When it comes to infectious diseases in hospitals, healthcare workers are at risk of contracting any if they are not careful enough. Doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff must follow standard precautions in the prevention of infectious diseases in hospitals.
These standard precautions are rules sketched out by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in preventing diseases in a medical setting.
In addition, standard precautions apply to all patients and their care and involve simple hygiene practices. As a hospital worker, you must observe simple hygiene practices, including hand-washing and disinfecting equipment.
You are also obligated to follow any other safety guidelines and additional measures we are going to look at. This article deals with various standard precautions that hospital staff must follow to protect themselves and patients from becoming infected.
What is Infection Control in Healthcare?
In recent times, hospitals have become more aware of infection control and measures to control or stop them. So, what is infectious control in healthcare?
According to the CDC, infection control is the action to control and reduce the spread of infection within a hospital or other healthcare setting. With infection and control measures in place, the hospital becomes safe enough for patients and staff.
These measures include an evaluation of ways infections can spread, how to prevent them, and recommendations for identified pathogens.
Infection control practices are essential in the prevention of infectious diseases in hospitals. In healthcare settings, staff and others must make efforts to minimize the transmission of infection from person to person.
Susceptibility to Healthcare Acquired Infection (HAI)
Everyone admitted to the hospital is at risk of contracting an HAI. Very sick patients or those who have had surgery are at a higher risk.
People susceptible to HAI include premature babies, very sick children, older people, frail people, people with certain medical conditions (diabetes, HIV, etc.), and people with low immunity.
Risk factors for acquiring a Hospital Acquired Infection
The following risk factors may increase a patient’s risk of contracting an HAI:
- Increased length of stay
- Length and type of surgical procedures
- Inadequate hand hygiene technique
- Wrong invasive procedures, such as the insertion of respiratory equipment and drain tubes into the body
- Non-intact skin (wounds, surgical cuts, ulcers, and burns may lead to infection)
Types of Healthcare-Acquired Infections
The most widespread types of infectious diseases in hospitals include the following:
- urinary tract infection (UTI)
- bloodstream infection
- pneumonia (lung infection)
- wound infections
Types of Transmission of Infectious Diseases in Hospitals
Hospital-acquired infections can transmit to uninfected persons directly or indirectly, and other means as explained below:
Infectious diseases in hospitals mainly occur indirectly due to the nature of activities that occur there. Indirect transmission of infectious diseases happens when an infected person touches and infects a surface or an object with which an uninfected person later comes in contact. It is common with bacterial and viral infections.
Another method that infectious diseases in hospitals can spread is by coming in contact of a sick person with an uninfected person. Direct contact also occurs commonly with bacterial and viral infections.
Sprays or Splashes
If someone with a common cold or catarrh sneezes, droplets can spread easily on another person’s eyes, mouth, or nose.
Once they inhale it directly or indirectly, they can contract the infection. Medical procedures like extubation (removal of a tube placed to assist breathing) can cause sprays or splashes of bodily fluid to a hospital worker. This is why they must wear protective equipment.
Airborne infectious diseases, such as bacterial (tuberculosis) and viral (measles), can suspend in the air. When a healthy person inhales the infection, they can easily acquire them.
A blood-borne pathogen entering a person through infected sharp objects, such as needles and surgical blades, could lead to infectious diseases.
That is why these instruments must be sterilized or handled appropriately. Cases such as this can lead to one acquiring hepatitis B virus or HIV.
Infectious diseases should be treated with antibiotics, although they can be severe and life-threatening occasionally. Again, some infectious diseases are resistant to typical antibiotics and are sometimes called superbugs. Examples of superbugs are methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ( MRSA or golden staph), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), and carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE).
Preventing Healthcare Acquired Infections
As a hospital staff, you must follow the procedures below in the prevention of infectious diseases in hospitals:
- Workplace infection control procedures and policies
- Proper and frequent hand hygiene measures
- Adequate cleaning of work settings and equipment
- Compliance with standard sterile techniques during surgery, wound dressing, or inserting and cleaning medical devices
- Appropriate use of antibiotics in the prevention and treatment of infections
Hospitals must participate in surveillance programs to monitor infection rates. This is in addition to measuring the extent of infection prevention practices.
Why is Infection Control so Significant in Hospitals?
Over the years, infectious diseases have increased, leading to increased Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs). WHO (World Health Organization) projected that 7% of patients in a healthcare setting will acquire at least one HAI.
During the first wave of the pandemic, it was reported that one in eight hospital cases of COVID-19 was because of infections acquired in a hospital facility.
Thus, hospitals must conduct ten Standard Infection Control Precautions (SICP) to alleviate the risk of infectious diseases. These control measures help militate against the spread of pathogens and must be carried out frequently for all patients.
What are the Standard Infection Control Precautions in Healthcare?
These are minimum precautions in the prevention of infectious diseases in hospitals used for all patients. Besides, they are also used in healthcare facilities other than hospital settings.
The rule of thumb is that every patient is treated as if they have an infection, even when they don’t. Hence, standard precautions are implemented, regardless of who is involved.
Here are some of the preventive measures:
- Hand Hygiene
Hand hygiene is among the most vital mode of reducing the transmission of pathogens that cause HAIs. Participation in regular hand-washing exercises is an important infection control measure. According to WHO, hospital staff must wash their hands:
- Before handling patients
- Before carrying out a clean/aseptic procedure
- After exposure to any bodily fluid
- After touching the patient
- After touching the patient’s surroundings
- Placement and Infection Evaluation
To prevent infectious diseases from a newly admitted patient, a thorough infection inspection must occur. This procedure must happen throughout their stay in the hospital facility.
Such patients include those with diarrhea, vomiting, unexplained fever, or previously positive with a Multi-drug Resistant Organism.
- Environment Management and Care
The hospital must ensure the surroundings of the patients and staff are safe. High-risk touchpoints must be meticulously cleaned using cleaning materials and disinfectants.
- Equipment Management
Any equipment introduced into the hospital facility must be fit for use. If possible, staff members should receive adequate safety training before handling them. Through equipment, infection can spread in the hospital; this is another source of cross-infection.
- Linen Management
Infection can multiply in the hospital environment through contaminated clothing. Care must be taken to avoid transmitting infectious diseases when storing or disposing of them. Store all clean linen in a particular place, separate from contaminated or soiled items.
In the same way, put used or soiled linen in a laundry holder around to minimize cross-contamination. Safely place any infected linen in a water-soluble bag and tag it. They must be placed in a lockable place before taking away from the ward to its washing point.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
In light of the pandemic, PPE became one of the topics in hospital settings. With the equipment, the spread of infection is reduced. Thus, hospital staff should regularly wear PPE to safeguard against exposure to pathogens.
- Respiratory and Cough Hygiene
Proper respiratory and cough hygiene must be in place to lower the risk of transmission of respiratory diseases and their pathogens. Hence, you must cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissues when coughing, blowing, or wiping the nose. Discard the tissue in the bin and wash your hands after.
- Blood and Body Fluids Management
All hospital staff must receive adequate training on decontaminating blood or other bodily fluid spillages. These could contain blood-borne viruses, including HIV and hepatitis. Easy and safe access to a blood or bodily fluid spillage kit must be available.
- Waste Disposal
Waste disposal is of diverse categories in hospitals, ranging from domestic (typical every day) to contaminated (dressings, swabs, etc.) to hazardous (medical devices, sharps, etc.) waste. Separation and labeling of the waste is necessary. You must follow the hospital’s principles for safe disposal.
- Occupational Safety
This refers to actions to minimize infection risks due to occupational exposure. This could be in the form of biological, chemical, or physical exposure. Hospital staff must take extra caution in working with contaminated materials, particularly sharps.