While it is common knowledge that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can only be passed through sexual intercourse, dirty needles, or blood transfusion, experts have stated that dirty, unreplaced towels and beddings in hotel rooms should also be a cause for concern.
In a recent exposé by a local news agency in China, some five-star hotels in Beijing were found to have not been replacing bedlinen and towels in between guest check-ins.
According to AsiaOne such claims were supported by other experts in the field.
Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital Infectious Diseases Physician Dr. Leong Hoe Nam confirmed that some STDs can indeed be transferred to another person who used contaminated bedlinen and towels. The bacteria were most likely to survive longer depending on how moist the surface or the environment was.
Dr. Leong explained that some STDs have been found to survive in towels for up to 24 hours.
Others such as chlamydia have much shorter lifespans, able to survive for up to 45 minutes on plastic surfaces. Herpes simplex virus, which causes genital herpes, may survive for up to two hours in certain conditions and environments.
Crabs, also known as pubic lice, are also found to be spread via unhygienic towels or beddings.
As for other communicable diseases spread by dirty beddings, Dr. Leong said there are types that can be accidentally ingested or inhaled.
“Bacteria can survive on bed linen, tables, etc, for days. They can survive on inanimate objects for 24 hours. And when you flip or beat the blanket or bed linen around, you aerosolize it, making transmission more effective. Breathe it, and you have it!”
Meanwhile, Singapore Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Chemical & Life Sciences Assistant Director Richard Khaw doubts that there is cause to worry unless actual visible traces of bodily fluids are found on the beddings.
“Unless the bed linen or towels have been soiled with feces or other bodily fluids such as vomit – and such stains are usually visible to the naked eye – there is very low risk of gastroenteritis being transmitted,” said Khaw.
He further noted that herpes and gonorrhea are also unlikely to be transmitted through external contact surfaces.
But while he had a different belief on the matter, Khaw still suggests practicing good bedroom and bathroom hygiene as other skin-related bacteria transmissions is another risk to worry about.
“An example is Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) that may be able to transmit indirectly through contact surfaces such as shared utensils, towels, bed linen and other personal care items,” said Khaw.