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Hospital wheelchairs as vectors for disease transmission

From the November issue of American Journal of Infection Control.

Wheelchair cleaning and disinfection in Canadian health care facilities: “That’s wheelie gross!


  • •Health care staff are very concerned about inadequate wheelchair cleaning and disinfection.
  • •Wheelchair cleaning and disinfection is not optimally performed at many health care facilities.
  • •Most facilities lack clear policies and procedures for cleaning and disinfection of wheelchairs.
  • •Key concerns include tracking dirty and clean wheelchairs and dealing with cushions and armrests.


Wheelchairs are complex equipment that come in close contact with individuals at increased risk of transmitting and acquiring antibiotic-resistant organisms and health care–associated infection. The purpose of this study was to determine the status of wheelchair cleaning and disinfection in Canadian health care facilities.


Acute care hospitals (ACHs), chronic care hospitals (CCHs), and long-term care facilities (LTCFs) were contacted and the individual responsible for oversight of wheelchair cleaning and disinfection was identified. A structured interview was conducted that focused on current practices and concerns, barriers to effective wheelchair cleaning and disinfection, and potential solutions.


Interviews were completed at 48 of the 54 facilities contacted (89%), including 18 ACHs, 16 CCHs, and 14 LTCFs. Most (n = 24) facilities had 50-200 in-house wheelchairs. Respondents were very concerned about wheelchair cleaning as an infection control issue. Specific concerns included the lack of reliable systems for tracking and identifying dirty and clean wheelchairs (71%, 34/48), failure to clean and disinfect wheelchairs between patients (52%, 25/48), difficulty cleaning cushions (42%, 20/48), lack of guidelines (35%, 27/48), continued use of visibly soiled wheelchairs (29%, 14/48) and lack of resources (25%, 12/48).


Our results suggest that wheelchair cleaning and disinfection is not optimally performed at many Canadian hospitals and LTCFs. Specific guidance on wheelchair cleaning and disinfection is necessary.

An opportunity for Nano-Shield applicators

Wheelchairs are among the many fomites (An inanimate object or substance that is capable of transmitting infectious organisms from one individual to another) which can be targeted for treatment with the Nano-Shield antimicrobial system.


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