This study was to ascertain whether fomentation covers were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus prior to being placed on a patient receiving a hydrotherapy treatment.

From a review of literature on the subject of the Staphylococcus aureus organism and from studies of hospital-acquired staphylococcal infection it appeared that: (1) researches had used various techniques for making cultures from fabrics, (2) the Staphylococcus aureus cultures may react in varying ways to the laboratory tests making the classification somewhat difficult, (3) the problem of hospital-acquired staphylococcal cross-infection was present, (4) the role played by the environment in hospital-acquired infections was controversial, and (5) the amount of contract transmission of organisms depends partly on the degree of surface contamination and moisture on the skin.

The descriptive survey was the method used in this study. Following a pilot study conducted to compare two methods for obtaining cultures from fomentation covers, the triple-contact-plate method was chosen to collect cultures at three selected hospitals.

In the microbiology laboratory the classifying characteristics noted for the gram-positive cocci cultures were (1) pigmentation varying from pale to deep yellow or gold, (2) mannitol fermentation, (3) clear zone hemolysis around individual colonies growing on sheep blood agar, and (4) coagulation of plasma.

When tabulated the data received out of the 300 cultures from the fomentation covers, thirty-eight were gram-positive staphylococci. Of these thirty-eight cultures, twelve, or 4 percent of 300 cultures, were classified as Staphylococcus epidermidis. The remaining twenty-six cultures, or 9 percent of all the cultures, were classified according to their single or multiple characteristics as six "definite" (three and four characteristics), seventeen "possible" (two characteristics) and three "questionable" (one characteristic) Staphylococcus aureus were considered as potential pathogenic organisms.

There were fewer fomentation covers found contaminated with “definite” Staphylococcus aureus at the hospital having the weekly laundry schedule, therefore it appeared to be a safer procedure to launder the covers weekly than to have no laundry schedule.

The covers folded around the heated pads were contaminated showing that the heat and moisture of the pads were not sufficient to destroy the Staphylococcus aureus organism.

Two per cent of the fomentation covers were found to be contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, The fomentation covers appear to be a potential but not a major reservoir of Staphylococcus aureus.

Based on the findings of the study it was suggested that: the fomentation covers used in giving hydrotherapy treatments to patients with staphylococcal Infection be laundered before being returned to the unit, all covers be laundered at least once a week; and that inservice education programs at the three hospitals emphasize the value of careful hand washing while giving hydrotherapy treatments.

LLU Discipline





Graduate School

First Advisor

Matilda Anabelle Mills

Second Advisor

Elsie D. V. Wendth

Third Advisor

C. E. Winter

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Staphylococcus aureus; Hydrotherapy



Page Count

vi; 56

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives