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Germs and Infections: The Latest News

August 28, 2016
Plain English Version

Bleach and germs

Infections in hospitals are a big problem. Germs often cause infections. Most hospitals are trying to wipe out germs in surgery and hospital rooms.

Spores of a dangerous germ called Clostridium difficile (C. diff) are left on tray tables, bed rails and other surfaces in the hospital. It is a strong germ that causes diarrhea and nausea. It can be fatal.

A doctor in charge of germ control in a big New York hospital had an idea. He believes that the answer is bleach. Last spring he ordered that bleach must be used for cleaning in most units. The doctor said when he goes around the hospital he is delighted by the scent of bleach. He said, “You can smell it, so you know that it is being used.” It is the best way to prevent C. diff.

Bleach can be hard on some equipment. It leaves a dull film. It has a strong smell. Most hospitals do not use it for regular cleaning. Experts say bleach is more effective than disinfectants in wiping out C. diff.

There were three-quarters of a million hospital infections in 2011. One expert said when visiting a patient, “forget flowers and candy; bring bleach wipes instead. It could save their lives.”

In another major hospital, Clorox bleach wipes reduced C. diff cases by 85 percent.

Ending infections is one of two big goals of hospitals. The second is reducing the use of powerful antibiotics. These two problems are related. Antibiotics can reduce the resistance of patients to infection.

Hospitals are getting back to old-fashioned cleaners. They are also trying to use basic antibiotics such as penicillin to target infections. Back to basics seems to be an answer.

Where did the doctor learn about bleach? He learned about it from his grandmother.

Source: The Wall Street Journal November 2, 2015

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