Infection prevention and control

Infections, particularly those known as ‘health care acquired infections’ (HCAI or HAI) (which means that patients/clients acquire the infection while receiving care from health services), are one of the biggest challenges facing health services throughout the world.

There are many kinds of infections that patients/clients can acquire while accessing health care services. Some are associated with specific germs such as Clostridium difficile (you might hear this referred to as ‘C.diff’), which causes diarrhoea. Others cause urinary, wound or chest infections. These can be caused by lots of different germs (usually bacteria) and can range from being very mild to serious – sometimes fatal – infections.

Our job as health care workers is to do everything we can to reduce passing (or ‘transmitting’) infection to patients, and from one patient to another. In this section, we’ll look at some of the things we can do to help us avoid transmitting germs and therefore preventing infection – what we call ‘standard infection control precautions’.

Standard infection control precautions include personal protective equipment and waste streams, which we will look at in this section. But central to standard infection control precautions is hand hygiene. It sounds very simple, but there’s no doubt that learning how to perform hand hygiene and making sure you wash your hands ‘as you should, when you should’ are the most important things you can do to combat HCAI.

We will also explore in this section how infections are transmitted – the chain of infection.

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