Infection prevention and control

Overview of infection prevention and control practices in health and disability care settings.

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The information and documents on this page are updated frequently. If you have any questions, please email [email protected].


Introduction 

Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) refers to practical, evidence-based practices and procedures to protect patients, visitors, residents, clients and health workers from being harmed by avoidable infections in the healthcare setting. 

Hierarchy of controls

The hierarchy of controls are applied to minimise risk in the workplace environment and are a wider part of IPC measures to control exposure to infections for healthcare workers.

Hierarchy of Controls

Effectiveness 1 to 5
(1 being the most effective)

  Elimination

Physically remove the hazard - eliminate potential exposure risk

  • triage
  • source control
  • screening
  • risk assess
1
  Substitution

Replace the hazard

  • find other ways to provide care that will reduce potential of transmission of diseases
2
  Engineering Controls

Isolate or reduce exposure of healthcare workers and  people from the hazard

  • use of physical barriers and dedicated pathways
  • remote triage areas, 
  • airborne infection isolation rooms and single patient spaces 
  • engineering controls also focus on maintaining the quality of the indoor air
3
  Administrative Controls

Change the way people work

  • effective policies and protocols designed to prevent and reduce the risk of exposure and transmission of infections,
  • implementation of IPC measures – standard and transmission based precautions, hand hygiene, vaccination programmes for staff and vulnerable patients cleaning and disinfection
  • education and training
4
  Personal Protective Equipment

Protect the worker with personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • ensure that adequate supplies of PPE available for staff and that appropriate education and training provided  including regular refresher training
  • availability of PPE at point of care
  • respiratory protection program
  • risk assess PPE recommendations for specific staff, activities and roles
5

Infection prevention and control measures 

Standard Precautions 

Standard Precautions are a set of routine infection prevention and control practices used to prevent transmission of diseases associated with healthcare.  

Standard Precautions should be used for all patient/client care activities, regardless of their diagnosis or suspected infectious status. This helps to protect health care workers from infection and prevents the spread of infection from patient to patient. 

Before any patient interaction, all health care workers should also assess the infectious risks posed to themselves, their colleagues, other patients and visitors. 

The key elements of Standard Precautions are as follows: 

  • Hand hygiene - hand hygiene must be performed before every episode of direct patient care and after any activity/task or contact that potentially results in hands becoming contaminated, including before and after putting on and removing personal protective equipment (PPE), and after equipment decontamination and waste handling.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) - Select PPE before any health care activity based on an assessment of the likely risk of exposure to body substances or contaminated surfaces. For example, wear gloves if your hands may be in contact with body fluids, wear an apron or gown to prevent soiling of clothing, and wear a face shield/mask/goggle if droplets or splashes are likely to be generated near your face (eg, when taking a nasopharyngeal swab). 
  • Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette - sneezing or coughing into the crook of your elbow or covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then putting the tissue in a bin and cleaning your hands. 
  • Safe use and disposal of needles and other sharps  
  • Aseptic ‘non-touch’ technique - for all invasive procedures, including appropriate use of skin antisepsis.  
  • Patient care equipment – clean, disinfect and reprocess reusable equipment between patients.  
  • Appropriate cleaning and disinfection - of environmental and other frequently touched surfaces. 
  • Safe waste management  
  • Safe handling of linen  

Hand hygiene 

Hand hygiene means washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them for 20 seconds. You can also use hand sanitiser (containing at least 60 percent alcohol) if soap, water and paper hand towels are not available, and if your hands are not visibly dirty. If you use hand sanitiser, cover all the surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. 

Perform hand hygiene before and after touching a patient/client, before and after clean or aseptic procedures, after touching patient surroundings, as well as before and after putting on and taking off PPE. 

Remember to wash your hands before preparing and eating food, after using the toilet, and after sneezing and coughing. 

Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette 

People with respiratory symptoms should be encouraged to sneeze or cough into the crook of their elbow or cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and to then put the tissue in a bin and clean their hands. 

Health care facilities should: 

  • Put signage at the entrance to health care facilities instructing people with acute respiratory symptoms to practice respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, and alert staff to their symptoms. 
  • Make hand hygiene information, hand sanitiser, tissues and masks available in common areas and areas used for the evaluation of patients with respiratory illnesses. 
  • Place people with acute respiratory symptoms at least 1 metre away from others in common waiting areas or in a single room (if available). Ask the person to wear a mask until they can be moved to a single room. 

Transmission-Based Precautions

Transmission-Based Precautions are a secondary set of infection prevention and control practices. They are used in addition to Standard Precautions for patients who may be infected or colonised with infectious pathogens, specifically to prevent transmission of infections.

Transmission-Based Precautions are – contact, droplet and airborne.  
 
The Transmission-Based Precautions required to prevent each mode of transmission are set out in the following sections of this page. 

Contact Precautions 

Contact Precautions are required when interacting with people known or suspected to have infections or diseases that can be transmitted through either direct or indirect contact with people, objects or environmental surfaces that have infectious matter on them. 

The following Contact Precautions apply for all interactions that involve contact with the patient or potentially contaminated objects and surfaces in the patient’s environment: 

  • Wear single-use, non-sterile gloves 
  • Wear a disposable plastic apron or long sleeve gown 

The patient should be placed in a single room, preferably with its own bathroom. Appropriate signage of PPE requirements should be displayed outside the room. 

Droplet Precautions 

Droplet Precautions are required when interacting with people known or suspected to have infections or diseases that can be spread by droplets. 

The following Droplet Precautions apply for all interactions: 

  • Wear a medical mask upon room entry or when interactions mean that physical distancing of 1 metre cannot be maintained 
  • Wear eye protection (goggles or face shield) to reduce exposure to respiratory droplets by touching your eyes or patient coughing or sneezing 
  • Where possible, the patient should wear a medical mask whilst awaiting assessment, or for any movement outside of the single room, along with strict adherence to respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette. 

The patient should be placed in a single room, preferably with its own bathroom. Appropriate signage of PPE requirements should be displayed outside the room. 

Airborne Precautions

Airborne Precautions are required when interacting with people known or suspected to have diseases spread by very small particles that can suspend in the air and can be inhaled into the lungs.  

The following Airborne Precautions apply for all interactions: 

  • Wear a P2/N95 particulate respirator that you have fit checked before room entry. For guidance on donning, doffing and fit checking, see PPE information on masks, respirators, gloves, aprons and eye protection.
  • Where possible, the patient should wear a mask whilst awaiting assessment, or for any movement outside of a single room, along with strict adherence to respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.

  
Patients in a hospital setting should be placed within an airborne infection isolation room (negative pressure room). In other settings, the patient should be placed in a single room, preferably with its own bathroom. Appropriate signage of PPE requirements should be displayed outside the room. 

Specific guidance for COVID-19

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