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As COVID-19 proved, germs, including bacteria and viruses, can spread quickly.
The goal of infection prevention and control is to keep people from getting sick.
This is why the CDC launched Project Firstline, a training and education collaborative designed to ensure all healthcare workers, no matter their role or educational background, have the infection prevention and control knowledge and understanding they need and deserve to protect themselves, their patients, and their coworkers.
Project Firstline is working with National Hispanic Medical Association and Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio to promote infection prevention and control in healthcare settings.
“The goal of CDC’s infection control recommendations is to protect you and everyone in the healthcare facility from getting infected while you’re making sure your patients have the essential care that they need,” said Dr. Abigail Carlson, an infectious diseases physician with the CDC, as part of CDC Project Firstline’s Inside Infection Control video series.
What Are infections?
To understand infection control, start by understanding infections themselves.
When germs are spread to another person’s body and get past their natural defenses, or their immune system, the person can get sick.
A virus is a type of germ. Viruses cause some illnesses like a cold and COVID-19. Viruses use living things, like animals and people, to make copies of themselves. Then they can spread to surfaces and people, and infect others.
Other types of germs that cause infections include bacteria and fungi.
What Does Infection Prevention and Control Mean?
Infection prevention and control means taking action to protect healthcare workers, patients, and everyone in a healthcare facility from getting sick.
Infection control actions aren’t just for when healthcare providers are with patients, either.
“We know people work in healthcare because they want to help people and we all recognize there’s a risk of infection in coming to work during a pandemic,” according to CDC’s Project Firstline. “Understanding and applying infection control helps reduce this risk.”
How Can Healthcare Professionals Apply Infection Control and Prevention Amid COVID-19?
Healthcare workers are doing a lot of things differently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, from screening employees and patients at entrances to wearing masks all the time.
- Cleaning your hands – soap and water and alcohol-based hand sanitizer break apart the envelope that holds the virus together, so it can’t spread.
- Creating good ventilation – good indoor ventilation is important for clearing air that might have respiratory droplets in it. Respiratory droplets are the main way COVID-19 spreads.
- Practicing physical distancing – maintaining physical distance helps people avoid breathing in each other’s respiratory droplets.
- Using PPE appropriately – an N95 respirator will prevent you from breathing in virus that’s in respiratory droplets, and eye protection keeps respiratory droplets from landing on your eyes. Using gloves and gowns prevents droplets from getting on your skin and clothes, where it can spread to the nose and mouth by touch. They also keep you from accidentally spreading germs into your work environment.
- Source control – the use of respirators or well-fitting facemasks to cover a person’s mouth and nose prevents spread of respiratory droplets when they are breathing, talking, sneezing, or coughing. Source control is currently recommended for everyone in a healthcare setting.
- Vaccination is another important way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases by preventing new infections and making infections in vaccinated people less easily spread
“For those of us who work in healthcare, this year has brought a lot of changes and challenges. We’ve encountered impossible situations that were new, stressful, and, frankly, scary and traumatic,” said Dr. Carlson as part of CDC Project Firstline’s Inside Infection Control video series.
“These changes can be overwhelming, and we may not always understand why certain things are done, or why they matter for stopping the pandemic. We believe that you can do your job best when you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, and Project Firstline is here to help you do that.”
What Else Can You Do for Infection Control in Healthcare Settings?
Healthcare workers can access more information about infection prevention and control in healthcare settings by visiting resources from the CDC’s Project Firstline.
Project Firstline creates videos and shareable images, web buttons, posters, and print materials. They also have facilitator toolkits to help workers lead trainings even if they are not an infection control expert.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a collaboration between Salud America!, the National Hispanic Medical Association, and the CDC’s Project Firstline. To find resources training materials, and other tools to bolster knowledge and practice of infection control, visit Project Firstline and view Salud America!’s infection control content.