HEALTH | Infection control

by Ma. Janice C. Martires

Many illnesses can be prevented as well as lives saved through the control of the spread of infection. Some of these illnesses include chickenpox, common cold, mumps, hand foot and mouth disease, worms, hepatitis A, head lice, scabies, tetanus, botulism, rabies, HIV-AIDS and cholera, among many others. This is why a crucial part of the infrastructure of health care is infection control.

Infectious diseases spread in a number of ways, including through airborne droplets from the nose and throat, through the ingestion of microscopic fecal particles, via urine and other bodily fluids, through the skin or mucous membrane, through the mishandling of food and water, and via contact with animals.

In healthcare settings, there are several practices that are adopted to control the spread of infection. These are through hand hygiene, cleaning, sterilization, disinfection, the use of personal protective equipment, and the maintenance of antimicrobial surfaces.

Hand hygiene refers to the washing of hands and drying them using paper towels after washing. It also refers to the use of hand sanitizers to keep hands clean in between washing sessions. Hand hygiene is critical after defecation, after cleaning a child’s rear, before feeding a child, before eating, and before handling raw meat, fish, or poultry.

Cleaning, sterilization, and disinfection are processes that kill microorganisms through heat, steam, ultraviolet light or cleaning chemicals. In addition, garbage should be disposed at regular intervals to prevent germs from multiplying in trash bins. Garbage, especially hospital waste and other items used by infected persons, must also be disposed properly to prevent the spread of microbes.

Personal protective equipment such as gowns, surgical masks, gloves, and shoe covers protect against exposure to bodily fluids that can spread infection.

Surfaces such as bed rails, bed trays, and bathroom fixtures are also kept clean so that microbes may not thrive on them and cause infection.

Apart from these, health care workers are also vaccinated, and practices like isolation and quarantine are conducted, depending on the type of infection involved.

Infection control is often underestimated but its effectivity in the infrastructure of health should never be taken for granted. Because infection spreads in many ways, it is crucial not only for health workers but also ordinary individuals to practice these methods as much as possible to prevent the spread of infection in the home, hospital, workplace, and other establishments.

As a health advocate, I encourage the government and the private sector to go hand-in-hand in educating the public about how infections spread and how they can be controlled. Knowledge, as they say, is power, and against the growing threats of diseases and infection, we can arm ourselves with the proper information to keep these threats at bay and protect our health.