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Breaking just one of the links in the chain of infection can help reduce risk, keeping your patients – and you – healthier. Covering a cough, disinfecting surfaces and social distancing are simple ways to do this, but good hand hygiene is the most important step in preventing infection.
Here are four best practices to help break the chain of infection.
The “chain of infection” is a common phrase used to describe the six main sources, or links, of infection:
Breaking just one of these links can help reduce the risk of infection. Covering a cough, disinfecting surfaces and social distancing are simple ways to do this, but hand hygiene is the most important step in preventing infection.
“In the absence of hand hygiene, all other measures, including using PPE, are rendered less effective. It’s the single most important measure to protect from germs.”1
Since we don’t always know who is infected with pathogens and who is not, it’s best to take standard precautions in all healthcare settings.2 Colonization occurs when microorganisms live on or in a patient or healthcare provider, but may not appear present or cause illness.
Standard precautions are the minimum prevention practices that apply to all patient care regardless of suspected or confirmed infection, and include:
Healthcare providers should clean hands throughout the patient visit, not just before and after.3 Keep these touch points in mind throughout patient care:
Use soap and water when hands are visibly soiled with blood or bodily fluids, but in all other clinical situations, alcohol-based hand rubs are the gold standard.1
The CDC recommends 60-95% alcohol concentration in hand rubs, and when it comes to soap, antimicrobial soaps or non-antimicrobial soaps are both good options.
There is a right and wrong way to wash hands. Lathering should last for at least 20 seconds.4
When washing hands with soap and water follow these steps:
Access the CDC’s Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings and their complete Guide to Infection Prevention for Outpatient Settings to ensure your facility has appropriate infection prevention policies in place and that staff are adhering to those protocols.
Content adapted from a live webinar event hosted by McKesson Medical-Surgical and GOJO Industries.
1: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guideline for hand hygiene in health-care settings: recommendations of the healthcare infection control practices advisory committee and the HICPAC/SHEA/APIC/IDSA hand hygiene task force
2: Hospital Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC). Recommendations for application of standard precautions for the care of all patients in all healthcare settings
3: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guide to infection prevention for outpatient settings