Although significant advances in infection prevention have been accomplished due to the COVID-19 response, humanity must continue to implement ways to improve them moving forward.
Fremont, CA: When it comes to infection protection, some practices are self-evident—such as requiring all patients and family members to wear masks upon entering an emergency department. That is something people should have been doing a long time ago. Infection prevention as a field has made incredible strides in developing techniques to prevent COVID-19 transmission that might also be utilized to make hospitals and health care facilities safer on a daily basis, whether or not they are infected with COVID-19. This chance, however, will not endure long if people instinctively revert to their previous behaviors and routines. The time has come to consider what the future of infection prevention should look like and how infection preventionists (IPs) can adapt COVID-19 prevention practices to combat antimicrobial-resistant organisms (AROs) and healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs)—both of which have increased in prevalence during the pandemic and are projected to become significant sources of suffering and cost in the near future.
Here are some infection control strategies that humans must continue to implement in infection prevention and control:
Simple, inexpensive surgical masks have been demonstrated to be successful for source control, whereas N95 masks have been demonstrated to provide great wearer protection. At all costs, individuals should wear masks in areas where vulnerable individuals or potentially infectious individuals congregate, such as emergency rooms, cancer treatment centers, and infusion facilities. Masking policies should be significantly increased beyond what existed prior to COVID-19.
Surface disinfection is critical. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, some individuals went to great lengths to sanitize their mail and food delivery bags. While this was unnecessary, IPs and other health care professionals understand that surface disinfection has always been and will always be critical. Pathogens such as Clostridium difficile and MRSA spread rapidly in the environment. The primary issue here is that environmental services (EVS) staff are tasked with an impossible task: in a small period of time, clean and beautify a room for the next renter while also disinfecting it using wipes, rags, and liquid chemicals that require multi-minute dwell times.
Prior to 2020, hand cleanliness was a primary focus for infection prevention, and it remains so throughout the pandemic. Hand hygiene should be maintained, and compliance rates increased. The pandemic educated the public about the critical nature of hand washing, and healthcare institutions should encourage all visitors and patients to practice good hand hygiene on a regular basis.