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Suspicion of viral gastroenteritis does improve compliance with hand hygiene

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Viral gastroenteritis is common on pediatric wards, increasing the need for adherence with hand hygiene recommendations in order to prevent cross-transmission. Therefore, we investigated hand hygiene reflecting complete work-day activities on pediatric wards and focused on the influence of viral gastroenteritis. There are, so far, no studies representing complete working days on pediatric wards or addressing the influence of viral gastroenteritis.


This was a prospective, observational study (144 h in each group) on hand hygiene behavior in the care for children with and without suspected or proven viral gastroenteritis.


We documented 40 and 30 hand hygiene opportunities per patient-day for ward-associated healthcare workers for children with and without viral gastroenteritis, respectively (P = 0.316). Healthcare workers’ compliance with hand hygiene recommendations was significantly higher in children with viral gastroenteritis compared to those without, i.e., 72 versus 67% (P = 0.033), especially among physicians, being 92 versus 50% (P = 0.032). Compliance tended to be higher after patient contact than before, especially in the children with gastroenteritis (78 vs. 62%; P = 0.083).


We conclude that viral gastroenteritis seemed to increase the number of daily opportunities for hand hygiene and did significantly increase compliance. In particular, this effect was seen after patient contact. Further research might address the awareness of undiagnosed transmissible diseases in order to prevent cross-transmissions.

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The support and cooperation of the motivated pediatric staff members at the University Hospital Aachen, RWTH Aachen, who participated in the study are gratefully acknowledged.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to S. Scheithauer.

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Scheithauer, S., Oude-Aost, J., Stollbrink-Peschgens, C. et al. Suspicion of viral gastroenteritis does improve compliance with hand hygiene. Infection 39, 359–362 (2011).

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