Hand transmission of harmful microorganisms may lead to infections and poses a major threat to patients and healthcare workers in healthcare settings. The most effective countermeasure against these transmissions is the adherence to spatiotemporal hand hygiene policies, but adherence rates are relatively low and vary over space and time. The spatio-temporal effects on hand transmission and spread of these microorganisms for varying hand hygiene compliance levels are unknown. This study by van Niekerk, et al. (2021) aims to identify a healthcare worker occupancy group of potential super-spreaders and quantify spatio-temporal effects on the hand transmission and spread of harmful microorganisms for varying levels of hand hygiene compliance caused by this group.
Spatio-temporal data were collected in a hospital ward of an academic hospital using radio frequency identification technology for seven days. A potential super-spreader healthcare worker occupation group was identified using the frequency identification sensors’ contact data. The effects of five probability distributions of hand hygiene compliance and three harmful microorganism transmission rates were simulated using a dynamic agent-based simulation model. The effects of initial simulation assumptions on the simulation results were quantified using five risk outcomes.
Nurses, doctors and patients are together responsible for 81.13% of all contacts. Nurses made up 70.68% of all contacts, which is more than five times that of doctors (10.44%). This identifies nurses as the potential super-spreader healthcare worker occupation group. For initial simulation conditions of extreme lack of hand hygiene compliance (5%) and high transmission rates (5% per contact moment), a colonized nurse can transfer microbes to three of the 17 healthcare worker or patients encountered during the 98.4 min of visiting 23 rooms while colonized. The harmful microorganism transmission potential for nurses is higher during weeknights (5 pm – 7 am) and weekends as compared to weekdays (7 am – 5 pm).
The researchers concluded that spatio-temporal behavior and social mixing patterns of healthcare can change the expected number of hand transmissions and spread of harmful microorganisms by super-spreaders in a closed healthcare setting. These insights can be used to evaluate spatiotemporal safety behaviors and develop infection prevention and control strategies.
Reference: van Niekerk JM, et al. A spatiotemporal simulation study on the transmission of harmful microorganisms through connected healthcare workers in a hospital ward setting . BMC Infectious Diseases. Vol. 21, article number 260. 2021.