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Infection control

After COVID-19 was discovered and started spreading across the globe, infection control has gained a whole new level of focus in society. Since the coronavirus is new, and there’s currently no vaccine for it, stopping spread is dependent on individuals everywhere taking responsibility. Infection control becomes extremely important in periods where the global society needs to get a handle on a new disease.

Here’s a brief overview of what infection control is, as well as which measures actually work against the coronavirus.

Infection control

What is infection control?

According to the WHO, infection prevention and control is a scientific approach and practical solution designed to prevent harm caused by infection to patients and health workers.

In the context of day-to-day life, infection control is any measure you take as an individual in order to prevent an infection spreading. When you’re dealing with highly infectious diseases, such as the Norovirus (stomach flu) or influenza, infection control can be very effective. 

Internationally, the World Health Organization creates and publishes the rules and regulations for how to handle different diseases that spread worldwide. Some examples of individual infection control are:

  • Washing your hands carefully
  • Coughing into your elbow
  • Staying at home when you’re sick
  • Being careful not to touch surfaces, as well as cleaning surfaces thoroughly if you’re sick
  • Being aware of touching your face as little as possible when you’re sick

Which infection control measures work?

All of the above measures work when you’re attempting to limit infection spread. However, they’re only effective when they’re implemented into society, either as law or as cultural expectations amongst the individuals of that society. You can’t stop the spread of a disease if only a few individuals are careful to clean their hands thoroughly. This means that the best infection control measures are the ones that are widely followed both nationally and globally.

Which efforts work best depends on which disease you’re dealing with. Some diseases are extremely contagious. Others we don’t have sufficient antibodies against – like new diseases, which the body hasn’t experienced before. Generally speaking, though, you can still say that hygiene and keeping distance are the best (and perhaps simplest) infection control measures you can implement at an individual level.

Which equipment helps infection control efforts?

There are several types and kinds of equipment that help with infection control – in addition to cleaning your hands or staying at home when you’re sick. Face masks are common, and can be effective in combination with general hygiene and distancing measures. However, it’s important to remember that a face mask is most effective when used by the person who’s sick – or by the people who are in direct contact with infected individuals, such as health professionals.

The WHO is very clear on this, particularly with reference to the new coronavirus.

In addition to face masks for symptomatic individuals, disinfectants (antibac) are also a good supplement to cleaning your hands often. Remember that the most important measure you can take in infection control is cleaning your hands thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds, and regularly. In certain situations, however, you may not have access to soap and water – and that’s when hand sanitizers are a whole lot better than nothing.

For health professionals or others who are around sick or symptomatic individuals, there’s also infection control equipment such as respirators, safety glasses, gloves, surgical masks, visors, protective suits and coats.

Why is there so much focus on infection control in preventing the spread of the coronavirus?

COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, was discovered in China in desember of 2019, and it’s spread across the entire world in a short amount of time. At present, there’s no vaccine for the disease, and health services in several countries are under enormous pressure. The virus is most dangerous to the elderly, as well as to individuals with underlying diseases – these people form part of the risk groups

So long as there’s no cure for the coronavirus, infection control is the most important and effective measure that can be implemented. By being thorough with hygiene and efforts to prevent spread (such as staying home), society can collaborate to protect those at risk. In turn, this means that the health system can better prepare for those who need intensive care – and that there’s a higher likelihood of avoiding infection peaks, in which many people fall seriously ill at the same time.

Which infection control measures work against the coronavirus?

Today, WHO’s official policy is that the coronavirus spreads via droplets. In other words, healthy individuals either touch or inhale droplets that infected individuals have either coughed, sneezed or breathed out. As of now, research on COVID-19 suggests that it does not spread through the air. What is known, however, is that the virus is highly contagious.

This also means that the best infection control efforts are strict personal hygiene, distance between people (many of those infected have mild symptoms) and strict cleaning efforts in public areas. 1/6 people infected with the coronavirus fall severely ill and develop respiratory problems. It’s to avoid that these approximately 15 % of the population – who are generally in risk groups – become sick that infection control is so important in preventing the spread of COVID-19.