Every year, many lives are lost because of the spread of infections in hospitals. Health care workers can take steps to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. These steps are part of infection control.

Proper hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of infections in hospitals. If you are a patient, don’t be afraid to remind friends, family and health care providers to wash their hands before getting close to you.

Other steps health care workers can take include
• Covering coughs and sneezes
• Staying up-to-date with immunizations
• Using gloves, masks and protective clothing
• Making tissues and hand cleaners available
• Following hospital guidelines when dealing with blood or contaminated items

Cleaning is very important as germs do not have anywhere to live once dirt has been removed. You should clean regularly (particularly in high-risk areas), instead of once a week. You should clean areas like the kitchen and bathroom ‘as you go’. You don’t need to clean floors as often as you clean high-risk areas.

Germs get into our homes all the time – on people, food and pets and sometimes through our water supply. It is difficult to know whether there are enough germs to create or cause
an infection as it depends on each individual, how contagious the germ is and if the conditions mean it can spread easily.

If you are healthy you are not at an increased risk of getting an infection. Depending on your age, you may be slightly at risk. For example, children under five, pregnant women and adults over 65 are more at risk. You are also at increased risk of getting an infection if you have recently been discharged from hospital or you are undergoing medical treatment or taking antibiotics. If a member of the family has an infection, they may risk spreading it to a person who is ‘at risk’. This may happen if a person is discharged from hospital with an infection. They may have a wound infection or bowel infection, and may no longer have symptoms of the illness but could spread infection to a vulnerable family member through the environment or by hand. You need to remember that more and more infections start in this way.

For example, the winter vomiting bug, C-Diff, MRSA and so on.