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Next time you’re in your doctor’s waiting room, take a good look around you. There’s an unacceptably high risk you’re about to get sick from one of the other patients, a nurse or the doctor. That happened to at least 700,000 people last year.
A study of the health of children and their family members after making so-called “well child” visits to their doctors demonstrates that there’s a significant chance they will suffer flu-like illnesses soon after the visit. Experts blame the doctors and their staff who are sloppy about washing their hands and keeping infectious patients isolated.
According to the researchers, this adds up to more than 700,000 avoidable illnesses annually and costs about $500 million a year.
“Well child visits are critically important. However, our results demonstrate that healthcare professionals should devote more attention to reducing the risk of spreading infections in waiting rooms and clinics,” says researcher Phil Polgreen. “Infection control guidelines currently exist. To increase patient safety in outpatient settings, more attention should be paid to these guidelines by healthcare professionals, patients, and their families.”
So if you see other patients coughing, sneezing or otherwise spreading infectious pathogens, don’t be afraid to leave the waiting room. And make sure your doctor washes his hands between patients.