The clothing of parents and visitors may spread dangerous respiratory infections to infants in an neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), a Australian study suggests.
Four percent of swabs taken from the personal clothing of caregivers and visitors in the NICU at Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney had detectable respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), researchers found. RSV is the leading cause of respiratory-related hospitalizations among premature babies, the researchers said.
The investigators also found RSV on 9 percent of high-touch areas in the NICU, including nurses’ computers, chairs next to infants’ beds and bed rails. RSV was not detected on the hands of doctors, nurses or visitors in the NICU.
“Though the detection rate is low, personal clothing of caregivers/visitors do get contaminated with RSV,” study author Nusrat Homaira, of the University of New South Wales, said in an American Society for Microbiology news release.
Currently, caregivers and visitors aren’t required to change their clothes when they enter the neonatal intensive care unit, the researchers said.
“There is a need for further research to evaluate how long the virus remains infectious on personal clothing, which will have policy implications in terms of need for use of separate gowns by the visitors while they are in the NICU,” Homaira said.
The study was presented Monday at the International Conference on Emerging and Infectious Diseases, in Atlanta. Studies presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about RSV.