Germs from a hospital doorknob spread faster than you might think


Liquidlibrary | Jupiter Images

Liquidlibrary | Jupiter Images

How long do you think it takes germs to spread throughout a hospital?

Well, if you haven’t switched from handshakes to fist bumps and started cleaning with UV light, you may want to start now. New research shows that a small amount of germs may spread very quickly through hospitals and other public buildings, being picked up by 40 to 60 percent of workers within just a few hours.

Researchers placed a virus on one or two surfaces (a doorknob, tabletop or both), and later tested various locations throughout the building for presence of the same virus. These other locations included phones, computer equipment, light switches and other doorknobs. The research shows that many of these surfaces throughout the building were infected within two to four hours after the original virus was placed.

The virus used in the study was bacteriophage MS-2, a stand-in for the human norovirus, the most common cause of the stomach flu.

Despite the possible fast spread of the virus, it can be stopped easily with what you’d expect: disinfecting wipes.

“Using disinfecting wipes containing quaternary ammonium compounds (QUATS) registered by [the] EPA as effective against viruses like norovirus and flu, along with hand hygiene, reduced virus spread by 80 to 99 percent,” said study author Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, Tucson, according to

There have also been new technologies to help halt the spread of germs on doorknobs, including new types of coatings and handles with hand sanitizer built in. If that’s still not working, you may want to work on shaming the doctors in your building into washing their hands!

Nurses, what do you think about the results of this study? Are they consistent with what you’ve seen on the job? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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