Basic Infection Control

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Disease transmission

Four ways diseases are passed around:


A—Airborne transmission: Airborne germs can travel long distances through the air and are breathed in by people. Examples of diseases caused by airborne germs: TB, chickenpox. 
B—Bloodborne transmission: The blood of an infected person somehow comes in contact with the bloodstream of another person, allowing germs from the infected person into the other person’s bloodstream. Blood and bloodborne germs are sometimes present in other body fluids, such as urine, feces, saliva, and vomit. Examples of diseases caused by bloodborne germs: AIDS, hepatitis. 
C—Contact transmission: Touching certain germs can cause the spread of disease. Sometimes you touch an infected person, having direct contact with the germ.  Sometimes you touch an object that has been handled by an infected person, having indirect contact with the infection. Examples of diseases caused by contact germs: pinkeye, scabies, wound infections, MRSA. 
D—Droplet transmission: Some germs can only travel short distances through the air, usually not more than three feet. Sneezing, coughing, and talking can spread these germs. Examples of diseases caused by droplet germs: flu, pneumonia. 

Standard Precautions

  1. Wash hands • After touching blood, body fluids, or objects contaminated by blood or body fluids. Do this even if you were wearing gloves. • After removing gloves. • Between each client’s care.

  2. Wear gloves • Whenever you touch blood, body fluids, or contaminated objects. • Before touching a client’s broken skin or mucous membranes (mouth, nose), put on clean gloves. • Change gloves between tasks and between each client’s care. Dirty gloves spread germs, just like dirty hands!  

  3. Wear a gown, mask, and goggles • If you know you might get splashed with blood or body fluids. Use a waterproof gown if you might get heavily splashed. • Remove dirty protective clothing as soon as you can and wash your hands afterward.

  4. Keep everything clean • Clean up spills as soon as possible

Standard Precautions for handling objects 

  1. Clean any equipment that has been used by one client before giving it to another client.  Follow your facility’s cleaning procedures.

  2. Use disposable equipment only once.

  3. Dirty linens should be rolled, not shaken, and should be held away from your body. Linens soiled with body fluids can be washed with other laundry, using your facility’s procedures.

  4. No special precautions are needed for dishes or silverware. Normal dish soap and hot water (water temperature must be hot enough to meet state requirements) will kill germs.

  5. Change cleaning rags and sponges frequently.

  6. Stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and thermometers should be cleaned between each use, using your facility’s procedures.

  7. Dispose of dangerous waste such as needles VERY CAREFULLY. Needles and other sharp devices should go into clearly marked puncture-proof containers, NOT the regular trash container! DO NOT RECAP used needles—put them in the puncture-proof container without the cap on.

  8. Trash that is contaminated with germs, such as wound dressings, should be disposed of according to your facility’s procedures.

  9. Any container marked “Biohazard” is only for discarding contaminated waste—don’t remove anything from it! If you must handle anything in the container, always use gloves. Don’t put your hand in anything that contains needles or other sharp objects.

  10. Check your gloves and other protective clothing frequently. If you see tears or holes, remove the gloves, wash your hands, and apply clean gloves.   

TIP: Don’t touch your face (nose, mouth, eyes) when giving client care, unless you remove your gloves and wash your hands first. Protect yourself from infection. 

Additional Precautions

If you know that a client has a disease that is spread in one of the following ways, use these extra precautions:

1.   Airborne  

  • The client should have a private room, possibly one with a special air filter.

  • Keep the client’s room door closed.

  • Wear a mask. If the client has, or might have, tuberculosis, wear a special respiratory mask (ask your supervisor). A regular mask will not protect you.

  • Remind the client to cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.

  • Ask the client to wear a mask if he or she wants or needs to be around others.

2.  Contact

  • The client should be in a private room, but the door may stay open.

  • Put gloves on before entering the room.

  • Change gloves after touching a contaminated object (bed linens, clothes, wound dressings).

  • Remove gloves right before leaving the room. Don’t touch anything else until you wash your hands. Wash your hands ASAP!

  • Wear a gown in the room if the client has drainage, has diarrhea, or is incontinent. Remove the gown right before leaving the room.

  • Use a disinfectant to clean stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, or any other equipment used on the infected client.

3.  Droplet

  • The client should be in a private room, but the door may stay open.

  • Wear a mask when working close to the client (within three feet). wear a mask if he or she wants or needs to be around others. 

  • Ask the client to be around others.

Handwashing rule: Rub hands together with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds. Germicidal gels are not enough!