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The Importance of Infection Control in Health Care

Higher Education Articles November 25, 2013

Medical science has understood the basics of infection control in health care for centuries. In 1847, scientist Ignaz Semmelweis offered proof that poor hygiene in healthcare workers was the direct cause of a common illness of the time – childbed fever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that the first measures towards hospital-based infection control didn’t start until the 1960s, however.

Infection control practices are the primary means of preventing the spread of nosocomial infections in medical facilities. Efforts toward infection prevention through control standards prompted by agencies like the CDC and the World Health Organization have made a substantial difference in disease control throughout the world.

Transmission of Pathogens

It is a documented fact that certain pathogens are readily transmittable by touch. The organism might come from the healthcare worker due to poor hand washing techniques or hygiene. The infection may also come from the environment, such as the surface of the workspace. The worker touches the counter and transmits the pathogen to a patient during a care procedure.

The CDC considers hand washing the most critical step in disease management, especially in a medical environment. Employers must provide accessible hand washing stations to help prevent the transmission of pathogens.

The care level of the facility is not a factor in the equation either. Infection control is important in all medical environments. A pediatric nurse can spread disease just as readily as a professional working in a cancer ward. The patients may be more susceptible, but even healthy individuals are at risk of disease.

Cost of Healthcare

Healthcare associated infections have economic consequences, as well. A study conducted by the CDC in 2009 showed that 4.5 infections for every 100 hospital admissions cost the healthcare system 4.5 billion dollars in 1995. In today’s economic climate, that number would be closer to 6.65 billion dollars.

The cost of prevention is substantially less. Providing hand-washing stations and teaching healthcare professionals’ proper technique is just one way facilities are cutting back on costs. Medical practices also clean and sanitize equipment and the environment to help reduce the spread of disease and save.

Escalating Super Bug Infections

A study involving nursing homes in California suggests an increase in facility related drug-resistant skin infections. Researchers found deadly “superbugs” in 20 out of 22 nursing homes tested. This indicates a need for even greater infection control to prevent further proliferation of this growing problem.

Strains of MSRA lead to blood infections, abscesses and pneumonia. They represent a particular danger to susceptible individuals like residents in a nursing home. The study material states these patients showed no sign of infection at admission, proving the transmission occurred within the medical facility. The research administrators recommend advanced infection control practices in at-risk facilities to help curtail the escalation of drug-resistant strains of bacteria and MSRA infections.

Control of Community-Based Infections

The spread of disease in a healthcare facility has the potential to expand outward into the community. Patients and medical staff members interact with others. They stop at the grocery store on their way home, they talk to neighbors before going into their houses, and they pick up children from school. Proper control standards in the facility are one of the most practical ways to prevent community-based infections.

The goal of infection control practices is to reduce the invasion and multiplication of microorganisms in or on body tissue. There is no way to eliminate the spread of disease, but the standards established do reduce the incidence. Little things like hand washing make a difference. Hands should be washed after:

•Going to the bathroom
•Handling clothing or bed linens
•Making food
•Eating or drinking

Infection control is a discipline that is not always given the proper amount of attention. It is impossible to follow healthcare workers around to ensure they meet standards. Education is the key to improving how these experts see infection control and understand its role in disease prevention.

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