Shuffling bacteria when shuffling paper

By: December 1st, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

While many areas in our lives strive to go paperless, it, meaning paper, is still around, and its omnipresence in healthcare as a possible source of infections is the focus of a German study.

Appearing in the December issue of the American Journal of Nursing, the study examines “the possible role of paper in the spread of nosocomial pathogens.”

The study used samples of four bacterial pathogens to test whether bacteria can transfer from paper, to hand, and back again.

While the length of survival for the four pathogens varied, especially as a result of environmental room conditions, the study found that all four pathogens “were stable on paper for up to 72 hours and still cultivable after seven days.”

“Paper can serve as a vehicle for cross-contamination of bacterial pathogens in medical settings if current recommendations on hand hygiene aren’t meticulously followed,” the study concluded.

On a similar issue, an OSHA Healthcare Advisor reader wanted to know what to do with medical records that were contaminated with blood.

Click here for the answer.


HAND HYGIENE-HAND HYGIENE- HAND HYGIENE. Bugs are endemic in our world. As to the paper that is contaminated with blood/OPIM you are supposed to put the contaminated sheet(s) in a plastic page protector then scan it/them. Place the scanned page(s) into the medical record with a note as to why they are scanned and not the original and discard the contaminate ones as per your HIPPA policy.

By Bruce Cunha on December 7th, 2011 at 11:07 am

I am starting the bubble movement. I am trying to get the government to provide every person living in the country with a plastic bubble that they will live in. Absolute elminiation of contact with anthing or anyone is the only answer.

Yes, this is tongue in cheek, but how far are we going to take this? Germs are a part of the world and we are not going to eliminate them (although they might just eliminate us)

You Go Bruce- as an infection preventionist, it is great to know a few of us are still blessed with common sense. I wonder how much more healthcare for the indigent we could fund if we weren’t investing in these unnecessary studies? Do you remember eating dirt as a child- I imagine all of us did it and we are still here.

Shredding is an excellent tool for HIPPA protection. But if the paper was considered infectious, doesn’t shredding contaminate the shredder and the resulting waste?

Just food for thought. Maybe seal in an opaque envelope and incinerate?

And I agree with the comments on eating dirt.

I’m guessing we’re talking about “regular” patients. This issue has become a problem at our institution with regards to vent/bipap sheets in rooms where the patient is in isolation (MRSA, VRE, C-Diff…). When the airway equiment is no longer needed , those records need to become part of the patient chart. We’re not talking about ONE sheet of paper either. It was suggested that we place them in a sheet protector and then into the chart. This is not sealed so does this really help?

Lisa- that should be okay with the isolation patients. I have been an IP for 20+ eyars now and this is what I would advise also. Even though the sheets are not sealed, they are encased. Also, as more and more records become electronic, this will become less of an issue. However, the places where I have worked for the past 12 years now scan and discard the paper records for parts that are not currently done electronically. This is probably one of the best options for long term storage with easier retrieval when the records are needed.

By leslie zopo on February 27th, 2014 at 9:14 am

HAND HYGIENE to prevent nosocomial infectios is very importan, when you are handeling patients

By Marie Vincent on March 12th, 2014 at 11:55 am

thank you for you info

By Marie Vincent on March 12th, 2014 at 12:21 pm

this was good to know about this

By Marie Vincent on March 18th, 2014 at 12:01 pm

i read this two time


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