Bacteria, fungi and viruses notoriously love to hitch rides. And they are not picky about the vehicles. Clothes, shoes, hair, hands and countless other surfaces can carry pathogens to new places to take root. HVAC systems indoors, wind and other disturbances outdoors can move around pathogens. Modern transportation methods can shuttle infections rapidly, within countries and beyond their borders.

Today we will look at some of the surfaces that pathogens and harmful bacteria can use to travel shorter distances. Nursing groups recommend not wearing shoes into homes and washing work gear separately to reduce the chance of spreading harmful pathogens. Shoes can put them directly on floors, where subsequent disturbances can throw them back into the air and onto other surfaces, ultimately putting occupants at risk.

The studies and articles directly below explore some of these issues in more depth.

Nurses’ uniforms: How many bacteria do they carry after one shift?

Clothing of health care professional as potential reservoirs of micro-organisms: an integrative review

The infection risks associated with clothing and household linens in home and everyday life settings, and the role of laundry

Newly cleaned physician uniforms and infrequently washed white coats have similar rates of bacterial contamination after an 8‐hour workday: A randomized controlled trial

The symbolic white coats of doctors have been the source of controversy. The coats are a source of bacterial contamination. But why single out the white coat for condemnation? All fabrics carry fomites, and we must recognize that and not focus on a single, prominent clothing piece.

The White Coat: The Contamination Controversy

Photo by Luis Melendez on Unsplash

All surfaces that move from room to room can move pathogens,  like IV pole, carts, mobile equipment.  Floors harbor pathogens and that are picked up on our shoes and moved from room to room.  There is also considerable evidence that bacteria and tiny particles the size of bacteria and viruses can be aerosolized from surfaces like floors. These links explore this more deeply.

Shoe soles as a potential vector for pathogen transmission: a systematic review

Shoe Sole and Floor Contamination: A New Consideration in the Environmental Hygiene Challenge for Hospitals

SARS-CoV-2: air/aerosols and surfaces in laboratory and clinical settings

Resuspension of Particulate Matter from Carpet Due to Human Activity

Characterization, Fate, and Re-Suspension of Aerosol Particles (0.3–10 μm): The Effects of Occupancy and Carpet Use

Resuspension of house dust and allergens during walking and vacuum cleaning