It's the last place you'd expect to face infection risk -- but it turns out it's the one place you need to be on your guard the most.
It's your doctor's office.
Conditions in some clinics are so bad that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently sent out a reminder to everyone, urging them to review the most basic infection control practices.
The CDC points to one endoscopy clinic in Nevada caught in the act double-dipping needles and reusing single-use vials of meds -- exposing some 40,000 patients to infection risk and leading to at least seven hepatitis C cases.
The agency also says the outpatient facilities that now handle more than 75 percent of all surgeries don't have the same infection control standards as hospitals -- a frightening thought when you consider that hospitals themselves aren't very good at preventing infections.
Hospitals, as you know, are breeding ground for bacteria -- and not just any old strains, but the drug-resistant superbugs responsible for hundreds of thousands of infections and thousands of deaths every year in the United States alone. (Read more here.)
As a result, bugs like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile that were once rare and confined to very sick seniors are now starting to infect patients across all age groups.
And some of them are even starting to spread outside hospitals.
In addition to doctor's offices, outpatient clinics and hospitals, don't let your guard down at the dentist's office either: Another new study finds that bacteria just love the little chains dentists use to hold your protective paper bib in place.
These chains rub against the necks of patient after patient -- and the cracks and kinks are the perfect hiding spots for bugs.
In one experiment, researchers placed chains into a solution designed to pull the bacteria off. They found that chains that had been wiped with or soaked in disinfectant had almost none... but chains that were not cleaned had 1,000 bacteria per millimeter of liquid, according to the study in Infection Control Today.
Since other studies have found that up to a fifth of all dental bib chains are never cleaned, the risk of getting a contaminated one is a lot higher than you might think -- and you could be rolling the infection dice every time you get
your teeth cleaned.
The easy answer is to make sure the chain comes out of a container of disinfectant solution, like a comb at a barbershop.
But I suppose you could also treat a trip to the dentist like an afternoon painting the house: Just wear old clothes... and skip the bib.