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Tips for the Infection Preventionist: Controlling the Transmission of Infectious Agents

To prevent transmission of infectious pathogens, infection preventionists (IPs) employ multiple approaches:

Hand hygiene ranks as the most common and perhaps most important method for limiting the spread of pathogens. Thorough handwashing can virtually eliminate MRSA on the hands of healthcare workers.1 Lack of hand hygiene is the leading cause of HAIs and spread of multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.2 Proper hand hygiene calls for handwashing or use of an alcohol-based hand rub before and after patient contact, before and after putting on gloves, prior to invasive procedures, before handling clean equipment or supplies, after handling dirty equipment or supplies, before eating or drinking and after using the restroom.

Contact precautions are used when a patient is suspected or confirmed to be colonized or infected with an MDRO, C. difficile, resistant gram negative bacteria or another epidemiologically significant organism. Such patients generally do not share rooms, so as to minimize risk to other patients.

Environmental hygiene ensures that equipment, patient rooms and the hospital environment are regularly and appropriately cleaned and disinfected to prevent and control the spread of infectious agents. In some cases, regular disinfection may be suitable; in others, ultraviolet disinfection or other method may be required.

Education of patients, visitors and staff is critical in preventing the spread of infections. For patients unnerved by gowns and gloves, an explanation of the reason for the precautions and how they can also participate in limiting the spread of pathogens can reduce stress and increase adherence to safe practices. Conversations with visitors help them understand how to protect themselves and keep MDROs and other pathogens from spreading in the community. Frequent education of providers and hospital staff improves compliance with protocols which increase patient safety and reduces infection rates.

  1. Mathur P. Hand Hygiene: Back to the basics of infection control. Indian J Med Res. 2011 Nov; 13(5):611-620.

  2. Shinn M. Back to Basics: Hand Hygiene. ICT. January 4, 2013.


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