The average British ambulance is hardly what you'd call spacious, with an interior volume measuring about 12 cubic meters. But the cramped conditions offer plenty of room for unwanted microbes to ride along, a presentation at the UK Ambulance Service Association's annual conference showed recently.

At the meeting, held early last month, representatives from Steris Industrial Decontamination described what they found between November 2004 and April 2005 when they repeatedly examined the vehicles of 12 unnamed ambulance services in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. They swabbed inside the ambulances immediately after a routine cleaning with a variety of disinfectants, and after disinfection with the company's vaporized hydrogen peroxide system following a 12-hour shift. They focused their attention on eight sites within the vehicle, including the rails of a stretcher, the track beneath the stretcher, an overhead locker and the paramedic's utility bag.

The results were not comforting for anyone planning...

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