International Infection Prevention Week takes place from 17th – 23rd October this year. The pandemic has shown the crucial role that preventing and controlling infection has to play in healthcare, and Transform Hospital Group places a constant focus on protecting our patients from infection – so much so, that we employ a Group Infection Prevention & Control Nurse.
Their responsibility is to ensure best practice in this area, so that we can provide high standards of care and service to our patients and maintain a safe environment for everyone.
This year, Infection Prevention Week’s theme is “Make Your Intention Infection Prevention” and its focus is on highlighting the science behind infection prevention. Here’s a little background on how the chain of infection works – and what can be done to break it.
Germs are a fact of life
Infections and germs are everywhere – inside, outside, on our skin, and of course around healthcare settings. Although there are many different types of bacteria and viruses, how germs spread from one person to another happens through a sequence of events which is common.
Infections are caused by bacteria or by viruses:
Bacteria are small, singular cells that are able to survive in a range of environments, including extremes of heat or cold, without a living host. They exist in the body naturally and although most are harmless, others can cause infections. Typically, these can be treated with antibiotics. Common bacterial infections include ear infections, urinary tract infections and whooping cough.
These are even smaller than bacteria, and they’re not cells. They invade and multiply within the cells of a host, and can’t survive without a living host. Examples include Covid-19, the common cold, chickenpox, glandular fever and flu.
In all cases of bacterial or viral infection, there are 6 points in the chain – and so there are 6 points at which it can be broken to prevent infection from being passed on.
The 6 points that help spread infection
- Infectious agent: This is the pathogen (germ) which causes disease
- Reservoir: This is the place in the environment where the germ lives – that can be people, animals or insects, medical equipment, and even soil or water
- Portal of exit: This is how the infectious agent leaves the reservoir, and could be through open wounds, aerosols, coughing, sneezing, or saliva
- Means of transmission: How the germ can be passed on (direct contact, ingestion, or inhalation)
- Portal of entry: How the germ can enter a new host, such as through broken skin, the respiratory tract, mucous membranes or, in healthcare settings, catheters and lines
- The host: The carrier of an infection, or someone at risk of infection.
Breaking the chain
We can stop germs from spreading by interrupting the chain at any link. In a healthcare setting, the professionals can break it through practicing proper hand hygiene, making sure that they are up to date with vaccinations, such as those for flu, staying home when they’re sick, and using antibiotics wisely in order to prevent antibiotic resistance.
While you’re with us, we’ll also ask you to take some measures to make sure that you, and everyone around you, are as protected from infection as possible. This will include keeping your hands clean by washing with soap and water, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.