Feeling sick? Maybe someone is poisoning you with hand rub!

What if you suddenly developed a low-grade temperature, stomach pains and felt exhausted at the end of the day?  Would you think that someone was poisoning your tea with 60% alcohol hand rub?  Me neither. But that's what started happening to a Newport News (Virginia) middle school teacher starting this past fall.  She didn't find out that she was being poisoned until this month. Two 13 year-old students have been charged with felonies.

Now what's going to happen? Will hand-rub be banned from schools resulting in more preventable URIs and other viral infections each winter? I hope not but it's eerily similar to something I remember happening back in the early days of the community MRSA epidemic in Baltimore. Marc-Oliver Wright and other's noted that hospitalized prisoners were at high risk for MRSA colonization and infection. When we approached the healthcare officials at the prisons, we were told that they couldn't install hand rub or soap since the former would be lit on fire or ingested and the latter would be used as a blunt weapon.

After the Sandy Hook School tragedy, some have suggested we arm our teachers with automatic weapons. Now we may have to remove alcohol hand rub from schools. Maybe we should just move the schools into the prisons...they already have the weapons protection, cafeterias, libraries and playgrounds. They may soon add the lack of hand hygiene.

Additional source: WVEC 3/28/2013


  1. If hand sanitizers consisted only of ethyl alcohol and inert or non-toxic emmolients then this wouldn't be quite as dangerous (still risky, given the very high EtOH concentration, though). And as I blogged a few years back, prisoners were among the first to practice widespread tampering of hand sanitizers to make them more potable (see: http://haicontroversies.blogspot.com/2010/04/from-department-of-unintended.html).

    However, many products are either denatured or include isopropyl alcohol in small concentrations (to discourage ingestion). So please remember, kids, to just say NO to "Sanitrippin'".

  2. That's certainly not the only thing that is happening with sanitizers. As a medical device rep I worked at a hospital that had to pull ones with certain levels of alcohol as patients and/or visitors were actually drinking it. As for MRSA / staph, there is extremely exciting news as Microbiologist, Michelle Moore, has successfully developed her own treatment protocol after having her own resistant case (resource: www.staph-infection-resources.com). I only wish this news was far more widely known amongst hospital staph! Thanks for the post, fascinating dilemma!


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