CARL W. WALTER, M.D.
To the editor: Steere and Mallison (Ann Intern Med 83:683-690, 1975) wrongly emphasize "the great importance of handwashing by surgical and obstetric personnel in the prevention of nosocomial wound infection" as a contribution by Semmelweiss. Their reference is Slaughter's novel Immortal Magyar, Semmelweiss, Conqueror of Childbed Fever.
Actually, Ignaz Semmelweiss described death from puerperal sepsis in 11 of 12 parturient women who were examined in sequence. The physician's fingers had merely been washed with soap and water after each patient. Goaded by this horror, he gained lasting fame by proving with startling clarity that the washed examining finger must be
WALTER CW. Handwashing and Semmelweiss. Ann Intern Med. ;85:398. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-85-3-398_1
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1976;85(3):398.
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