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Personal Health Kit Promises to Slow the Spread of Superbugs

October 15, 2008 11:20 AM
by Denis Cummings
The PatientPak, featuring wipes and sprays designed to stop the spread of superbugs such as MRSA, has been released in Britain, giving patients a personal cleaning station.

‘A DIY Safety Kit’

The PatientPak was made available to the British public last week for £15.99 (about $30) per kit. It features “antimicrobial products (wipes, hand sanitiser, fabric spray and hair and body wash), proven to kill 99.99% of all germs, with a carefully considered range of disposable products (cleansing wipes, soap, nail brush, lip balm and pen),” according to the PatientPak Web site.

The antimicrobial products contain Clinell, a chemical formula previously found only in hospitals that is “hailed as the most universal formula for killing infections.” PatientPak claims that the products can kill MRSA, e-coli, norovirus and salmonella within 10 seconds of application.

The kit will allow hospital patients, staff and visitors to protect themselves from infection, which can spread if hospitals are not as sanitary as they should be. “Although it is impossible to completely eliminate harmful germs, the new pack is designed to help patients and visitors exert control over their own safety,” said PatientPak medical adviser Dr. Guy Braverman. “Crucially, when people protect themselves, they are protecting others too.”

But Graham Tanner, chairman of the National Concern for Healthcare Infections, said to U.K. paper Daily Mail that the kit undermines the credibility of Britain’s hospital system. Hospitals already have many cleaning stations set up and they encourage staff and civilians to use them frequently throughout the day.

“Ill patients should not be forced to pay for a service that hospitals should provide as a basic principle of the NHS,” said Tanner. “This is a very cynical move by a company that is making these products to exploit fears and anxieties.”

Background: Superbugs and personal hygiene

Drug-resistant bacterial infections, called “superbugs” by the media, grow in hospitals, where infections can spread easily between sick patients. Many of these infections are spread by hospital workers who do not wash properly during the day and carry bacteria between patients.

Hospitals in Britain and elsewhere have tried to stem the spread of superbugs by emphasizing the need for constant hand washing. A Canadian health organization told hospitals to begin auditing their workers’ hygiene during the day.

The emphasis on personal hygiene, along with a “deep clean” of British hospitals, has been credited with reducing cases of MRSA in Britain by half over the last four years. Health experts believe that there is still much room for improvement in hospital hygiene, however.

Opinion & Analysis: How to improve personal hygiene

The PatientPak was created to give patients, visitors and staff a personal cleaning station to encourage cleaning throughout the day, although cleaning stations are already positioned in many places throughout hospitals. It is unclear if PatientPak will be any more convenient for its users than the hospital cleaning stations, or whether it will promote more washing.

Health experts believe that the problem has not been the availability of hygienic resources; the problem has been that many people in the hospital overlook the importance of washing. Thomas Sutcliffe, writing in The Independent, admits that he did not use one of the many cleaning stations he passed before visiting his friend in the hospital. He says that hospitals have become too open, allowing people like him to pass through without washing.

“The atmosphere was open, permissive and relaxed to the point of insouciance—all huge improvements on the starched hostility to outsiders which would have been the norm 50 years ago, but not unconnected, I would suggest, to a rise in infections,” he says.

The Scottish National Health Service is attempting to fix the problem by reintroducing matrons to Scottish hospitals. By 2010, senior nurses will be given the responsibility of overseeing the hygiene practices of hospital workers and visitors.

“Leading by example, they will ensure that staff, patients and visitors follow hygiene rules as part of our continuing drive to improve cleanliness and prevent the spread of infection,” said Scottish health minister Nicola Sturgeon.

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