To understand infection control, you have to understand the chain of infection and ways to disrupt this chain to protect yourself. Links of the chain include the microorganism, reservoir, portal of exit, mode of transmission, portal of entry, and susceptible host.
- Microorganisms: Microorganisms are the causative agents in virtually every infectious disease. On the one hand, microbes can have little potential to infect large groups of people. On the other hand, some microorganisms, like smallpox, can be highly infectious. Factors such as the number of microorganisms present, the potency of the microorganism, the ability of the agent to enter the body, the susceptibility of the host, and whether the organism can live in the host’s body, all determine the ability of a microorganism to cause infection.
- Reservoirs: Reservoirs are sources of microorganisms. Humans, plants, animals, and the surrounding environment can serve as carriers of specific agents with little to no signs of disease. The carrier state of a reservoir may be a temporary or long-term. “For example, shellfish are reservoirs for hepatitis A, and the Anopheles mosquito is a carrier of the malaria parasite.”
- Portal of exit: “A microorganism has to leave the reservoir to establish itself as an infection. The portal of exit depends on the body area where the organism is located. Portals of exit include the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, respiratory tract, genitourinary (GU) tract, blood, and tissue.”
- Mode of transmission: A microorganism must have a means of conveyance once it leaves its reservoir. Modes of transmission include direct, indirect, and airborne. Direct transmission occurs when a person directly transfers the infection to another. This spread can happen through biting, touching, kissing, or sexual intercourse. Some organisms can even be transmitted through sneezing, coughing, spitting, or talking. Indirect transmission is typically vector-borne. This happens when an animal or insect transports the infectious agent to a person. Indirect transmission also includes the transmission of germs through inanimate objects. An airborne transmission includes evaporated droplets and dust particles containing infectious agents that have the potential to remain in the air for long periods of time.
- Portal of entry: A microorganism must enter the body before anyone can become infected. The portal of entry to the susceptible host is the same as the portal of exit from the host.
- Susceptible host: A susceptible host is a person who is at risk for infection. Any impairment of the body’s natural defenses makes an individual vulnerable. Common risk factors include age (very young and very old), immune suppression treatment for cancer or organ transplants, immune deficiency conditions, and chronic disorders.
What Precautions Can Be Taken?
Hands should be washed with soap and water, but also the use of hand-sanitizer when water is not available. Hand hygiene should be performed before and after contact with a client, immediately after touching blood, body fluids, non-intact skin, mucous membranes, or contaminated items, promptly after removing gloves, after using the restroom, and after coughing or sneezing. SaniWash Antimicrobial Hand Wash is a Safetec of America, Inc. product that cleans dirty hands while remaining gentle on skin, works efficiently against germs reducing the risk of cross-contamination, all while helping you meet APIC, CDC, and OSHA hand washing standards. SaniWash comes in a variety of packaging options to help meet your needs. If soap and water are not available, try Safetec’s Instant Hand Sanitizer or p.a.w.s. Antimicrobial Hand Wipes.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be worn to protect skin, clothing, mucous membranes, and the respiratory tract from infectious agents when work practices and engineering controls alone cannot eliminate worker exposure. PPE includes gloves, gowns, masks, respirators, and eyewear. The items selected for use depend on the type of interaction a public health worker will have with a client and the likely modes of disease transmission.
Needlestick and Sharps Injury Prevention
The safe handling of needles and other sharp devices to prevent healthcare worker exposure to bloodborne pathogens is essential. Immediately after use, needles and other sharp objects should be properly disposed of.
Cleaning and Disinfection
Client care areas, common waiting areas, and other potentially contaminated surfaces or objects should be routinely cleaned with EPA registered disinfectants. In the presence of dirt and organic matter, cleaning must occur before disinfection. Safetec manufactures a 2-Minute Surface Disinfectant named Sanizide Pro. This product is an alcohol-based, hospital grade surface disinfectant. It can be used on a variety of hard and soft surfaces such as floors, walls, stainless steel, plastic surfaces, bathtubs, cabinets, ceramic tile, and much more. Sanizide Pro is EPA registered, non-corrosive, fragrance-free, and is effective against TB, MRSA, HIV-1, Norovirus, H1N1, E. coli, VRE, Hepatitis B & C, and even more. Available in spray and refill bottles, or pre-saturated surface wipes, Sanizide Pro is convenient, ready-to-use, and user-friendly.
Clients in waiting rooms or other common areas can spread infections to others in the same area. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, or the crook of your elbow if a tissue is not available when you cough to contain infected droplets. Cough etiquette is a simple procedure that can significantly reduce the possibility of infecting others nearby.
The proper disposal of waste could not be more important to help prevent the spread of infection. Sharp and non-sharp disposable items saturated with blood or bodily fluids should be disposed of in containers that are puncture resistant, leak-proof, closable, and labeled with the biohazard symbol or are red in color. Safetec carries two sizes of Red Biohazard Disposal Bags for use in hospitals, offices, labs, nursing homes, clinics, emergency rooms, and other medical facilities to help appropriately dispose of potentially hazardous waste.
Safe Injection Practices
Unsafe injection practices put patients and healthcare providers at risk of infectious and non-infectious adverse events. Safe Injection Practices need to be reiterated due to outbreaks of Hepatitis B and C in US ambulatory care facilities. Be sure to use a new needle and syringe with each client and every use. Safe injection practices are part of Standard Precautions and are aimed at maintaining basic levels of patient safety and provider protections. As defined by the World Health Organization, a safe injection does not harm the recipient, does not expose the provider to any avoidable risks and does not result in waste that is dangerous for the community.