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Hospital elevator buttons should not be touched, study says

POSTED: July 13, 2014 11:00 a.m.
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Hospital elevator buttons should not be touched, study says.

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It's well-known that hospitals are full of germs and bacteria. What's less known is the amount of bacteria that is found on the buttons of hospital elevators.

A study in three hospitals took swabs of 120 elevator buttons and 96 bathroom surfaces to evaluate the level of bacteria found on each.
For the elevator samples, researches swabbed two buttons inside and outside the elevator. Bathroom sample surfaces included interior and exterior handles of the bathroom door, the lock on stall doors and the toilet flusher.

The results proved to be less than predictable.

When comparing the bacteria of elevator buttons to that of bathroom surfaces, researchers found the "prevalence of colonization of elevator buttons" was 61 percent versus the 43 percent on bathroom surfaces swabbed, according to the study.

And while hospital elevator buttons are indeed dirtier than bathroom surfaces, according to Vox, hospital elevator buttons are actually cleaner than the computer keyboards and ultrasound transducers in hospitals.

Researchers did acknowledge that some factors limited the accuracy of this study. The experiment happened during the influenza season, which could both contribute to and take away from the amount of bacteria found on surfaces. Influenza season is typically a colder time of year, which would mean more people wear gloves to keep their hands warm. The gloves block potential germs transferring to and from surfaces. Influenza season also typically calls for more hand sanitizer usage by patients.

On the other hand, this time of year would mean more people are in and out of the hospital due to sickness. Therefore, more bacteria is transferred to and from surfaces.

The study noted that hospital elevators just seem to be are overlooked when it comes to spreading germs. Other areas of the hospital with bacteria are more obviously known.

According to the study, one reason elevator buttons are so dangerous lies solely in the fact that so many different people touch the same button throughout the day.

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