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Stop the flu and COVID-19 with these an infection prevention tips

UAB Health System’s senior director of Infection Prevention breaks down the chain of transmission and the way all of us can decrease our threat of getting sick.

Written by: Matt Windsor
Media contact: Hannah Echols

A serious lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is knowing the fundamentals of an infection prevention measures earlier than it’s a matter of life or dying. With rising growth worldwide and interactions between people and animals, COVID-19, sadly, will not be prone to be the final severe illness epidemic outbreak the world encounters.

“Of the deadliest disease outbreaks stretching back a century, more than half have occurred in the past two decades alone,” mentioned Mary Duncan, R.N., senior director of Infection Prevention for the UAB Health System. “Infection prevention is any action a person can take to prevent a pathogen from entering the body and causing disease.”

Duncan, with 18 years of expertise implementing greatest practices at varied well being amenities, observed how confused her household and mates have been when the pandemic started. She notes how rapidly they misplaced religion within the folks they thought they may belief, reminiscent of the federal government, the CDC, the World Health Organization and even their medical doctors.

“When people are in the middle of a crisis, they are not really open to learning new things, and fall back on what they know or what they think they know,” Duncan mentioned. “It is very difficult to try to trust a new person when you are just trying to survive. The good news is that infection prevention actions are something that anyone can learn.”

Understand the chain of transmission

The greatest place to begin, Duncan says, is with a mannequin often known as the chain of transmission.

Infections begin with an infectious agent, or pathogens that may produce an infection or illness. The infectious agent usually lives, grows and multiplies in a reservoir. This is likely to be the atmosphere, an insect or on a floor. With COVID-19 and flu, people are the primary reservoir.

To infect somebody new, infections want a portal of exit from their reservoir. For COVID-19 and flu that’s the respiratory tract. The agent then wants a mode of transmission to contaminate additional hosts. The mode of transmission for each infections is illustrated when an individual coughs, sneezes, talks or sings. The mode of transmission is especially by way of direct contact with these droplets, or to some extent some aerosolized particles. 

Infecting one other individual requires a portal of entry, which for COVID-19 and flu is the eyes, nostril and mouth of the brand new host. Even as soon as the infectious agent makes it inside one other individual, that individual have to be a vulnerable host.

“Unfortunately, the susceptible host with COVID-19 and flu is really any person of any age, although older adults and those with preexisting medical conditions are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill,” Duncan mentioned.

Stream Flu chartGraphic: Jody Potter
Break the chain

To forestall the transmission of a pathogen, Duncan and an infection prevention consultants observe a tried-and-true playbook.

1) Stop it on the supply

  • Eliminate the infectious agent or supply. This could be accomplished by giving an antimicrobial to a affected person who has an energetic an infection or treating a wound an infection in order that no micro organism can exit into the atmosphere.
  • Quarantine uncovered people through the incubation interval, so there isn’t a place for an individual to unfold the infectious agent.
  • Isolate symptomatic individuals so no new hosts grow to be contaminated.
  • Eliminate the reservoir through the use of permitted disinfectant to scrub surfaces or the items of kit that the pathogen could also be residing on.
  • Testing and surveillance can establish the place the reservoirs are if a illness has asymptomatic spreaders, like COVID-19.

2) Interrupt the portal of exit

“If we haven’t been able to prevent infection in the reservoir, then we need to move to the next link in the chain and interrupt the portal of exit,” Duncan mentioned.

Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, reminiscent of coughing into an elbow or tissue, can interrupt the mode of transmission. Masks forestall droplets from being dispersed into the atmosphere and have been discovered efficient in decreasing COVID-19 and flu transmission, Duncan says.

For infections which can be handed on in physique fluid or feces, preserve wounds clear and coated.

3) Interrupt the mode of transmission

“If we haven’t been successful yet, then we need to interrupt the mode of transmission,” Duncan mentioned.

Taking commonplace precautions reminiscent of correct hand hygiene, use of gloves, secure injection practices, sterilizing devices and cleansing environmental surfaces are a necessary observe to forestall the unfold of illness.

Watch Duncan’s full an infection prevention seminar hosted by the Alabama Regional Center for Infection Prevention and Control here.

For extremely infectious brokers, reminiscent of flu and COVID-19, transmission-based precautions like carrying a masks or eye safety when in proximity may also help forestall droplets from being unfold or reaching a portal of entry.

“Over the past several years, we have learned how important it is to ensure that pathogens are not spread by the air,” Duncan mentioned. “Having adequate ventilation where pathogens are being removed by effective filters or there is enough fresh air coming in to dilute the virus is an additional way reduce the mode of transmission.” 

4) Protect the portal of entry

“If the pathogen does find a mode of transmission, there are several things we can do to block entry into our bodies,” Duncan mentioned.

Masks and eye safety shield the most typical entry routes. Clean and canopy any open wounds or breaks within the pores and skin so as to add extra safety.

5) Increase the host’s defenses

If all efforts to interrupt the chain fail and the pathogen makes it into the brand new host, the following step is stopping the pathogen from inflicting an an infection. The No. 1 approach to shield folks from a possible pathogen is thru the administration of an efficient vaccine.

“Vaccines have essentially eliminated childhood illnesses that killed or maimed so many children in the past.” Duncan mentioned. “I’m really one of the first generations who doesn’t know anybody who has had measles, mumps or polio. And my children’s generation is one of the first ones that won’t know anybody who has had chickenpox.”

The discovery of antibiotics has revolutionized the struggle in opposition to pathogens. Duncan notes antibiotics must be used rigorously attributable to pathogens’ capacity to evolve and evade the therapy.

Creating good well being habits and maintaining with private hygiene are two extra methods hosts can strengthen their defenses.

“An individual’s health is so important in protecting them from pathogens,” Duncan mentioned. “Studies have shown that people who smoke or have uncontrolled diabetes or are obese have worse outcomes if they are infected with COVID-19 or the flu.” 

“Removing pathogens from our hands and skin with soap is so important, and then making sure that we have good oral hygiene as well. Both will prevent reservoirs on our body for the pathogens to live.”

Read extra about an infection prevention tips here.

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