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The Importance Of Infection Control

Apr 16, 2008
Infection control is ultimately concerned with the prevention of the spreading of infections in the spheres of healthcare and biological science. It is an important element of any medical laboratory or workplace ethic; infection control applies to the cleaning of hands and protective clothing as well as investigating possible infection problems. As such, sterilisation, disinfecting and cleaning are common terms used within the infection control process.

The hygiene of worker's hands forms a large part of infection control procedures. Recent studies have shown that infections are spread readily when workers neglect their hand hygiene. It may seem a simple method of infection control but ensuring your hands are cleansed regularly and after any contact with infection can be effective. It is not only the need for procedures to be put in place but also the use of effective soaps and detergents that eliminate infection. The majority of care institutions and labs have regulations that ensure workers are suitably cleansed.

Part of infection control includes the sterilisation of equipment and areas. This is defined as the highest possible level of microbial annihilation and can be achieved through heat, steam and liquid chemical methods. It is an important aspect of infection control that all sterilising equipment should be cleaned effectively. Unsurprisingly, there is little point in having sterilisation equipment that itself is not sterile. Disinfection, when used in the infection control context, more commonly refers to the use of chemical solutions to kill micro-organisms, it is not however as efficient or foolproof as sterilisation.

Infection control is also concerned with personal protective equipment or PPE. Put simply this is specialist equipment and clothing that is worn for protection from bio-hazards. The purpose of PPE is to prevent the worker from coming into contact with infection. This clothing can be disposable for ultimate control of infection; examples are the mouth guards and face shields worn by some healthcare professionals such as surgeons. Naturally disposal areas should be in ready supply to limit the possibility of infections spreading.

Part of infection control and management provisions includes the vaccination of workers who will come into contact with infectious material regularly. Whilst this cannot be applied to all situations it is advisable in some circumstances. It should always be combined with other infection control efforts however to ensure complete protection. In conjunction with vaccination is post exposure prophylaxis, this is used where vaccines do not exist after contact with infection has occurred.

It is not just prevention that makes up infection control, the process of surveillance and investigation can also be involved. Fundamentally this is the detection of infection origins and symptoms in order to develop efficient preventative measures. It is believed that almost a third of infections acquired in healthcare can be prevented; hence the work of surveillance is extremely important. This can also be applied to outbreak investigation where infections break out in a particular area, a team of investigators can be sent to understand the reasons behind the outbreak.

It is not just about utilising the most efficient chemicals and cleaning solutions in order to prevent infection. The training of staff can also be seen as an important preventative measure. If workers can understand and appreciate the issues concerned with infection control and management it is more likely they will follow procedures. Understanding the need to isolate infectious materials and not carry these viruses and infections beyond their place of origin is of high importance, realising how to do this is equally imperative.

Hopefully this introduction to infection control has allowed the reader to grasp its importance. Understanding the necessity for effective cleaning solutions and procedures should be a concern for laboratory workers and healthcare professionals. This knowledge can be vital in the prevention of cross contamination and the spreading of infections.
About the Author
Medical expert Thomas Pretty looks into the importance of infection control control in the healthcare and bio-science industries.
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