Hospitals: Helpful Humidity

Ever since Lord Lister rigged up an apparatus to squirt a curtain spray of phenol around his operating table, surgeons have worried about bacteria flying through the air and into a patient's wound. Trouble is, there has been next to no information about how many germs, of what kinds, are in the operating room's air, or—more importantly—about where the bugs come from.

A research team headed by Surgeon Harvey R. Bernard at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis has spent years seeking answers to these fundamental questions. One clear conclusion: surgeons, nurses and patients themselves carry most of the dangerous germs, especially...

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