Hospital wards could become infected with the coronavirus within just ten hours, new data shows.
Scientists at University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital have been tracking the spread of a virus that hasn’t infected people for five days.
This was placed in an isolation space on a handrail of a hospital bed, where vulnerable high-risk Covid-19 patients are kept apart.
The findings were published in the Journal of Hospital Infection.
The scientists then sampled over the same ward 44 different sites, including door handles, armrests, and bed rails.
Four out of ten surfaces – including children’s toys and books in a waiting area – were infected within ten hours with the virus.
The researchers, who did not name the hospital they were investigating, used a plant-infecting virus that could not affect humans.
They placed the virus DNA-the so-called cauliflower mosaic virus-in water to replicate SARS-CoV-2 in breathing droplets, expelled during coughing or sneeze.
On a Monday morning, June 8, researchers placed the water on a hospital bed’s handrail in an isolation room on a children’s ward.
The experts sampled 44 sites on the ward that evening and over the next five days-including clinical areas and the general ward.
On 41% of sites analyzed around the hospital ward, signs of the virus were found after 10 hours. This rose after three days to 59% of the sites and dropped on the fifth day to 41%.
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Though the plant virus showed it could spread quickly by existing on a surface, an active human case of COVID-19 would enable traces of the virus to spread even faster.
The result implied a ‘combination of poor cleaning, patient movement, and caregivers not adhering’ to frequent washing of hands, the paper said.
“Our study shows the important role that surfaces play in the transmission of a virus and how critical it is to adhere to good hand hygiene and cleaning,” researcher Lena Ciric said.
“Our surrogate was [treated]once to a single site, and was spread through the touching of surfaces by staff, patients and visitors,” Ciric mentioned. “A person with [coronavirus]will shed the virus on more than one site, through coughing, sneezing, and touching surfaces.”
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Although hospital and emergency department visits decreased nationwide as the pandemic spread through the United States, several states began allowing the resumption of elective surgery in recent weeks.
With the world expecting a second wave of COVID-19 cases, healthcare professionals’ resources must continue to contain the virus and prevent it from spreading.
It includes simple procedures such as sanitizing surfaces and wearing protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
However, the researchers said hospitals have little guidance on how often surfaces should be cleaned.
The Guardian said several COVID-19 patients got the coronavirus in hospitals while being treated for other diseases.
The virus can last for up to three days on plastic and stainless steel, a study published in the New England Medical Journal found.
But another Chinese study, published in The Lancet, found traces of the virus on plastic and stainless steel for up to seven days after leaving.
NHS England told hospital medics in a national briefing that 10 to 20 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 had it when they were hospitalized.
Dr. Aidan Fowler, NHS England’s director of patient safety, said he was ‘concerned about the level of nosocomial spread in our hospitals,’ the Health Service Journal reported.
Healthcare staff can even spread the virus themselves without even realizing that they are infected if they do not exhibit symptoms, which has led to calls for routine testing of all employees.
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