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Infection and how it can be controlled in healthcare facilities

Infectious agents such as viruses and disease-causing bacteria can cause a range of symptoms, from a mild cough to a chronic viral infection. Temporary infections are usually caused by harmful bacteria, often resulting in inflammation, swelling and pain. The majority of the time, chronic infections are caused by viruses, commonly found in people who have weakened immune systems. Often, you can't tell if a person has an infectious disease, symptoms can lay dormant, sometimes for several months.

Where can infection be found

Although infectious agents can be found anywhere, there are certain environments in which they are more likely to breed. Healthcare settings, such as ambulances, hospitals and dental practices are all at a high risk of harbouring bacteria and viruses, despite their regimented hygiene practices. On a daily basis, healthcare practitioners deal with large amount of people, often with weakened immune systems, within confined spaces. Due to the large amount of micro-organisms present, infections can be easily spread between patients and staff.

Although not all infections can be prevented in health care facilities, there are a few practical steps that can be taken to help reduce the chance of developing symptoms.

Good hygiene practices

Wearing protective equipment such as aprons and gloves can help to prevent germs from spreading. As well as washing your hands thoroughly throughout the day, antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-based gels can be used to remove residue and keep your hands clean. Particularly if you are dealing with open wounds or handling reusable medical equipment. It is also important for patients and staff to avoid sharing items that may contain infectious bodily fluids. Items such as towels or pillows, to prevent bacteria from spreading.

Correct cleaning practices

Regular disinfection and sterilisation with bleach or detergent can also prevent infections from developing. When cleaning, it is important to target bacteria hotspots that are frequently touched, such as furniture, handrails and surfaces. For healthcare practitioners, any medical equipment and reusable instruments should be thoroughly cleaned before being used on the next patient.

Correct handling and disposal

Disposing of any used medical equipment or contaminated waste will also reduce the risk of infection. Disposal kits and clinical waste bags can be used for safe handling, storage and disposal of objects that are likely to carry harmful bacteria, such as syringes, needles and other sharp medical utensils. Bio-hazard kits can be used for the effective removal of bodily fluids that may contain infectious microorganisms, such as blood or urine.

Medical aids

In most cases, the immune system will quickly try to fight off the infection. But if an infection remains persistent, you may require medical assistance. Basic medical aids, such as sterile gauze bandages, can be applied to open wounds or skin breaks to block out infectious irritants and stop the infection from getting worse. Alternatively, vaccinations are an extremely effective way of making your body immune to certain infectious agents.