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Some Hospital Staff Predicted to Be Infection Superspreaders

Hand washing compliance by staff in contact with all patients has biggest impact

THURSDAY, Oct. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital staff such as therapists and radiologists who are in contact with all patients have the potential to be superspreaders of infection if they fail to wash their hands regularly, according to a study published online Oct. 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Laura Temime, Ph.D., from the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers in Paris, and colleagues developed an agent-based mathematical model of nosocomial pathogen transmission in a hypothetical intensive-care unit based on compliance of health care workers to hand hygiene. Three health care worker profiles were considered: one involving frequent contacts with a limited number of patients (typically a nurse), one involving fewer contacts but with more patients (typically a physician), and one peripatetic type involving a single daily contact with all patients (such as a therapist or a radiologist).

The researchers found that the average number of patients infected increased with increasing noncompliance to hand hygiene. The increase was greatest for the peripatetic profile having contact with all patients, with the outbreak size increasing by 2 to 7 percent for a noncompliant health care worker with limited patients or contacts, but increasing by 73 to 238 percent for a noncompliant health care worker making a single contact with all patients.

"Noncompliant peripatetic health care workers may play a disproportionate role in disseminating pathogens in a hospital ward," Temime and colleagues conclude. "This suggests that average compliance to hygiene may not be a good indicator of nosocomial risk in real life health care settings with several health care worker profiles."

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