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Hand Washing Now A Fundamental Part Of Infection Control

May 31, 2008
It may seem obvious but a major element of infection control is to keep hands clean and wash them regularly. This simplistic approach has been deemed by many as the best weapon against the spreading of infection and putting the confinement of infection under control. Predominantly this is the case within the healthcare industry but can just as easily apply to many other industries and operations, not just in the medical profession.

The creation of a safe environment is the primary function of infection control, in all manner of different locations and situations. Currently infection control has become an increasingly important aspect of healthcare. The growth in antibiotic resistant organisms, widely known as 'superbugs' has meant that hand washing has shot to the top of the agenda for many healthcare professionals. A systematic approach to hand washing forms a vital barrier to the spreading of infections and subsequently is regarded as essential in the medical industry.

In a recent conference delegates were given the task of finding an industry-wide approach to infection control. This conference was fundamentally international in nature with the ultimate objective of creating infection control practices that would be uniform in hospitals across the globe. Professionals from the infection control field met with healthcare professionals from a number of distinct sectors and discussed the best way to incorporate procedures that would lead to a safer, less infected environment for patients and workers alike. A major part of this conference was understanding the antibiotic resistant organisms and the ways in which they could be controlled.

Infection control experts estimate that around two and a half million spread infections occur annually in the US alone; placing these organisms under control is a major concern for healthcare professionals. The result of these infections was estimated to be around thirty thousand deaths as a direct consequence, while a further seventy thousand deaths could be attributed to the spread of infections indirectly. One of the primary reasons that infection control has become so important is due to the financial payouts that must be paid in the event of deaths; put simply, medical institutions cannot afford these reimbursements and are understandably attempting to reduce their occurrence.

Hand hygiene was found to be an essential part of the infection control problem. The conference found that while there are numerous different hand cleansing agents available on the market, the agent was of minimal importance. Of greater importance was the procedures put in place to ensure operators hands were suitably cleansed at all times. The conference argued that hand hygiene was the most important procedure in infection control, in addition, while soap and detergents are widely used; it was in fact antiseptic agents that were found to be the most effective. These antiseptic agents should be used in areas where patients are at the highest risk, for instance, in intensive car units and burn wards.

The delegates also decided that these high risk areas should receive regular assessments of the risks posed to patients. They also recommended that in areas where there may be a lack of hand washing facilities, a self foaming agent that does not require water to clean should be used at regular intervals throughout the day and especially after contact has been made. In addition, if the hands are heavily soiled, a detergent wipe is the ideal way to cleanse the hands before applying an antiseptic agent.

The conference also discussed each of the situations when hand washing formed an essential part of infection control, for instance after invasive examinations or the touching of open wounds. Hand washing technique was also a major part of the discussion, eventually finding a suitable method that ensured that all risk of infection had been removed from the hands before visiting the next patient. This infection control conference has made findings that may seem simplistic and ultimately obvious to some, but without regulations and official cleansing practises it is easy to let the escalating problem of infection spreading to continue unabated. Thanks to the delegates work, it is now the case that all healthcare professionals are now aware of their responsibilities in terms of hand cleansing and infection control.
About the Author
Medical expert Thomas Pretty looks into the importance of infection control in the health care industry.
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