Image of Lona Mody, M.D., M.Sc.; Image credit: University of Michigan
Lona Mody, M.D., M.Sc.; Image credit: University of Michigan

Nursing home providers may be wise to double down on infection control measures near the beds of residents who are sick with COVID-19, a new study suggests. Surface contamination is widespread and tenacious in these settings, investigators say.

In a study across four Michigan nursing homes, fully 90% of COVID-19 patients’ rooms were found to have at least one surface harboring viral RNA from the SARS-CoV-2 virus during a three-month period. The contamination lasted for days on certain surfaces, most often bed and TV remote controls, nurse call buttons, window sills and door knobs, the researchers reported.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the more functionally independent the resident, the greater the odds of contamination near the bedside. In addition, contamination found when participants enrolled in the study correlated with contamination of the same site during follow-up, wrote researcher Lona Mody M.D., of the University of Michigan Medical School and colleagues.

Notably, the virus was rare — or undetectable — on surfaces outside but near the COVID-19 units, including sitting areas, nurses’ stations and elevator buttons. This may reflect success in overall cleaning strategies, the researchers added.

The study was conducted between October 2020 and January 2021 while Michigan weathered an ongoing surge of cases. All study participants had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past two weeks and were cared for in dedicated units. Nearly one in four had been hospitalized in the past month.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.