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Hospital Visitors' Cellphones May Carry 'Worrisome' Germs
Date:6/1/2011

WEDNESDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- Compared with cellphones belonging to hospital staff, cellphones brought into the facilities by patients and the people who visit them are twice as likely to carry dangerous pathogens, a new Turkish study has found.

The finding stems from a bacterial analysis involving 200 cellphones belonging to patients, visitors and hospital workers.

"The types of bacteria that were found on the patients' [cellphones] and their resistance patterns were very worrisome," the study authors noted in a news release from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

"Some investigators have reported that [cellphones] of medical personnel may be a potential source of bacterial pathogens in the hospital setting," according to Dr. Mehmet Sait Tekerekoglu, of Inonu University in Malatya, Turkey, and colleagues. "Our findings suggest that [cellphones] of patients, patients' companions and visitors represent higher risk . . . than those of health care workers. Specific infection control measures may be required for this threat."

The findings are published in the June issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

To explore the issue, the investigators collected swab samples from three separate parts of the phones: the keypad, the microphone and the ear piece. Of the 200 phones examined, 67 belonged to medical staff and 133 belonged to patients or their companions and visitors.

The result: Nearly 40 percent of cellphones belonging to patients were found to be positive for pathogens -- nearly double the rate among cellphones belonging to health-care staff (20.6 percent).

What's more, seven phones belonging to patients were found to contain multi-drug-resistant pathogens, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the study found. No such pathogens were found on the cellphones belonging to hospital staff.

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