Why are hospitals such germ pits?

I understand that some of the baddest bugs around are found in hospitals, the very places we should trust for treating our ailments, not for being exposed to something worse.

I’m not sure why this should be the case. Don’t they scrub these places down with Clorox periodically? Or doesn’t that kill everything? Is there a difference between bacteria and viruses in being able to survive disinfection?

You can’t sterilize people, and people bring in germs and spread others around.

You can’t scrub every square inch of everything all the time.

You can’t prevent a few germs from surviving because they have better defenses, and then multiplying into antiseptic- and antibiotic-resistant strains.

In short, you can’t be perfect, and only perfection would prevent this.

Wouldn’t it be nice if germ-infected body parts glowed neon green?

Hospitals would be fine if it wasn’t for all the sick people :slight_smile:

Though seriously it seems that breaking hospitals up into smaller seperate buildings might be sensible if it could reduce the amount of cross contamination that is occuring.

Then your whole body would be green inside and out, all the time. Health is, to some extent, a balance between a large number of competing colonies of native microorganisms.

Yeah. Hospitals have a lot of germs because thats where people with germs tend to congregate. Same reason that prisons are hotbeds of crime.

This was a serious suggestion in the days before the discovery of antiseptics and the germ theory. People noticed that maternity (lying in) hospitals had a high rate of puerperal fever and death rate as compared with midwives who delivered babies in homes. So breaking up the maternity hospitals into small, scattered units was suggested.

This general subject came up in another thread quite some time ago. I recounted the story of Ignaz Semmeweiss who discovered that if physicians would merely wash their hands in an antiseptic solution (dilute carbolic acid was his choice) between patient examinations puerperal fever could be virtually eliminated. Several medical dopesters mentioned that modern hospital personnel are not always all that careful about disinfecting between patient visits. If people don’t follow proper procedures, contamination can be carried to another building as easily as to another room, or another bed in the same room.

only problem there is then you spend all your time hiking all over to get to patients or bringing patients to specialized service areas and not caring for them.

Ahhh, the “three stooges” syndrome :slight_smile:

Note that there are still a remarkable number of people who don’t “get it” in terms of basic sanitary procedures. There will always be a small subset of staff members who don’t wash properly after tending each patient and things like that.

Such an idiot working at an auto plant isn’t much of a hazard, at a hospital it’s a whole 'nother thing.

People are not paying enought attention to this item.

So not only are hospitals full of germs because they are full of sick people, hospitals are full of tougher germs.

The weak germs have been killed off by all the disinfectants used around the hospital, leaving only the tough ones to survive & reproduce. Note that the indiscrimant over-use of antibiotics by people in general, and the germophobic addition of unneeded disinfectants to household products is causing the same result in households: the breeding of tougher & more resistant germs. Not a good trend for the battle between bacteria and the vastly outnumbered humans!

Hold on to that thought:


Is there even any proof that hospitals are germ pits? I mean other than people going there already infected with germs. Is there a higher transfer or growth of germs at hospitals compared to schools or other places where people congregate? Or do people contract more germs at hospitals that they didn’t have upon arrival compared to other places? The little research I have seen suggests that farms, especially newer organic farms, have the worst, and heartiest germs.

What is the basis of this question? This whole thread sounds a bit paranoid. I know people are afraid and mistrusting of hospitals but it seems to be more rumor than anything.

Any proof at all anyone???

You also have to take into account acquisition bias. Let’s take a pretty common, pretty ugly bacteria that causes hospital-acquired (nosocomial) pneumonia, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Normal people don’t get Pseudomonas, not because they are not exposed, but because the immune system handles it pretty well. Only in the hospitalized does this cause big bad disease, because all the other bugs have been killed off, and the patients are sicker.

The best explanation, though, is the antibiotic thing. In the sickest ICU patients, we treat infections with broad based antibiotics. Sometimes this leaves you with the toughest bugs – VREC, MRSA, C. difficile – which are real poopers of infections to treat. These bugs are not restricted to hospitals, they just are kept in check within the normal bacterial flora. Or, if the patients are really sick, they sometimes get things like oral yeast infections (or even worse, blood infections with yeast) or disseminated herpes or chickenpox/shingles or other viral illnesses, after the antibiotics have killed off the bad bacteria. These are very dangerous and very hard to treat. You see this a lot in HIV patients, although it happens in lots of other really sick people too (chemo patients, bone marrow transplant patients, collagen vascular disease, cystic fibrosis, renal failure, etc.)

Of course there is cross contamination, and it is very hard to really contain this – it goes beyond doctors and nurses washing their hands. Think about your tie or your labcoat or anything that touches anything in the room the patient has touched. Think what crap is aerosolized every time we or the patients cough or sneeze. Aerosols can carry even nonairborne bacteria a reasonably long way. Or relatives, other visitors, housekeeping, maintenance, whatever. About improperly cleaned tables in the cafeteria indirectly spreading infections between two sets of relatives who happen to use the same table. The bitchy thing about bacteria is all you need is one and a fertile place for it to grow.

In my experience hospital hygiene procedures have been lacking on many occasions - when getting blood transfusions twice the technician or nurse allowed spilled blood to remain until I complained. The first time the bag blocked so the tech took it off the stand, unhooked the tubing and changed the filter in the bag, spilling a load of blood in the process. It was all down her hands and the sleeves of her labcoat, and dropped on the floor. She cleaned herself off sharpish but walked off leaving the blood on the floor.

The second time they were having trouble getting the needle into my vein, and after numerous sticks down the length of my arm the ended up trying the back of my hand near the knuckle. As she stuck the needle, the nurse was muttering, “This isn’t going to go in either”, and momentarily looked away, only for the needle to hit the right spot and blood to FOUNTAIN out of the end of it before she could connect it up. There was a stripe of blood right across my bed and onto the floor. This time the floor was wiped up but they left my bedding until my husband complained THE NEXT DAY. (I was too sick to care at the time.)

Ick, Ick, Ick.

Well then we always know who just got back from Chinatown.

Thank You.

I don’t want to argue too strenuously because I’m a layman. I thought, though, that contact is the dominant mode of transfer. How often does your tie or clothing touch the patient? I know that you clothing can touch the things the patient touches and transfer germs but that seems to me much reduced in probability from hands touching patients directly.

In know that when antiseptic surgery was first being developed surgeons actually operated in a mist of disinfectant in order to keep down airborne contaminants. However, it was discovered that infections were virtually eliminated if the instruments, the surgical teams’ hands and all that came in actual contact with the site of the surgery were sterile.

It depends. I believe that contact is by far the most common way of transferring things, but aerosols are still a significant problem in many circumstances.
The classic example is TB, which just loves large populations of immunocompromised patients crammed together in a sealed building. And in theory anything that can be spread by contact can be spread via mist/dust, even though it’s usually much less likely.

Basically hospitals tend to be large, highly trafficked buildings with high population density - that’s a profile for lots of germs at the best of times. The average office desk has more germs than a toilet apparently, and offices are supposedly full of reasonably healthy people, and tend not to have so many bodily fluids slopping around.

My OP was motivated by reports on 60 Minutes (or programs like it) that discuss the rise of germs resistant to the last line of defense in terms of antibiotics. And they say that these germs are found almost exclusively in hospitals.

I realize that antibiotics must kill the agent while leaving the host alive, but I was left wondering why things like Clorox or Lysol (I’m sure they’d have more powerful things in hospitals) that don’t have to work inside the body didn’t kill everything on the hospital surfaces. If it’s the workers who are spreading these infections, why wouldn’t they be taking them home and infecting their families?

Actually, hospitals should be IDEAL incubators of “superbugs”. think about it, you have scads of sick people being treated with antibiotics-the bugs that survive the treatments acquire enormous immunity to antibiotics. these superbugs then gaet passed around to other vectors, where they grow and multiply.
Another thing i’ve noticed-hostpitals don’t seem to be well designed for periodic cleaning-I would design hospital rooms with waterproof electrical fistures, so that you could periodically spray the rooms doen with bleach solutions, and kill off the bugs hiding in cracks and crevices. I’d laso have big UV lamps to irradiate stuff like beds, chairs, hand equipment.