(Torrington, CT) – Nearly a century after the Torrington native and founder of U. T. Hungerford Brass & Copper Company gave the hospital in memory of his mother, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital (CHH) has received a $20,000 grant for the purchase of naturally antibacterial copper products to promote patient, visitor and employee safety.

Part of the Antimicrobial Copper Patient Safety Challenge, grant funds from the Copper Development Association will augment the hospital’s existing infection control and prevention measures. Because copper and copper alloys naturally kill bacteria and viruses, including MRSA and E. coli, copper-based products will help reduce the risk of infections spreading through frequently touched areas.

“We are excited about this opportunity to further our infection prevention and control efforts and keep our patients, visitors and staff safe,” said John Capobianco, Vice President of Operations at CHH.

Copper compounds have been used throughout history for their medicinal purposes. The first recorded medical use of copper is found in the Smith Papyrus, one of the oldest books known, circa 2600 to 2200 BC, which tells of the use of copper to sterilize chest wounds by sharpening copper alloy swords above a wound and allowing the filings to fall into it. Ancient Egyptians used copper compounds to treat headaches, burns and itching. The Aztecs used copper compounds to treat sore throats and skin wounds. In more modern times, copper workers were found to be immune from the cholera epidemics of the mid 1800s in Paris, and Finnish copper miners were unaffected by arthritis as long as they worked in the mines. Most recently, randomized clinical trials at the Medical University of South Carolina, the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Charleston, S.C., and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City showed a 58 percent reduction in infections in the rooms of intensive care units outfitted with copper touch surfaces.

Charlotte Hungerford Hospital was awarded the largest of the three grants given nationwide because of its commitment to using innovative technologies to improve patient safety, its own surface testing experiments and confirmation of previous antimicrobial copper research, said Wilton Moran, Project Engineer with the Copper Development Association.

“We found zero bacterial growth on the copper push plate located next to a nickel push plate that despite regular cleaning did show some bacterial growth,” said Jennifer Allis Vazquez, R.N., M.S.N., C.P.T.C., Infection Prevention and Control Coordinator at CHH. “We are now performing surface testing of bed rails, bedside tables, elevator buttons, chairs, door and toilet handles in a number of places in the hospital to determine the sites of the greatest bacterial burden. This information will help the hospital’s infection control committee recommend surfaces for replacement.”

Teresa Fuller, R.N., M.S.N., Patient Safety Officer at CHH, said, “We will begin by using copper on as many surfaces as the grant allows, replacing surfaces that retain bacteria despite hospital cleaning.”

All of the cabinet pulls in the hospital’s intensive care unit already have been replaced, thanks to a generous donation of 100 copper pulls by Jamie and Joanne Gregg of Colonial Bronze Company in Torrington. CHH may continue to install copper touch surfaces beyond the grant, Fuller said.

Moran noted that copper alloys (which have copper as their principal component) with more than 60 percent copper are all effective in fighting and killing bacteria.

“With over 400 copper alloys registered as antimicrobial public health products by the Environmental Protection Agency, including brass, bronze, nickel silver and aluminum bronze, there is a full spectrum of colors from which to choose surfaces to protect patients and save lives,” he said.

“The Copper Development Association was unaware of Uri Hungerford’s role in the copper and brass industry before awarding the grant to the hospital,” Moran added. “But we are thrilled to know that the role of copper has come full circle – that it will continue to help save lives in Torrington.” The Copper Development Association is the information, education, market and technical development arm of the copper, brass and bronze industries in the USA.

The Charlotte Hungerford Hospital is a 109 bed, general acute care hospital located in Torrington, Connecticut, that serves as a regional health care resource for 100,000 residents of Litchfield County and Northwest Connecticut. CHH offers personalized attention from an expert team of caregivers and physicians that utilize advanced technology and clinical partnerships in a convenient, safe and comfortable patient environment. One Thousand Caregivers, One Job, Your Health.
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