Healthcare-Associated Infections: How Cleaning Can Prevent Them

by Lawton Brothers | Mar 13, 2023


Healthcare-associated infections are infections that someone gets while receiving healthcare for another condition. Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) can happen in any healthcare facility, including hospitals and long-term care facilities. HAIs are a significant cause of illness and death, with tens of thousands of deaths due to these infections every year in the United States. At any given time, about 1 in 31 patients has an infection related to hospital care. Despite all of the bad news, there is good news: HAIs are preventable. With stringent cleaning practices and proper PPE, it is possible to prevent additional infections during hospitalization/health care. 

During the delivery of care, patients can be exposed to a variety of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa) from other patients, staff, visitors, or even themselves. Patients have varying susceptibility to developing infection after exposure to a pathogen. There are a variety of factors that can predispose patients to an HAI, including extrinsic factors like invasive procedures, diagnostic or therapeutic interventions (i.e. implants, devices, organ transplants, etc.), and personnel exposures. Invasive devices have been found to increase a patient’s risk of an HAI by seven times. Meanwhile, up to 20% of HAIs are surgical site infections. 

Hand Hygiene

Of course, we all know how washing our hands can prevent disease and infections. However, it is much more important in a healthcare setting. Hospitals with low nurse staffing levels and patient overcrowding leading to poor adherence to hand hygiene have been associated with higher adverse outcome rates and hospital outbreaks. In investigations, it was found that during the highest workload demands, staff washed their hands before contacting devices only 25% of the time – this number increased to 70% after the end of the understaffing/overcrowding period. 

Environmental Cleanliness

The healthcare environment is naturally full of pathogenic microorganisms, from a variety of sources. Studies have shown that healthcare workers acquire microorganisms even on gloved hands without performing direct contact, just by touching surfaces near a colonized patient. In order to reduce cross-contamination, it is recommended to use an EPA-registered chemical germicide for standard cleaning and disinfection of medical equipment that comes into contact with more than one patient. When contact precautions are indicated for patient care, use disposable patient care items wherever possible. Advise families, visitors, and patients about the importance of hand hygiene to minimize the spread of body substance contamination to surfaces. Ensure compliance of housekeeping staff with cleaning and disinfection procedures, particularly high-touch surfaces. 

Personal Protective Equipment

Proper usage, wear, and removal of PPE (personal protective equipment) are important to provide maximum protection to the healthcare worker (and subsequently, other patients). During the 2003 SARS outbreak in Canada, 44% of the probable SARS cases were in healthcare workers. Gloves should be used frequently and replaced often. Since gloves can have small, unapparent defects or be torn during use, it is important to wash your hands before putting on a new pair of gloves. Various masks, goggles, and face shields can be worn to provide barrier protection to the mucus membranes. When a mask becomes wet from exhaled moist air, the resistance to airflow through the mask increases, causing more airflow to pass around the sides of the mask. Masks should be changed between patients and anytime the mask becomes wet or damp. 

Tips from the Pros

Lawton Brothers has a myriad of personal protective equipment, chemical cleaners, and hand soaps/hand sanitizers to fit your facility’s needs. Give us a call today at: 800.432.0813 and see how we can help.

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