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You have a part to play

You’ve learned that it doesn’t take much to get sick. You’ve also learned how healthcare facilities prevent infection transmission, but is there anything you can personally do?

The answer is yes. In fact, many of the precautions routinely performed in healthcare facilities can be used in your home, school, or work. Following these simple but important steps can help prevent not just you getting sick, but also your family, friends, work colleagues, and even strangers you pass in the street.

Good hand hygiene

Just like healthcare personnel, you too can practice good hand hygiene. Hands should be washed after a potential contamination (such as going to the toilet) and before touching things you don’t want contaminated (like when you’re preparing food). Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands have been recently washed. It is not enough to just rinse your hands as this does not physically remove all of the pathogens or kill those that remain. You can use either soap and water, or an alcohol based hand sanitiser (ABHS). Ensure your hands are thoroughly dried afterwards, as pathogens are more easily transmitted through wet hands. Paper towels are preferable to electronic air dryers as these risk blowing infectious agents to surrounding surfaces (Huang, Ma, & Stack, 2012).

Anything your hands touch regularly, such as door knobs and light switches also need to be cleaned. You can use a simple detergent solution, or wipes. Pay particular attention to shared equipment as well, such as phones and keyboards. Basically the more frequently a surface is touched, the more frequently it needs to be cleaned.

Respiratory etiquette

Respiratory etiquette is also important. Nobody wants to be sprayed with respiratory mucus. Whenever you sneeze or cough, even if you’re not actually sick, you should try to sneeze into tissues, which you can then dispose of. If you don’t have any close at hand, the next best thing is your inner elbow. This helps to limit the spray to just your clothing. If you sneeze/cough into your hands instead, wash them as soon as possible, and avoid touching anything until then.

Social distancing

Social distancing can also be very effective. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you set up a negative pressure isolation room in your home, we’re just asking that you stay at home as much as possible whenever you’re sick. In the US during the 2009 flu pandemic, up to 7 million people were infected at work by sick colleagues who did not stay at home (Drago & Miller, 2010). However, if for whatever reason you do have to go somewhere, remember your hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

Vaccination

Probably the easiest thing you can do is to follow your recommended vaccination schedule, and those for your pets and livestock as well. Global vaccination programs have significantly lowered the incidence of many diseases, even eradicating two: Smallpox and Rinderpest. Many others have the potential to be eradicated, but are still endemic in low-income countries due to low vaccination rates. In high-income countries, where vaccines are readily and easily available, some people refuse to use them because they believe that vaccines are ineffective, or even harmful. Because of anti-vaccinators, outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases such as Measles and Pertussis (Whooping Cough) still occur in high-income countries

Well, that’s all there is to it. Really simple isn’t it? By following these simple steps you can personally contribute enormously to the prevention and containment of infectious disease outbreaks. Now that you know about the One Health approach, you can use those principles in your everyday choices such as food, clothing and where and how you plan to live.

Your Task

Having learned all of this, is your school/workplace doing all they can to prevent infection transmission? Put together a proposal for your employer outlining what measures they should introduce and why. In your proposal consider things like providing ABHS, paper towels instead of air dryers, paid sick leave, and/or flu vaccination. You can produce a poster for your proposal. Save your proposal/poster on Google drive or similar and share a link in the discussion area.

References

Huang, C., Ma, W., & Stack, S. (2012). The hygienic efficacy of different hand-drying methods: A review of the evidence, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 87(8), 791–798.

Drago, R., & Miller, K. (2010). Sick at work: Infected employees in the workplace during the H1N1 pandemic. Retrieved from http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/sick-at-work-infected-employees-in-the-workplace-during-the-h1n1-pandemic

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This article is from the free online course:

Plagues, Pestilence and Pandemics: Are You Ready?

Griffith University

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