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June 8, 1957


JAMA. 1957;164(6):669. doi:10.1001/jama.1957.02980060045011

Although the main sources of cross-infections in hospitals are other patients, doctors, attendants, and visitors, the clinical thermometer should not be overlooked. In most hospitals all patients have their temperatures taken at least twice daily whether they need it or not; although this practice may be justifiable, there is no justification for using five or six thermometers to take the temperatures of 30 patients, with only a brief immersion of the thermometer in a fluid of doubtful bactericidal properties between uses. Such practice, still all too common on busy wards with a shortage of nurses, may facilitate the spread of tuberculosis, diphtheria, scarlet fever, poliomyelities, nonspecific upper respiratory infections, and influenza.1 It may also help to disseminate antibiotic-resistant strains of micrococci. A 1:10,000 solution of bichloride of mercury used to sterilize thermometers was found to contain 7 million organisms per cubic centimeter. Mirvish2 collected 109 thermometers that had