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Top tips to combat the spread of infectious diseases

24 July 2013

Karl King, training and product development manager at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene discusses the challenges of specialist hygiene

Infection control is a critical issue within the healthcare sector, with hospital environments in the UK being subject to strict legislation around the standards of hygiene maintained. Outbreaks of an infectious virus or bacterial contamination can happen anywhere, so ensuring continuous high standards to prevent the spread of infection has never been more important. Infectious diseases can pose a serious threat to a hospital - by not only putting the health of patients at risk but also closing down active wards.

Specialist cleaning in hospitals is challenging, not only because of the complex nature of the task at hand, but also because of the need to keep disruption to a minimum. All services need to be adequately resourced and clearly defined through a strategic cleaning plan.

While cleaning schedules and routines need to be put in place, it is vital that it does not affect service delivery or result in having beds unavailable. The risks of cross-contamination from people sharing contact points are huge and these can normally be reduced by having areas ready for use as soon as possible.

Regularity is key

Hospital staff are up against an unending battle to keep surfaces clean. The sheer number of patients, staff, visitors and surfaces in the health care system means an unenviable task to limit cross contamination. Ensuring public areas are regularly sanitised will have a big influence on the numbers of infections acquired within any unit. Sanitising should be undertaken as soon as a known infection is presented by a patient or visitor, and if that person is known to have inhabited a certain area, then that area should always be sanitised prior to re-use. Best results are achieved through a combination of daily cleaning and infection control by the healthcare unit, backed up with regular sanitisation by specialist service providers. When these actions are not carried out it is very easy for bacterium such as staphylococcus aureus to be picked up and spread from person to person, hand to mouth, and to other surfaces. This type of bacterium is responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in humans and can have a devastating effect on an individual.

Why good hand hygiene is critical

Along with meticulous cleaning regimes, good hand hygiene is also critical in preventing cross contamination between people. Providing adequate hand washing and hand drying facilities is crucial, as is providing hand sanitisers for people to use outside the washroom environment. People can carry around all manner of illness and vomit inducing bacterias on their hands, so good hand hygiene standards are vital if infectious organisms are not to be left on shared contact areas where they would present an infection or contamination risk for other users. In 2005, the Department of Health funded a 'Clean your Hands' campaign, raising awareness of hand hygiene in hospitals. A study recent published by the BMJ showed that the amount of soap and hand gel being used since the campaign has tripled, and rates of MSRA have halved.

How to combat serious outbreaks

Despite having regular deep cleaning regimes and good hand sanitisation policies, hospitals are still at risk from infectious outbreaks. This has been evident this past winter, with Norovirus outbreaks closing down some hospital wards and leading others to stop visiting hours in order to prevent further infections. According to the Health Protection Agency, there was a 72% rise in closed hospital wards during winter, causing major disruptions to healthcare services.

To combat such outbreaks, hospitals and healthcare practices need to partner with a specialist cleaning provider who can sanitise areas quickly and efficiently.

At Rentokil Specialist Hygiene we take a forensic approach to cleaning. Our highly-trained specialist hygiene technicians implement site specific method statements and follow work detailed instructions. We first use microbial swabs which use technology to gauge cleanliness by measuring the presence of organisms. This determines if the conditions will allow additional microbes to grow.

Our technicians are equipped with RLU readers so results can be learned immediately. We then use a range of techniques from hand washing and scrubbing, to fogging - where a technician sprays a chemical fog from a backpack, allowing the disinfection agent to get deep into the fibres of the area that needs to be treated.

All staff in a healthcare environment should participate in the prevention and control of infection outbreaks. Linking up with the right specialist cleaning provider could be the first step towards creating and maintaining cleaner, safer, hospital environments, and combating the threat of potentially deadly diseases.