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How to Prevent the Infection: Breaking the Cycle

Studies have shown that breaking the transmission phase of the cycle is one of the most effective ways to prevent infection. The best way to break the transmission phase is thorough and frequent handwashing, good personal hygiene and regular cleaning and disinfection.

Handwashing

Handwashing is considered to be the most important measure to prevent the spread of infection!

(SMDHU has Handwashing resources available. Please notify the health unit and we will gladly supply you with these resources.)

Hands can play a major role in the indirect transmission of pathogens from surfaces to susceptible hosts.  Therefore, handwashing facilities should be adequately located and readily accessible for campers and staff. 

Easy access minimizes the amount of time that contaminants remain in contact with skin, reduces the risk of cross contamination, and fosters an attitude of compliance due to accessibility of proper facilities and supplies.

Handwashing can be done with either plain soaps or antimicrobial products. Handwashing with plain soaps suspends micro-organisms and allows them to be mechanically removed by rinsing under running water. Liquid, bar leaflet or powdered soap is acceptable for handwashing. Handwashing with antimicrobial products kills or inhibits the growth of micro-organisms. This process is referred to as antisepsis.  Both processes are equally effective in breaking the chain of infectious disease transmission.

Hands should be cared for so they do not become chapped or irritated. Using lotions can prevent this from occurring.

When to Wash Your Hands (at a minimum):

  • Whenever hands are visibly soiled.
  • Before and after eating and drinking.
  • After sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose.
  • After touching your hair, face, nose etc.
  • Before and after smoking.
  • Before and after contact with an ill camper/staff member.
  • After beach/water play.
  • After engaging in sports activities.
  • After hiking/biking activities.   
  • After contact with any blood or body fluids.
  • After removing gloves.
  • After contact with animals.
  • After handling any contaminated items (i.e. linens, garbage, etc.).

Handwashing Procedure

Alcohol-based Hand Rubs

Conveniently located and readily accessible handwash basins may not be feasible in many recreational camps. An alternative would be to have alcohol-based hand rubs  (from a dispenser or bottle) available in locations where handwashing should be promoted and practiced but may not be due to distance from, or lack of available facilities. 

Places to consider making alcohol-based hand rubs readily available include:

  • the entrance of dining halls,
  • inside dining halls,
  • in cabins where there is no running water and;
  • at those locations where hand contamination is likely to occur including sporting, camping and beach locations, among others.

When to Use Alcohol-Based Hand Rubs

  • Only when hands are not visibly soiled.
  • After contact with inanimate objects (including sporting/camping equipment).
  • Before entering the dining hall, eating or snacking.
  • Prior to participating in group activities.
  • When on overnight canoe/camping trips and running water is unavailable.

Procedure for Using Alcohol-Based Hand Rubs
(60% to 90% isopropanol or ethanol or a combination)

  1. The hands should be free of dirt and organic materials.
  2. Apply enough alcohol-based hand rubs (1.5 mL) to cover the entire surface of the hands and fingers, or a drop about the size of a loonie.
  3. Rub the solution until dry.

Note:

  • The alcohol-based hand rubs may be used routinely for hand hygiene, unless hands are visibly soiled; then soap and water handwashing is required.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water after blood or body fluid exposure.

Advantages of Alcohol-Based Hand Rubs

  • Active against all bacteria and most clinically important viruses and fungi.
  • Rapidly kills micro-organisms.
  • Spreads quickly across the skin.
  • Evaporates quickly.
  • Leaves an emollient on hands which prevents drying and cracking.
  • No sink rinse required.

Disadvantages of Alcohol-Based Hand Rubs

  • Very poor activity against bacterial spores, (i.e. C. difficile), protozoan cysts and oocysts, and certain non-enveloped (non-lipophilic) viruses (i.e. Norovirus, hepatitis A virus, rhinoviruses, polioviruses, coxsackieviruses).7

Handsanitizing Procedure

Personal Hygiene

Good personal hygiene is extremely important in preventing the spread of pathogens. All employees should practice the following:

  • Shower or bathe daily.
  • Keep nails neat and trimmed.
  • No nail polish or false nails.
  • Jewellery should be kept to a minimum.
  • Wear a clean uniform daily.

 

References:

1.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guideline for hand hygiene in health-care settings: recommendations of the healthcare infection control practices advisory committee and the HICPA/SHEA/APIC/IDSA hand hygiene task force. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2002 Oct 25;51(RR-16).

2.  Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (2006).  Long Term Care Homes & Retirement Homes Infection Prevention and Control Manual. (revised 2010)

Page Last Modified: Thursday, 31 May 2012.