When infections spread in hospitals this always tends to make headlines. We have seen a number of serious infections spread in hospitals over the past couple of decades including Clostridium difficile, an infection that can cause serious gastrointestinal infections, as well as blood poisoning or endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart). There is also MRSA, a bacterial infection that can also cause minor wound infection.
To anyone reading about it, an event like this can seem incredibly alarming, particularly where the infection has serious symptoms or can cause death. In recognition of this, over the years steps have been taken to try and minimise or avoid infection outbreaks in hospitals, but are they effective and do we really have infection under control?
Management of infection in 2013 for hospitals means acknowledging the risks that are presented and taking steps to prevent them. Often, the bugs that cause infections are spread by skin-to-skin contact, from objects, surfaces, food and water so Hospitals will have a strict dress code and good hand hygiene that all staff will practice.
Sterilisation, disinfection and regular cleaning are all also part of the infection control practice most hospitals undertake, with equipment regularly sterilised and wards and waiting areas cleaned as often as possible. If risk of an outbreak of an infection is looking like it could be on the horizon, steps are then put in place to ensure quick isolation and treatment of anyone who has become infected.
It is important for patients and visitors to Hospitals to also be aware of the risk of spread of infection particularly for those patients who are already vulnerable.
Some simple steps can be followed to keep the risk of infection to a minimum. Firstly, keeping your hands clean is the best and easiest way of stopping germs from being passed from one person to another. So follow simple steps such as washing your hands before meals and after using the toilet. If you have had a bug such as norovirus, please try to avoid visiting hospital until at least 48 hours after your last symptoms, because it can spread very easily and will have a far greater effect on those who are already sick.
During a Hospital stay, as well as keeping good hand hygiene, bugs can also be kept at bay by ensuring that you do not share any flannels or towels and that any clothing including bed clothes and dressing gowns are washed seperately at a high temperature.
There are ongoing risks of infection for any Hospital, simply because of the nature of being a centre for treating the sick. However, when proper precautions such as the ones mentioned are taken, it is a fairly simple and straightforward matter to ensure that we keep infection under control.
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