October presents a month for us to reflect on the importance of infection prevention and have a reminder on the significant milestones achieved in the past few decades owing to increased measures of prophylaxis. By simple definition, infection prevention is a practical, evidence-based approach which encompasses measures to limit the risk of avoidable infection among both patients and health practitioners such as doctors and nurses, among others. There are quite a number of measures accredited by scientists as effective ways of preventing infection in different settings, whether in hospitals or at home. These measures should be observed at all times since the responsible pathogens (micro-organisms) are found almost everywhere.
There are different types of pathogens that cause infections including bacteria (most common), and others such as fungi, viruses and parasites. The bulk of infection cases occur by entry through mucosal surfaces such as the oral cavity (mouth), eyes, nose or via broken skin which exposes the underlying subcutaneous tissues. This can be passively, or actively such as through kissing an infected individual. People can also get infected through sharing contaminated needles or blades, spread by vectors such as mosquitoes for instance in case of malaria, or by aerosols (air-borne) transmission. Once the micro-organisms gain access to an individual’s blood stream or body tissues, they tend to proliferate and cause disease manifestations. In certain cases, they may be severe causing complications and possibly death.
Since the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic, focus has largely shifted to the significance of infection prevention to promote safety and limit morbidity as well as mortality. The pandemic has demanded that each one of us take up responsibility wherever we may be, in upholding a high level of sanitation. Educating those who are ignorant on the same is also important as it ensures that the progress made by those aware of its importance is not jeopardized. Social media has played a vital role in public health education with regard to infection prevention, such as through medical and non-healthcare companies pushing for Covid Safety. Celebrities alike have promoted the same on their social media handles such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, with most people following suit. Each one of us has a role to play regardless of who you are, since every step counts.
With increased awareness on this matter, most of the population has become familiar with standard infection prevention measures, mainly the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves and eyewear. Other measures include hand hygiene by sanitizing constantly, particularly when exposed to surfaces or objects shared by numerous people. In addition to this, sterilization and application of disinfectants on those surfaces and objects should be done but with prior cleaning, so as to remove debris and organic contamination that may shield micro-organisms and compromise the process. Respiratory hygiene through proper cough or sneezing etiquette such as by covering the nose and mouth is critical as well, especially in limiting the spread of respiratory infections.
Those who handle sharp objects such as at places of work or even at home, for instance in the kitchen, should ensure adequate safety during use and disposal to avoid cuts that may play a role in transmission of blood-borne microorganisms. Safe injection practices whether in the hospital setting or at home like for individuals with chronic illnesses such as diabetes (insulin injections) are also key. They include aseptic preparation of injections, avoid reusing the same syringe and needle (whether for the same or different person), disinfecting the rubber septum on medication vials before piercing, and always using new needles/syringes when obtaining doses from the vials. These are some of the main ways we can ensure infection prevention wherever we go. Observing the measures relentlessly and on a daily basis will play a significant role in keeping our neighborhoods safe and healthy, particularly during this global pandemic.