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Take Infection Control Personally

Personal solutions to a public problem

Infection Control Personally

So much concern is given, and so much is written regarding medical spaces and infection control, and rightfully so. As facility managers and professional cleaning supervisors, this concern cannot be overemphasized. However, in this column I decided to take infection control to a much more personal level.

Stop touching me

As I sit here typing out this piece on my computer, I likely have touched my face at least five times. Right now, we are solidly in cold and flu season, so the more we touch our face the more we are increasing our risk of infection.

It is necessary to assume that everyone and everything is potentially infectious. What do we do about it on a personal level? For starters, try to be conscious about the numerous times you touch your face and make an effort to stop. The second suggestion leads into my second topic…

Wash your hands

Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands! The data in a University of Michigan study conducted in 2010 showed just 40% of health care professionals complied with the recommended hand hygiene guidelines. 

Perhaps things have improved in the nearly 10 years that have passed since that study, but most likely not by much. In 2013, researchers at Michigan State University who watched 3,749 people as they left the restroom observed only 5% of them washing their hands effectively. Among the men they observed, 15% didn’t wash their hands at all and only half used soap. The women were more health conscious,  with only 7% not washing their hands at all and 78% of them using soap.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses that hand washing is one of the most effective ways to cut the spread of infectious disease. All of this adds up to a call to action for managers and supervisors to continue to promote hand washing.

One good shot in the arm

Another way for us to get personal in the fight for infection control is to get a flu shot. In my personal experience over the last 10 years of getting the shot, I have only had the flu once.

Public opinion on the flu vaccination has been mixed, especially in years when it seems the flu shot has provided limited protection. And few of us love needles in the arm. But the medical experts agree that the vaccination is good insurance against the flu. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months old and older should get vaccinated.

For personal protection’s sake, please consider a flu shot, and, no, it can’t give you the flu!

I can’t breathe

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a complicated topic, especially in hospital and clinical environments. In the winter we spend more time indoors, increasing our exposure to dust, dander, pollen, mold, and malodors, which can all be triggers for allergic reactions.

On a personal level we can do several things to help improve the air. We can vacuum frequently and change furnace filters to reduce dust and dander. Acquiring a portable air purifier/ filtration unit can also offer some relief, especially if you already suffer from allergic symptoms such as breathing problems. If mold is a trigger, you may want to limit the number of plants around. Even if it’s cold outside, consider letting some fresh air in, if only for a few minutes a day.

Personal solutions to a public problem

I hope my very personal take on infection prevention has had some value to you. There are low-cost and no-cost solutions to making your personal lives and spaces safer and to reducing threats of infections around you. Good health to you!

Jess J. Baidwan

MESCE, FMP, CMI Trainer

Jess J. Baidwan, MESCE, FMP, is a trainer with ISSA’s Cleaning Management Institute (CMI). He is the division head for environmental services for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe in Colorado.

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