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A massive recall of potentially contaminated alcohol prep products by a second manufacturer is raising sharp questions about an entire category of medical supplies: non-sterile pads and swabs, infection experts say.

“Is there any place for a non-sterile alcohol prep pad in a hospital setting?” said Dr. Christine Nyquist, a Colorado infection control director who blew the whistle on dangerous bacteria in alcohol wipes last fall. “We believe there isn’t.”

Nyquist and other microbiology experts say a debate is brewing about whether the non-sterile pads and wipes routinely used in hospitals, clinics and private homes to clean skin before shots and other procedures should be curtailed — or perhaps banned — because of the potential for infection. While sterile pads have had problems, too, non-sterile products may raise alarms from the start.

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