Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Inadequate Hand-Washing Again Found Among Health Care Workers

WebMD Health News

Nov. 15, 1999 (Minneapolis) -- The message for health care workers is clear: wash your hands. But according to a new study, that frequent order from mom has been lost on some hospital staff who work with kidney dialysis patients. The results were announced recently at a national meeting of the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) in Miami Beach, Fla.

Kidney failure is growing by 6% a year in the U.S., leading the world in the number of new cases, according to data from the ASN. In 1997, more than 79,000 Americans developed complete kidney failure, bringing the total number of Americans treated for kidney failure to more than 360,000. People with total kidney failure require dialysis treatments -- or a kidney transplant -- to stay alive.

Dialysis is a medical procedure that uses special equipment to filter the blood of impurities, a function that can no longer be performed by the failed kidneys. Dialysis treatments require health care workers to have contact with blood and body fluids, therefore strict hand-washing is important.

"What we found [in this study] is that inadequate hygiene among hospital staff may be linked to the spread of a drug-resistant bacteria among dialysis patients," lead author Jerome I. Tokars, MD, MPH, tells WebMD. "This poses serious health risks to patients whose kidneys have failed."

The study examined patients from seven outpatient hemodialysis centers in the U.S. Approximately 5-14% of patients tested positive for drug-resistant bacteria. In addition, final results showed that patients who had been admitted to the hospital within six months prior to the study were more likely to have the drug-resistant bacteria.

The bacteria in question are called enterococci and are usually harmless germs found in the intestines. In some instances, they can invade the body and cause bacterial infections. To make matters worse, a few strains of enterococci in the U.S. are now resistant to antibiotics, according to the researchers. While these bacteria are common in many dialysis units, Tokars says he expects them to be more common in patients with certain risk factors such as intravenous drug use, recent hospitalization, or a disability requiring a home attendant.

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing