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blog details: What exactly is infection control?
According to the CDC, infection control measures are actions taken to prevent or stop the spread of infections within a healthcare setting. Infection Control and Prevention measures contribute to making the hospital environment as safe as possible for both patients and staff. These measures include an evaluation of how infections spread and how to stop them, as well as more detailed recommendations for known pathogens.
Why is infection control so critical?
As the number of hospital-acquired infections has increased, infection control has become increasingly important (HAI). According to WHO, 7% of all patients admitted to healthcare facilities will contract at least one HAI. In January 2021, NHS England estimated that 18% of COVID-19 cases were hospital-acquired, and during the first wave of the pandemic, 1 in 8 hospitalised COVID cases were due to infections acquired in the hospital.
To reduce infection risks in hospitals, healthcare workers are advised to follow 10 Standard Infection Control Precautions (SICP). These Infection Control measures aid in the control of both known and unknown pathogens. To reduce the risk of HAIs, all healthcare personnel must perform SICPs at all times and on all patients.
What are the Standard Infection Control Precautions?
1. Maintaining Good Hand Hygiene:
It may appear simple, but regular hand washing is one of the most important Infection Control Procedures that all healthcare personnel must follow.
The WHO identifies five key moments for hand hygiene:
– Before contacting the patient – Before performing a clean/aseptic procedure
– Following any bodily fluid exposure risk
– Following contact with the patient – Following contact with the patient’s surroundings
2. Evaluation of Placement and Infection:
All patients must be evaluated for infection risks prior to admission to the healthcare facility, as well as throughout their stay. This will help with treatment decisions.
Patients who may pose a particular risk of cross-infection include:
-Patients who have diarrhoea or vomiting
-Those suffering from an unexplained fever
-Patients who have previously tested positive for a Multidrug Resistant Organism
-The Public Health Agency lists loss of taste or smell, fever, and a new persistent cough as primary symptoms for COVID identifiers.
3. Environmental Management and Protection:
Patients and healthcare workers must be able to practise in a safe environment. Many dangerous microorganisms can live on surfaces, even if they appear clean. These pathogens can live in a variety of places, including door handles, rails, and tables.
As a result, cleaning these high-risk touchpoints is critical. It is critical to use the proper cleaning products and disinfectants when cleaning. Healthcare professionals should be aware of the cleaning and disinfection schedules and responsibilities, and every facility should have strict cleaning protocols.
4. Equipment Safety Management:
Any equipment introduced into the healthcare facility must be fit for purpose and intended for medical use. Wherever possible, ensure that the equipment comes with a robust service package and that staff members are adequately trained on how to use this equipment safely.
Cross infection can also occur through equipment. Oxford University Hospital, for example, linked an outbreak of a Hospital Acquired Infection, Canada Auris, to their contact axilla thermometers.
Non-contact thermometers, such as the TRITEMPTM, reduce customer touchpoints and require no plastic probe covers, reducing contaminated waste and improving infection control.
With technological advancements, it is prudent to ensure that new hospital equipment is optimised for infection control and prevention.
Does it prevent the generation of hazardous waste? Does it lessen contact? Can it be easily cleaned and decontaminated if it is to be used for multiple patients?
5. Linen Management that is Safe:
It is critical to prevent the spread of infections when storing or disposing of linen. Ensure that all clean linen is stored separately from any soiled or contaminated items.
If you have used/soiled linen, make sure there is a laundry holder near the area where the linen was used. This will limit the movement of any potentially hazardous contaminants.
Any infectious or contaminated linen must be immediately placed in a water-soluble bag, securely closed, and tagged. Before being removed from the ward, any infectious linen must be stored in a designated lockable area.
6. Personal Protective Equipment:
Because of the pandemic, everyone’s attention has been drawn to personal protective equipment (PPE). It aids in the prevention of infection. Healthcare workers should wear personal protective equipment to protect themselves from harmful pathogens.
The government requires that all personal protective equipment (PPE) be:
– kept in a clean area close to the point of use
– used as single-use items unless the manufacturer specifies otherwise
– if reusable, PPE is thoroughly decontaminated after each use
– within its expiration date
– immediately changed after each patient
– disposed of correctly (see Safe Disposal of Waste) – discarded if damaged or contaminated
7. Cough and Respiratory Hygiene:
Proper respiratory and cough hygiene practises aim to reduce the risk of cross-transmission of various respiratory illnesses and pathogens like influenza and COVID-19.
Capture, Bin, and Kill it
– If coughing or blowing/wiping the nose, cover the nose and mouth with disposable tissues.
– Bin the tissue after use.
– Wash your hands afterward.
Healthcare professionals should practise respiratory and cough hygiene and encourage patients to do the same. Provide tissues, plastic bags for used tissues, and handwashing stations.
8. Safe Blood and Body Fluid Management:
Healthcare facilities must ensure that all staff is properly trained in the decontamination of blood or other bodily fluid spills.
These spills have the potential to spread blood-borne viruses such as Hepatitis or HIV, so they must be addressed as soon as possible.
Within each setting, the responsibilities for blood or body fluid decontamination will be clearly defined. It is recommended that a blood or body fluid spillage kit be easily accessible.
9. Waste Disposal in a Safe Manner:
Domestic waste (typical everyday waste), contaminated waste (swabs, probe covers, dressings, etc.), and high-risk hazardous waste are all types of waste in hospitals (sharps, medical devices etc.)
The waste will almost certainly need to be separated. It is important to follow your facility’s guidelines as to the proper separation of this waste.
10. Occupational Security:
Occupational safety refers to the steps taken to reduce the risk of infection as a result of occupational exposure. This can result from a variety of sources, which are classified as biological, chemical, or physical exposure. When working with sharps, employees must exercise extreme caution.
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