A Communal Blanket of Security


By Dr. Priya Balachandran

Communities have always played a great role in supporting their local hospitals. In the mid-1940s, Candy Stripers dressed in candy cane style outfits represented a significant role in the hospital. Although the red and white pinafore lost its style, there are still dozens of men and women who volunteer at each community hospital and are responsible for providing support at various levels to patients.  For example, volunteers offer to keep company to elderly, provide musical entertainment, comedy and/or walk trained therapy dogs through patient rooms. In addition to these common practices, volunteers have also provided soft goods like blankets, quilts, pillows, pillowcases, and clothing.  These donations often find their way to immune-deficient patients, including newborns and cancer patients1,2.

The nurturing aspects underlying volunteers’ donations ought to be supported, however, donated soft goods come with some limitations.  With the rise of antimicrobial resistant microbes and risk of disease transmission throughout the healthcare environment, special precautions need be taken when receiving these sorts of items because of their inherent and increased risk for pathogenic contamination3-10.   Improved processes around laundering, storage and distribution of donated fabrics can greatly mitigate the risk faced by patients, especially immunocompromised babies in intensive care.

In a letter to the editor of the American Journal of Infection control, Gwen Westerling and her team wrote that DeVos Children’s hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan is working to implement processes to properly handle donated bed linen to avoid mucormycosis fungal infections in their neonatal intensive care units1.  Their team implemented standardized procedures for handling donated linens that included special laundering procedures to improve patient safety and preserve the patient care experience.  Treating donated fabrics with antimicrobial products that persist and provide protection even during storage can also help address the problem11.

Giving back to the community is the right thing to do. Finding ways to collaborate with the community while improving patient safety will allow hospitals to have a win-win situation.


  1. Westerlin, G., Davis, M., Khuon, D. “Do donated linens put patients at risk for fungal infections during hospitalization? A pediatric case investigation and subsequently implemented process changes.” AJIC 46 (2018): 118-19
  3. Gaspard, P., Eschbach, E., Gunther, D., Gayet, S., Bertrand, X., & Talon, D. “Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus contamination of healthcare workers uniforms in long-term care facilities”  Hosp Infection 79(2009):170-5.
  4. Ohl, M., Schweizer, M., Graham, M., Heilmann, K., Boyken, L., & Diekema, D. “Hospital privacy curtains are frequently and rapidly contaminated with potentially pathogenic bacteria.” AJIC40 (2012): 904-6.
  5. Sasahara, T., Hayashi, S., Morisawa, Y., Sakihama, T., Yoshimura, A., & Hirai, Y. “Bacillus cereus bacteremia outbreak due to contaminated hospital linens.” European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases 30 (2010): 219-226.
  6. Shiomori, T., Miyamoto, H., & Makishima, K. “Significance of Airborne Transmission of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus in an Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Unit.” Archives of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery127 (2001): 644.
  7. Sifuentes, L. Y., Gerba, C. P., Weart, I., Engelbrecht, K., & Koenig, D. W. “Microbial contamination of hospital reusable cleaning towels.” American Journal of Infection Control41 (2013): 912-5.
  8. Trillis, F., Eckstein, E. C., Budavich, R., Pultz, M. J., & Donskey, C. J. “Contamination of Hospital Curtains With Healthcare-Associated Pathogens.” Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology29 (2008):1074-76.
  9. Cheng, V., Chen, J., Wong S., Leung, S.,  So, S.,  Lung, D. “Hospital Outbreak of Pulmonary and Cutaneous Zygomycosis due to Contaminated Linen Items from Substandard Laundry” Clinical Infectious Disease 62 (2016): 714-21.
  10. Henderson, D., Inglesby, T., Bartlett, J. “Smallpox as a Biological Weapon: Medical and Public Health Management” JAMA 281 (1999):2127-2137
  11. Openshaw, J.J., Morris, W.M., Lowry, G.V., Nazmi, A. “Reduction in bacterial contamination of hospital textiles by a novel silver-based laundry treatment.” American Journal of Infection Control 44 (2016):1705-1708.


About the author: Dr. Balachandran joined Applied Silver, Inc. in June 2017.  She brings more than 15 years of scientific, regulatory and business experiences in the area of infectious disease and microbial monitoring. Dr. Balachandran received her Ph.D. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.