According to the CDC, in 2014, an estimated 17.8 million people in the United States visited a health care provider to treat infections and parasitic diseases. Every year over 23,000 deaths occur because of these health issues.
Many of these cases could have been eliminated with education and personal hygiene. This week, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) sponsors International Infection Prevention Week. Not only can infections be deadly, but can easily be spread, despite best efforts. There are six ways to come in contact with a germ that infects individuals:
- The Infectious Agent – the pathogen (germ) (g., bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites)
- Reservoir – places in the environment where the pathogen lives (g., dirty surfaces, water, people, animals)
- Portal of Exit – Open wounds, aerosols, body fluids (Coughing, Sneezing, and Saliva)
- Mode of Transportation – Direct or Indirect Contact, Inhalation
- Portal of Entry – Broken Skin, Respiratory Tract, Mucous Membranes
- Susceptible Host – Vulnerable Individuals who are immunocompromised
The main way to reduce contracting or spreading infection is by following good antimicrobial stewardship. Antimicrobial stewardship includes cleaning surfaces, sterilizing surfaces, washing hands, and utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves and masks. The number one way to stop the spread of germs is proper hand hygiene.
Proper hand hygiene, or washing techniques, means making it part of your daily routine when eating, caring for someone sick, treating cuts/wounds, using the lavatory, blowing your nose, coughing, and sneezing. Even though hand washing is a normal process, there is a proper way to wash hands to help stop the spread of germs. The steps are as follows:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water, turn off the tap, and apply soap
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together, making sure to lather everywhere, backs of the hands, nails, between the fingers, etc.
- Scrub your hands (create friction) for at least 20 seconds, equivalent to humming “Happy Birthday” twice
- Rinse hands under clean, running water
- Dry hands using a clean towel or air dry
Handwashing with soap and water is the best way to reduce germs from spreading. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals, dirt, grease, or germs.
Antibiotic resistance can also play a large part in the death rate of infectious diseases. Using antibiotics the wrong way can kill healthy bacteria, the ones that cause a condition called C. diff could grow unchecked and make a person sick and even cause death. Conditions like the cold, flu, coughs, or a sore throat, do not need antibiotics. Antibiotics do not kill viruses, only bacteria.
Before taking any antibiotics, ask a health care provider if the prescription is necessary for your condition. If given antibiotics, it is important to take the complete course exactly as prescribed.