Hospital water can harm weakened patients

    Subject: Hospital water can harm weakened patients
    Organization: Copyright 1997 by United Press International
    Date: Mon, 29 Sep 1997 18:00:44 PDT
    UPI Science News

    TORONTO, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- If hospital food doesn't kill you, the water might.

    In a study of three hospitals -- two in Little Rock and one in Houston, Arkansas researcher Elias Anaissie found that tap water contained fungi and bacteria in levels high enough to endanger patients with badly weakened immune systems.

    ``I have to emphasize that the water in all three hospitals met all federal and state standards,'' Anaissie told reporters at the meeting, sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology.

    And he said that for most people -- even those in hospitals -- the water-borne bugs posed no threat.

    But, Anaissie said, that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and other forms of treatment, as well as some other critically-ill patients, would be in danger of life-threatening infections.

    In one hospital, Anaissie said, the inside of the water reservoir, which holds water from the municipal system until it's needed, was covered with a thin film of fungus. He also found fungus and bacteria in tap water, on shower heads, in drains and under the sinks in patients' rooms.

    The bugs he found are usually airborne and infect people when they inhale them, but they can also be transmitted through cuts that are immersed in water, he said.

    Anaissie said hospitals can take simple precautions, including providing bottled water to patients, running taps for two minutes every morning, cleaning and re-painting water tanks regularly and giving some patients sponge baths instead of showers.

    Although Anaissie says municipal water supplies pose no threat to most people, he admitted he's bothered by the results. ``Since I made these findings,'' he said, ``I only drink filtered water.''

    See also:  Water as a Reservoir of Nosocomial Pathogens by William A. Rutala, PhD, MPH; David J. Weber, MD, MPH


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They have been updated as new information has become available.

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