Non-Sterile Alcohol Prep Pad Problems Raise Concerns: Report

In the wake of two major recalls for alcohol prep pads, doctors and other health experts are beginning to question whether non-sterile pads should have any role in professional healthcare. 

In a report by MSNBC, a number of medical experts indicate that it may be time for hospitals and healthcare professionals to insist that all prep pads be sterile and to avoid using any that are not.

Problems with non-sterile pads have led to infections, deaths, and two massive recalls this year. Federal health regulators also warned the medical community earlier this year not to use non-sterile wipes on patients with a depressed immune system due to the potential risks. These recent developments are leading some to ask when or if non-sterile alcohol prep pads should ever be used.

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The largest and most alarming event for the medical community was a Triad prep pad recall that was issued at the beginning of this year for tens of millions of swabs, pads and wipes that were found to be contaminated with Bacillus Cereus bacteria.

A subsequent investigation found that Triad’s parent company, H&P Industries, had systemic manufacturing deficiencies that resulted in multiple products being recalled. The FDA ultimately obtained a consent decree that effectively put H&P out of business as a medical device manufacturer until its Wisconsin manufacturing plant could pass muster.

Contaminated Triad wipes made by H&P Industries have been linked to at least 8 deaths, 11 cases of infection and more than 250 consumer complaints.

One of the more worrisome aspects of the Triad wipe recall was how many of the wipes were included with various medications for the convenience of users. Some health experts say that in many cases the wipes or prep pads did not indicate whether they were sterile, and it is likely that many consumers just assumed that they were sterile.

Another major alcohol prep pad recall was announced late last month, after PDI alcohol wipes was also linked to Bacillus Cereus. However, no illnesses were reported in connection to those wipes and the manufacturers have questioned whether the recall was really necessary.

Bacillus cereus is responsible for about two percent of all foodborne illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Illness comes within 24 hours after exposure and can result in a diarrheal illness. Serious illness and permanent injury are very rare.

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