Hospitals: Infectious Diseases

Health written question – answered on 25th February 2008.

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Photo of Chris McCafferty Chris McCafferty Labour, Calder Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the risk of airborne transmission of infectious diseases, such as MRSA and clostridium difficile in hospitals; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Ann Keen Ann Keen Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Health Services), Department of Health

This reply only covers methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile ( C. difficile).

The available evidence for MRSA and C. difficile is that the main route of transmission is via inadequately cleaned hands, hence the Department's focus on good hand hygiene and cleaning (especially of frequently touched areas). There is little evidence to suggest that airborne exposure is a significant transmission route. The Department continues to monitor any new evidence and is aware of some evaluations of air decontamination systems that are ongoing in national health service settings, the results of which will be reviewed when they are available.

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Grace Filby
Posted on 26 Feb 2008 11:40 am (Report this annotation)

So the Department still considers that there is "little evidence" to suggest that airborne exposure is a significant transmission route. That doesn't mean to say that it isn't a significant transmission route though, does it? Who sponsors the research into hand hygiene and cleaning? Who sponsors research into the benefits of fresh air? And isn't there a bit of a bias that needs to be put right? Why not actively make the effort to look really carefully at the evidence that there is in total? It is the principle that matters.

Is the Dept. of Health really still dithering and waiting for evidence to arrive on its doorstep - and when it does, simply saying it is "aware" but does nothing about it? Sorry, not good enough. People have been contacting them about this for years and getting nowhere beyond fob-offs and excuses.

So much for those bold claims by a former Secretary of State for Health that "no stone would be left unturned" regarding MRSA.

Maybe it would be worth taking another careful look. For previous correspondence sent via an MP for a Ministerial reply (and an interesting item from the Times newspaper 24.12.07 about the airborne transmission of MRSA, E.coli and C.difficile) see

Surely the Department of Health does know about the testing of air disinfection units at Porton Down?