Diseases Diseases

What Are Fomites And How Do They Transfer Germs


Fomites are non-living objects or substances that carry disease-causing organisms such as parasites or germs and transferring them from one person to another.

A fomite can be anything such as pillows, blankets, utensils, doorknobs, clothing, hairbrushes, hospital equipment, surgical instruments and anything else that has been in contact with a person with a disease.

Formites and Germs’ Transmission

Most of the time, fomites found in hospitals, clinics, laboratories and any other health care facilities usually carry germ or bacteria causing diseases that may affect an individual.

Numerous studies have assessed the role of fomites in outbreaks. Here are some of the fomites that carry germ causing diseases to spread in hospitals:

Feeding tubes from the neonatal intensive care unit can cause hospital-acquired infection to babies who are born healthy. It is concluded that feeding tubes are a reservoir foe antibiotic-resistant pathogens that can be passed on to other infants.

Blood Pressure Cuffs – A study assessed the degree of bacterial contamination on blood pressure cuffs used in hospital wards. It has been recorded that disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria were recovered from all 24 cuffs used on patients with illnesses. Another study discovered the roles of blood pressure cuffs in spreading bacterial infections in more than 15 hospital units.

It has been proven that the highest contaminations in blood pressure cuffs are the ones used in the intensive care units.

Another possible culprit in spreading diseases is computer equipment in the hospitals. Researchers acquired sterile swab samples from the keyboard and mouse of at least two computer terminals. It has been proven that doctors and nurse's computer terminals have higher risk in microbial contamination due to fomites.

Cross-colonization of Patients to Formites and Disease-Causing Bacteria

Study shows that cross-colonization of patients from inanimate object or environment use techniques to identify pathogens, and measure the quality of sanitation and hygiene.

In terms of bacteria, environmental contamination with a gram-positive bacterium such as Clostridium Difficile that causes severe diarrhea has been reported to be present on commodes, floors, bedpans, walls, washbasins, in toilets, and furniture in the hospitals. Anyone with direct contact with fomites, especially in hospitals must maintain hand hygiene.

Another bacterium that can also be found and transmitted through fomites is Acinetobacter Baumann. These bacteria can spread from the beds of the patients, on nearby surfaces such as; bedside tables and mattresses, in-hospital rooms; on the floors, sinks, countertops or door handles; this bacterium may also be present. Transmission of this type of bacterium from surfaces to patients can potentially occur.

Prevention of Formite Contamination

We are all aware that our hands can spread millions of germ-causing diseases. It is therefore, very important that we make it a habit to wash our hands as frequently as we hold different objects. Bacteria cannot be seen with our naked eye; it is then impossible for us to know when these bacteria victimized us until symptoms and signs of disease are evident.

For those people working in the hospitals they are well trained as to how to protect themselves from these types of bacteria. Staff may sometimes be too tired to even shower after a day’s work; it’s still not an excuse to compromise health.

Family members visiting their patients in the hospital must always observe and maintain cleanliness at all times.

By Greggy Rick Go, published at 02/28/2012
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