Mops and Hospital Acquired Disease
Hospital-acquired illnesses (HAIs) are a problem around the world and especially here in the U.S. An HAI, as the name implies, is a disease that a patient gets in the hospital. They did not enter the hospital with the illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HAIs affect five to 10 percent of hospitalized patients in the U.S. every year. This amounts to about 1.7 million HAIs in U.S. hospitals annually and results in 99,000 deaths. As to the cost of HAIs in dollar and cents terms, the CDC estimates that HAIs cost about $20 billion annually.
Because this is such a grave and expensive problem, hospitals, and public health officials are looking into every way disease can spread in a hospital. And in recent years, floors have been getting a much closer look.
In the past, floors were not on the hospital “watch list” because it was assumed soils on floors could not be transmitted to other surfaces or people. Now we know better. And now we also know the ways we traditionally clean floors – specifically using mops – can cause serious health-related problems.
However, we’ve known that floor mops become contaminated as they are used for decades. It just appears that because floors were overlooked as a source of cross-contamination, we simply disregarded these early studies. But we can’t any longer.
One of the first mop contamination studies was reported in 1967. This study concluded that as mops are used, gram-negative bacteria develop on mops and mop buckets.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “gram-negative bacteria cause infections, including pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and meningitis in healthcare settings. Gram-negative bacteria are resistant to multiple drugs and are increasingly resistant to most available antibiotics.”
While the 1967 study did find that Gram-negative bacteria on mops and mop buckets does decrease when they are cleaned with a disinfectant, “neither washing nor disinfection can be expected to remove the massive bacterial colonization that is found in moist areas of floors and damaged floor surfaces.”
In other words, the bacterial colonies continue to live on mops and floors after mopping and even longer in damaged floor surfaces. This increases the likelihood that they will collect on shoe bottoms and as soon as those shoe bottoms are touched, for instance, when removing the shoes, the possibility that a person will come in contact with this bacteria becomes very high.
Our only real option is alternative floor cleaning systems that do not use mops. Fortunately, they are available, and you can learn more about them here.