact, Hospitals are comparable to any other high traffic location. And since hospitals are full of people more susceptible to these infections, unlike an airport or a shopping mall, it is not surprising that resistant hospital infections are the order of the day.

Watches and smartwatches

Of course, hospitals are supposed to be subject to scrupulous cleaning. But microbes always find places to hide. Especially in those that inadvertently escape cleaning. An example: the wristwatches of healthcare professionals.

It would be of no use for a surgeon to scrupulously wash his hands and arms if he then put on his wristwatch. Fortunately, this will hopefully not happen. But a study in the United Kingdom found staphylococci—bacteria including resistant strains—on the wrists of 25% of healthcare workers who wore watches, and most often on the hands when the watch was manipulated. In that country a policy of “nothing below the elbow”: Robes have short sleeves and watches, bracelets or other objects are not allowed below the elbow. British nurses have traditionally worn watches attached to their chests for hygienic reasons.

95% of smartwatch straps analyzed in a study contained potentially dangerous bacteria

But now there is a new threat: smartwatches, which so many have become fond of and which for many have become something as essential as the mobile phone itself. Now, a new study has found that rubber or plastic straps, which these watches usually have, are a biological risk, since bacteria tend to adhere more to their porous surface than to metal straps. The study’s authors, from Florida Atlantic University, found that 95% of belts smartwatch analyzed contained potentially dangerous bacteria, such as staphylococcus, enterobacteria or Pseudomonas.

The researchers verified that the way to neutralize this contamination is use sanitizing products like those used in hospitals, or simply 70% ethanol (alcohol). The authors not only recommend that these procedures be applied to smartwatchesbut that also Do the same with cell phones and headphones.. Perhaps gestures as simple as these can help control the growing problem of multidrug-resistant hospital infections, one of the greatest scourges that threaten health in this century.

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