Role of hands in transmission of infection in hospital situations has been well demonstrated. Indirect contact through environmental surfaces also plays an important part in transmission of infection.

Contamination of surfaces such as taps by patients and health care workers is common. Many studies have shown that major nosocomial pathogens shed by patients contaminate the hospital surfaces at concentration sufficient for transmission. These survive for extended periods and can be transferred to hands of other patients and health care workers.

Jonathan et al demonstrated that contaminated surfaces make an important contribution to endemic and epidemic transmission of clostridium difficile, entrococii, staphylococcus,  Acinbacter and Pseudomonas aeroginosa in hospital settings (Jonathan A et al. The role played by contaminated services in transmission of nosocomial pathogens, infection control and hospital epidemiology 2011, Volume 32/7, July 2011, pp 687-99). Another study demonstrated transmission of Pseudomonas aeroginosa in a surgical intensive care unit (Reference: Renter S et al. Critical care medicine October 2002, Volume 30, issue 10, pp 2222-28). Therefore, inter-human transmission due to soiling of drinking water taps is highly probable in hospital situations. Pathogens transmitted through faeco-oral route e.g., Giardiasis, amoebiasis, salmonella, viral hepatitis A & C, shigella, vibrio cholera, rotavirus, other entero-viruses etc. are potentially transmissible through such pathway and pose a risk for possible outbreaks in hospital situations. Besides, atypical mycobacteria and Acinbacter have been demonstrated to be transmissible through this pathway.

Contamination of surfaces of taps can also cause infection of skin and wounds. Immune compromised patients, the diabetic, elderly and the children are especially vulnerable to such infections and may suffer serious consequences. However, the accurate data on incidence of such infection is lacking because majority of the patients may not manifest the symptoms and signs until after discharge.

Strict hygienic precautions such as wearing of gloves by health care workers and thorough hand washing by both care givers and care receivers have been advocated. However, compliance with hand washing is generally sub optimal. Avoiding touching of taps / faucets of drinking water source will reduce such transmission in hospital settings. Dispensing water from storage container by an outlet without requirement of touching will decrease the incidence of such infections especially in places where drinking water dispensers are touched by many people, such as in offices, restaurants, food courts, malls, and gyms.

Having known this, toilets in many commercial buildings today are already equipped with touchless faucets, hand dryers & soap dispensers. With growing awareness, even households are adopting safer options.

Analysis: Role of hands in transmission of infection from drinking water tap surfaces

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