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Doctors Spreading Infection with Cell Phones

Is your doctor always talking to his office or to patients on his cell phone? According to Israeli investigators, physicians are actually spreading infections throughout hospitals as they talk on their phones.

Deborah Mitchell writes about a study in which Dr. Abraham Borer randomly screened 124 hospital personnel for the germ Acinetobacter baumannii, a common source of hospital infections. He found that 12% of doctors' cell phones were contaminated with the bug.

Acinetobacter baumannii is especially dangerous because it tends to develop resistance to all available antibiotics and it "can survive on dry surfaces for a long period of time," Borer says. "Cell phones provide a large dry surface that allows survival of A. baumannii--it requires no nutrients." A. baumannii is often found in intensive care units, and the mortality rate among infected patients is 50 to 60%.

Borer not only found the bacterium on cell phones, he found it on 24% of the hands of the people he tested, including 71 doctors and 53 nurses. The doctors could have gotten it on their hands from their phones and passed it on to the nurses. "You can wash your hands correctly, as the guidelines recommend," Borer says, but become reinfected by your cell phone.

As a result of this study, Borer has banned cell phones from his hospital. He says, "We are now exploring the possibility of using pagers again or some type of device that can be worn on the wrist that doesn't require hand contact."

The reason your doctor didn't tell you this, was because he didn't know it himself.







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