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See Inside Scientific American Volume 307, Issue 5

RFID Tags Track Possible Outbreak Pathways in the Hospital

Patterns of personal contact in a hospital reveal true pathways of transmission

Hospitals shouldn't make you sicker. But plenty of people acquire illnesses while hospitalized—in some countries, such so-called nosocomial infections afflict more than 10 percent of patients.

To investigate transmission pathways, European researchers fitted 119 people in a pediatric ward with radio-frequency identification (RFID) badges. The tags registered face-to-face interactions—and the potential spreading of airborne pathogens.

Nurses interacted with the widest variety of people across the ward—patients, doctors, other nurses, and so on. The study indicates that nurses should take priority in strategies for preventing or controlling hospital outbreaks.

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN ONLINE
Explore data for all the interactions at ScientificAmerican.com/nov2012/graphic-science

This article was originally published with the title "Tag—You're Sick."

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