Assessment of fomites and infection risk to seniors in recreational curling
Background: Seniors participate in sports to improve physical, mental, and social health; however, such activities may increase the risk of illness and injury. Curling is popular in this age group because it is physically manageable, strategic, and provides social connection. Certain factors in curling such as handshaking, play during the flu season, and shared contact with curling stones suggest an increased risk of disease transmission. The purpose of this study was to determine the qualitative risk of communicable enteric disease transmission due to shared contact with curling stone handles in a senior men’s curling league. Methods: 3M™ Quick Swabs were used to sample 22 curling stone handles for total coliforms before a senior’s league game. To analyze microbial shedding during gameplay, the same 22 handles were sampled after the game. Samples were plated on 3M™ Petrifilm™ Coliform Count Plates and incubated at 30ºC ± 1ºC for 24 hours ± 2 hours. Colonies were enumerated in units of CFU (colony forming units)/cm2. Ambient and handle surface temperatures were measured, and curler hygiene-related behaviours documented. Results: Total coliform counts for all samples were 0 CFU/cm2. The ambient temperature was 6.6°C pre-game, and 8.0°C post-game. Mean handle surface temperature was 3.6°C. Hygiene behaviours of concern were hand-face contact, handkerchief/tissue use, and handshaking. Conclusion: There is low risk of enteric disease transmission due to shared contact with curling stone handles by male curlers 55 years and older. Absence of coliforms may have been due to adequate player hygiene, transference of microbial load before sampling, error, or environmental conditions. Health promotion and education can reduce the infection risk elevated by poor hand hygiene, face contact, and handshaking in senior’s curling, thereby protecting the health and welfare of all participants.