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Pictures of bacteria boost hand hygiene among hospital staff, study finds

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Detroit – Magnified images of bacteria growth on common workplace items may be an effective tool for encouraging health care workers to wash their hands more frequently, according to a recent study from the Henry Ford Health System.

Researchers developed a collection of images showing bacteria growth on a computer mouse pad, workstations and other objects, as well as on workers’ hands. Over a two-month period at hospital units found to have poor hand hygiene, the researchers sampled workers’ hands for bacteria and showed them pictures of bacteria growth comparable to what was found on their hands.

Hand hygiene compliance rates among workers increased an average of 24 percent when presented with the images, leading researchers to credit the “ick factor,” a press release states.

“I think health care workers in general become numb to the fact that hospitals are an environment of germs. … These images put a face to the continuous hand hygiene education that health care workers get. They stick in your mind,” Ashley Gregory, project co-leader and infection prevention specialist, said in the release.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 700,000 health care-related infections occur in U.S. acute care hospitals annually.

The study was presented in June at the annual conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

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