International Infection Prevention Week 2018

Joint Base San Antonio Team Training (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

Joint Base San Antonio Team Training (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

Infection prevention is one of the most important aspects of healthcare delivery. Prior to established infection prevention and control practices, infection was the number one cause of death. Even now, 1 in 10 patients contract a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) while receiving medical attention, many of which are antibiotic-resistant (WHO, n.d.). HAIs cost hospitals about $20 billion a year and result in almost 100,000 deaths a year in the US alone (CDC, n.d.). Most of these are preventable through appropriate infection-prevention practices. As an aspiring healthcare professional, it is important for you to be familiar with these practices and apply them to your everyday life. They may seem like simple practices, but do not underestimate their importance; applying these simple practices can save lives.

In the community, infection-prevention is equally as important. There may be individuals around you who are immunocompromised and are susceptible to common illnesses and diseases. Individuals at high risk for acquiring infections are infants, elderly adults and individuals receiving immunosuppression therapy, such as cancer and transplant patients (CDC, 2017).

Below, we will go over a few ways of preventing infection in both the healthcare and community setting.

Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene is the single most important method for preventing infection and spread of disease. Proper hand hygiene is both simple and effective. It is of utmost importance to wash our hands in the right way and at the right time. Hands should be washed before and after preparing a meal and eating. They should be washed after blowing your nose and using the washroom. In the healthcare setting, hands should be washed before and after interacting with a patient.

In order to properly wash your hands:

  1. Rinse your hands under warm, running water.

  2. Generously lather your hands up with soap. Scrub the backs of your hands, fingers and under your nails with your fingertips.

  3. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice or the “Alphabet” song once.

  4. Rinse your hands under running water.

  5. Dry your hands from your fingertips up to your wrists.

(WHO, n.d.)

While hand sanitizer is an important tool for maintaining good hand hygiene, it is important to remember that alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not eliminate all germs (CDC, 2017). They will also inefficiently clean noticeably soiled hands. After interacting with patients who are placed in isolation, you should always wash your hands. Using hand sanitizer will not be enough to remove some of the germs you may come in contact with, such as the bacterial agents that cause Tuberculosis, C. Difficile and Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)  (WHO, n.d.).

In Healthcare

In addition to frequent and appropriate hand washing, it is important to apply other practices in order to keep yourself and patients safe. If you are feeling sick or have flu-like symptoms, you should stay home. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, cough, or undiagnosed rashes may be signs of an infectious disease that can spread to other individuals (NHS, n.d.).

Wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), when appropriate is essential. PPE may be composed of gloves, face masks, plastic aprons, or even possibly shoe and head covers. In a hospital, you may encounter many different types of isolation precautions. These include standard, contact, droplet, airborne, and neutropenic precautions. Below is a description of each and the PPE that must be worn when in these patients’ presence. Remember to always put your PPE on before you go enter a patient’s room and discard it immediately before you leave by the exit. Individuals susceptible to infections should not enter isolation rooms.

Contact Precautions - These individuals may have a MRSA, VRE or other infections that are transmitted through touch. The appropriate PPE to wear includes a gown and gloves.

Droplet Precautions - Patients on droplet precautions have disease that spread through droplets released by coughing and speaking. Examples of these diseases are pneumonia, flu, whooping cough and bacterial meningitis. You, as well as any other visitors, should wear a mask and adhere to standard precautions.

Airborne Precautions - Individuals with these precautions have illnesses that are transmitted by the airborne route. Examples include tuberculosis, measles, and chickenpox. A special fit-tested N95 mask must be used. Patients should be placed in a negative pressure room and the door must always be kept closed. Negative pressure rooms prevent contaminated air from leaving.

Neutropenic Precautions - These precautions protect the patient. Patients who are immunocompromised or have low levels of neutrophils (white blood cells crucial to fighting off infection) such as chemotherapy, transplant or burn patients may be placed on neutropenic precautions. Depending on the hospital you may have to wear all of the aforementioned PPE: gown, gloves, mask, head and shoe covers. Before entering a room with neutropenic precautions, it is especially important to wash your hands. If you are sick, it is best to not go in. Even a simple cold can become fatal for a neutropenic patient.

(CDC, 2017)


In the Community

As a member of the community, it is your responsibility to keep yourself and other members of society safe through simple infection prevention measures. Among these, staying up-to-date on your vaccinations, covering your cough and frequently washing your hands are of utmost importance. If you are suffering from a respiratory infection, such as the flu, please wear a face mask. If you are sick, stay home and rest. As mentioned above, illnesses that may not pose a great issue to you may cause serious harm to individuals who have weakened immune systems.

Staying up to date on your immunizations is extremely important. Vaccinations protect not only you, but also the people around you. A multitude of diseases that have disabled and killed many individuals in past generations are now practically unheard of due to widespread vaccination and herd immunity. Thanks to vaccination, smallpox, a disease that used to cause thousands of deaths worldwide, has been completely eradicated since 1980 (, 2018).

 Infection prevention depends on you! We hope that you will apply these infection-prevention strategies to your life in order to keep you and the individuals around you safe!



CDC. (2017, February 28). Transmission-Based Precautions. Retrieved from

CDC. (n.d.). Preventing Healthcare-Associated Infections. Retrieved from

NHS. (n.d.). Infection Prevention and Control. Retrieved from (2018, January). Five Important Reasons to Vaccinate Your Child. Retrieved from

WHO. (n.d.). Infection Prevention and Control. Retrieved from

Content By: Julia Walczak Edited By: Elizabeth Zborek & Katherine Murzanski

Elizabeth Zborek