The Importance of Infection Control
We are living in an unprecedented time. The COVID-19 Pandemic has taught us that we are vulnerable. Following infection control guidelines can provide valuable protection from infections. These can include viral infections such as the flu, or bacterial infections including staph.
Every year, lives are lost due to infectious diseases such as the Flu, Ebola and Coronaviruses. But we can protect ourselves and others by making a few changes. First let’s look at how germs (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) spread.
Germs don’t move themselves. They rely on people, or the environment to help them travel. They do this through:
- Contact moves germs by touch. For example, a person touches a countertop. His hands become contaminated by touching germs present on the surfaces. He then carries the germs to the next location, perhaps a gas station. The germs are left on the nozzle and door handle. The next person touches those and carries the germs to the next location.
- Sprays and splashes occur when an infected person coughs or sneezes, creating small droplets that carry germs. They can travel up to 6 feet. These germs can land on a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth and can cause infection.
- Inhalation can occur when germs are tiny particles that can survive on air currents over great distances and time. Airborne transmission can occur when infected patients cough, or sneeze but also when aerosolized or made into a mist or vapor. These can attach to dust or particles in the air.
- Sharps injuries can lead to infections when bloodborne pathogens or viruses or bacteria access the bloodstream through a skin puncture often caused by a used needle or sharp instrument.
Once these germs come into contact with someone who is susceptible, or at risk for infection, the germs enter the body, invade tissues, multiply causing symptoms and illness. How do we protect ourselves and others?
Everyone has the responsibility to use standard precautions:
- Cover coughs and sneezes in your elbow or with tissues. Don’t cough into the air or your hands. Once your hands are contaminated, everything you touch will be too.
- Stay up-to-date with immunizations. This not only protects you but also those who may be at risk. An example would be infants who haven’t received a vaccination.
- Using masks and protective clothing. Sick individuals should use masks to protect those not infected. Medical workers should always wear the necessary PPE to protect patients, other employees and themselves.
- Use disinfectants and sanitizers. Utilize disinfectants such as sanitizing wipes for cleaning commonly used surfaces (countertops, doorknobs, phones, keys, etc.) to kill viruses and bacteria. Sanitizers, bleach solutions and other chemical solutions can be very effective when used as directed.
- Wash your hands! Wash for 20 seconds with soap and water. This simple act is scientifically proven to significantly reduce infection rates.
- Protect others by safely disposing of contaminated materials that contain or could contain blood or bodily fluids.
We live in a world where there is risk of infection. We can spread it. We can become infected. But we do not need to panic. By following simple infection control procedures, we can significantly reduce risk to ourselves and anyone we come into contact with. ReSolve can provide safety specialists to identify hazards and make recommendations to improve your health and safety program. We also provide OSHA compliant and industry specific training to teach workers to recognize and avoid hazards such as bloodborne pathogens. Contact us to learn how we can help.