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Hospital privacy curtains are haven for germs

Hospital privacy curtains are rapidly contaminated with potentially harmful germs, according to a study at the University of Iowa and VA's Center for Comprehensive Access and Delivery Research and Evaluation. Over three weeks, the team analyzed repeated swabs from curtains in 30 rooms and found frequent contamination—generally within a week after curtains were replaced. The germs included methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE), both of which are major problems for U.S. hospitals. Increased hand-washing is among the recommendations offered by the researchers, but a number of other solutions are also being explored, such as antimicrobial curtains. VA and other health care systems have beefed up infection-control measures in recent years, with impressive results—such as those reported by VA researchers in April 2011 in the New England Journal of Medicine. But studies continue to reveal new trouble spots in hospitals, and researchers are still seeking better ways to curb germ spread. (American Journal of Infection Control, online March 29)

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