Therapy dogs can bring more than joy and comfort to hospitalized kids. They can also bring stubborn germs.
Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore were suspicious that the dogs might pose an infection risk to patients with weakened immune systems. So they conducted some tests when Pippi, Poppy, Badger, and Winnie visited 45 children getting cancer treatment.
They discovered that kids who spent more time with the dogs had a six times greater chance of coming away with superbug bacteria than kids who spent less time with the animals. But the study also found that washing the dogs before visits and using special wipes while they’re in the hospital took away the risk of spreading that bacteria.
The Baltimore study looked at 45 children who interacted with the four dogs — petting, hugging, feeding, or playing with them — over 13 visits in 2016 and 2017.
Among kids who had no MRSA, the researchers found the superbug on about 10 percent of the samples taken from those kids after the dog visits. They also found MRSA on nearly 40 percent of the samples from the dogs.
The researchers think the dogs were generally clean of MRSA when they first came to the hospital, but picked it up from patients or others while they were there.
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