Women doctors' purses as an unrecognized fomite. "OBJECTIVE: Health care associated infections are serious problems for today's medical community. It is generally assumed that health care workers come in contact with pathologic bacteria and unwittingly transfer them to patients either directly with their hands, or indirectly through some inanimate object. If a doctor washes his or her hands before seeing a patient and then touches a colonized object, the benefit of hand washing may have been undone. Previous studies have identified stethoscopes, neck ties, mobile phones, keyboards, lab coats, and other commonly worn accessories as potential sources of disease transmission contributing to health care associated infections. Women doctors' purses have not previously been studied as a potential source of disease transmission. This study evaluated whether doctors' purses served as a potential source of disease transmission. METHODS: We performed a case-control study to determine if women doctors' purses were colonized more frequently than controls. Purses were obtained from women doctors who visit a hospital as part of their clinical responsibilities in the experimental group. Thirteen doctors fit the criteria of visiting an acute care facility while bringing a purse with them. Fourteen controls were non-health care women who had not visited a hospital in the past six months. RESULTS: We observed that nine of 13 doctors' purses were colonized with bacteria compared with two of 14 controls. CONCLUSIONS: This statistically significant finding demonstrates that there is a potential for a doctor's purse to serve as a vector for disease transmission. It is prudent for women health care workers to be aware that their purses may be a source of bacterial contamination. We, therefore, recommend that women practitioners use appropriate infection control measures whenever their purses are in the health care environment."
Photo: flickr/Seattle Municipal Archives
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