Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) create financial burdens for health systems and patients, as well as physical and emotional strain for those suffering and their families. These infections prolong hospital stays, can lead to antimicrobial resistance and in some cases, even death. According to the World Health Organization, of every 100 hospitalized patients, seven in developed countries will acquire at least one HAI.
While proper disinfection is imperative year-round, it’s especially important during the colder months when cases of flu and norovirus are more prevalent. Environmental services (EVS) and infection control teams must understand best practices and solutions available that can improve patient health, well-being and satisfaction.
Watch Out for Winter Illnesses
The CDC estimates that between 5-20% of the U.S. population acquires influenza annually. The flu is typically spread through respiratory droplet transmission such as sneezing and coughing. While a flu vaccine can help protect recipients from becoming sick, not everyone opts to take this step and the flu inevitably impacts people each year. In fact, the 2018-2019 flu season was the longest in a decade and caused between 37.4 million and 42.9 million illnesses in the U.S. Some people, such as the elderly and those with weakened immune systems who are being treated or recovering in a healthcare facility, are more susceptible to influenza.
Norovirus, commonly referred to as the “winter vomiting bug” is extremely contagious and can wreak havoc on those in confined spaces. Healthcare facilities like hospitals and nursing homes that have many patients, residents, staff and visitors coming and going may be at an increased risk for norovirus outbreaks. In addition to becoming ill by eating contaminated food or liquids, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that people can acquire norovirus by touching contaminated surfaces or coming into direct contact with another person who is infected and then touching their mouth before hand washing.
The Key to Controlling Infections
There are numerous best practices that EVS and infection control teams can use to limit the spread of harmful pathogens in healthcare settings, including:
- Install dispensers that promote 24/7 hand hygiene. Employees, patients and visitors should always have easy access to hand hygiene solutions like soap and sanitizer to reduce the spread of germs. Hybrid dispensers that have both manual and automatic capabilities provide uninterrupted hand hygiene. In the event that the batteries run out, users can simply press the lever and the product is dispensed. Soap dispensers should be placed in on-site kitchens, restrooms and hand sanitizer dispensers are ideal for hallways, waiting areas and patient rooms.
- Conduct daily cleaning with a proven disinfectant wipe. Look for pre-moistened wipes that utilize the power of Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide® (AHP®). This ensures the product is safe to use without compromising germicidal potency and cleaning performance. The product should have a short contact time (such as one minute) so that employees can quickly yet thoroughly clean surfaces. It should also be effective against a wide range of pathogens. While there are many disinfectant options available today, remember to seek out fast, effective, responsible and sustainable solutions.
- Incorporate added assurance solutions. Disinfection technologies that provide extra assurance that surfaces are free of pathogens can help to further limit the spread of infections. Consider a portable UV disinfection device with articulating arms that can be adjusted to cover horizontal and vertical surfaces during peak season to reduce the risk. Ultraviolet light can kill or inactivate microorganisms on high-touch surfaces like bed rails, doorknobs and medical equipment.
Fast and effective disinfection solutions are essential for limiting the spread of norovirus and influenza in healthcare environments. For more information about products for your facility, visit diversey.com/solutions/infection-prevention or download our influenza prevention toolkit here.