Fecal Matter Hiding in Hotel Rooms

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By Jenniffier M. Mahand, M.D.

Picking up the remote control in a hotel room may also mean picking up fecal matter, a new study found.

Researchers from the University of Houston swabbed 19 hotel room hideouts, from door handles to headboards, and found the fecal bacterium E. coli hiding on 81 percent of the surfaces, including the remote control, the telephone and the bedside lamp.

"Currently, housekeeping practices vary across brands and properties with little or no standardization industry wide," Katie Kirsch, an undergraduate student at the University of Houston and author of the study presented at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, said in a statement. This study "could aid hotels in adopting a proactive approach for reducing potential hazards … and provide a basis for the development of more effective and efficient housekeeping practices."

The maid cart may be a villain, and not the hero in the fight against contamination, according to the study, which found bacteria blooming on mops and sponges used to clean rooms.

Housekeepers clean about up to 16 rooms in an eight hour shift, leaving just 30 minutes on each room, according to Kirsch.

"Identifying high-risk items within a hotel room would allow housekeeping managers to strategically design cleaning practices and allocate time to efficiently reduce the potential health risks posed by microbial contamination in hotel rooms," she said.

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