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3 ATOMO Dental Tutorial: Fundamental elements needed to prevent transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings

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II.B. Surveillance for healthcare-associated infections (HAIs)

Surveillance is an essential tool for case-finding of single patients or clusters of patients who are infected or colonized with epidemiologically important organisms (e.g., susceptible bacteria such as S. aureus, S. pyogenes [Group A streptococcus] or Enterobacter-Klebsiella spp; MRSA, VRE, and other MDROs; C. difficile; RSV; influenza virus) for which transmission-based precautions may be required. Surveillance is defined as the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of data regarding a health-related event for use in public health action to reduce morbidity and mortality and to improve health 663. The work of Ignaz Semmelweis that described the role of person-to-person transmission in puerperal sepsis is the earliest example of the use of surveillance data to reduce transmission of infectious agents 664. Surveillance of both process measures and the infection rates to which they are linked are important for evaluating the effectiveness of infection prevention efforts and identifying indications for change 555, 665-668.

The Study on the Efficacy of Nosocomial Infection Control (SENIC) found that different combinations of infection control practices resulted in reduced rates of nosocomial surgical site infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and bacteremia in acute care hospitals 566; however, surveillance was the only component essential for reducing all four types of HAIs. Although a similar study has not been conducted in other healthcare settings, a role for surveillance and the need for novel strategies have been described in LTCFs 398, 434, 669, 670 and in home care 470-473. The essential elements of a surveillance system are: 1) standardized definitions; 2) identification of patient populations at risk for infection; 3) statistical analysis (e.g. risk-adjustment, calculation of rates using appropriate denominators, trend analysis using methods such as statistical process control charts); and 4) feedback of results to the primary caregivers 671676.
Data gathered through surveillance of high-risk populations, device use, procedures, and/or facility locations (e.g., ICUs) are useful for detecting transmission trends 671-673. Identification of clusters of infections should be followed by a systematic epidemiologic investigation to determine commonalities in persons, places, and time; and guide implementation of interventions and evaluation of the effectiveness of those interventions.

Targeted surveillance based on the highest risk areas or patients has been preferred over facility-wide surveillance for the most effective use of resources [673, 676]. However, surveillance for certain epidemiologically important organisms may need to be facility-wide. Surveillance methods will continue to evolve as healthcare delivery systems change [392, 677] and user-friendly electronic tools become more widely available for electronic tracking and trend analysis [674, 678, 679]. Individuals with experience in healthcare epidemiology and infection control should be involved in selecting software packages for data aggregation and analysis to assure that the need for efficient and accurate HAI surveillance will be met. Effective surveillance is increasingly important as legislation requiring public reporting of HAI rates is passed and states work to develop effective systems to support such legislation [680].


II.C. Education of HCWs, patients, and families

Education and training of healthcare personnel are a prerequisite for ensuring that policies and procedures for Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions are understood and practiced. Understanding the scientific rationale for the precautions will allow HCWs to apply procedures correctly, as well as safely modify precautions based on changing requirements, resources, or healthcare settings 14, 655, 681-688. In one study, the likelihood of HCWs developing SARS was strongly associated with less than 2 hours of infection control training and lack of understanding of infection control procedures 689. Education about the important role of vaccines (e.g., influenza, measles, varicella, pertussis, pneumococcal) in protecting healthcare personnel, their patients, and family members can help improve vaccination rates 690-693.

Education on the principles and practices for preventing transmission of infectious agents should begin during training in the health professions and be provided to anyone who has an opportunity for contact with patients or medical equipment (e.g., nursing and medical staff; therapists and technicians, including respiratory, physical, occupational, radiology, and cardiology personnel; phlebotomists; housekeeping and maintenance staff; and students). In healthcare facilities, education and training on Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions are typically provided at the time of orientation and should be repeated as necessary to maintain competency; updated education and training are necessary when policies and procedures are revised or when there is a special circumstance, such as an outbreak that requires modification of current practice or adoption of new recommendations. Education and training materials and methods appropriate to the HCW's level of responsibility, individual learning habits, and language needs, can improve the learning experience [658, 694-702].

Education programs for healthcare personnel have been associated with sustained improvement in adherence to best practices and a related decrease in device-associated HAIs in teaching and non-teaching settings 639, 703 and in medical and surgical ICUs {Coopersmith, 2002 #2149; Babcock, 2004 #2126; Berenholtz, 2004 #2289;, #2563}. Several studies have shown that, in addition to targeted education to improve specific practices, periodic assessment and feedback of the HCWs knowledge,and adherence to recommended practices are necessary to achieve the desired changes and to identify continuing education needs [562, 704-708]. Effectiveness of this approach for isolation practices has been demonstrated for control of RSV [116, 684].

Patients, family members, and visitors can be partners in preventing transmission of infections in healthcare settings 9, 42, 709-711. Information about Standard Precautions, especially hand hygiene, Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette, vaccination (especially against influenza) and other routine infection prevention strategies may be incorporated into patient information materials that are provided upon admission to the healthcare facility. Additional information about Transmission-Based Precautions is best provided at the time they are initiated. Fact sheets, pamphlets, and other printed material may include information on the rationale for the additional precautions, risks to household members, room assignment for Transmission-Based Precautions purposes, explanation about the use of personal protective equipment by HCWs, and directions for use of such equipment by family members and visitors. Such information may be particularly helpful in the home environment where household members often have primary responsibility for adherence to recommended infection control practices. Healthcare personnel must be available and prepared to explain this material and answer questions as needed.


II.D. Hand hygiene

Hand hygiene has been cited frequently as the single most important practice to reduce the transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings [559, 712, 713] and is an essential element of Standard Precautions. The term "hand hygiene" includes both handwashing with either plain or antiseptic-containing soap and water, and use of alcohol-based products (gels, rinses, foams) that do not require the use of water. In the absence of visible soiling of hands, approved alcohol-based products for hand disinfection are preferred over antimicrobial or plain soap and water because of their superior microbiocidal activity, reduced drying of the skin, and convenience [559]. Improved hand hygiene practices have been associated with a sustained decrease in the incidence of MRSA and VRE infections primarily in the ICU [561, 562, 714-717]. The scientific rationale, indications, methods, and products for hand hygiene are summarized in other publications [559, 717].

The effectiveness of hand hygiene can be reduced by the type and length of fingernails [559, 718, 719]. Individuals wearing artifical nails have been shown to harbor more pathogenic organisms, especially gram negative bacilli and yeasts, on the nails and in the subungual area than those with native nails [720, 721]. In 2002, CDC/HICPAC recommended (Category IA) that artificial fingernails and extenders not be worn by healthcare personnel who have contact with high-risk patients (e.g., those in ICUs, ORs) due to the association with outbreaks of gram-negative bacillus and candidal infections as confirmed by molecular typing of isolates [30, 31, 559, 722-725].The need to restrict the wearing of artificial fingernails by all healthcare personnel who provide direct patient care or by healthcare personnel who have contact with other high risk groups (e.g., oncology, cystic fibrosis patients), has not been studied, but has been recommended by some experts [20]. At this time such decisions are at the discretion of an individual facility's infection control program. There is less evidence that jewelry affects the quality of hand hygiene. Although hand contamination with potential pathogens is increased with ring-wearing [559, 726], no studies have related this practice to HCW-to-patient transmission of pathogens.


II.E. Personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare personnel

PPE refers to a variety of barriers and respirators used alone or in combination to protect mucous membranes, airways, skin, and clothing from contact with infectious agents. The selection of PPE is based on the nature of the patient interaction and/or the likely mode(s) of transmission. Guidance on the use of PPE is discussed in Part III. A suggested procedure for donning and removing PPE that will prevent skin or clothing contamination is presented in the Figure. Designated containers for used disposable or reusable PPE should be placed in a location that is convenient to the site of removal to facilitate disposal and containment of contaminated materials. Hand hygiene is always the final step after removing and disposing of PPE. The following sections highlight the primary uses and methods for selecting this equipment.

II.E.1. Gloves

Gloves are used to prevent contamination of healthcare personnel hands when 1) anticipating direct contact with blood or body fluids, mucous membranes, nonintact skin and other potentially infectious material; 2) having direct contact with patients who are colonized or infected with pathogens transmitted by the contact route e.g., VRE, MRSA, RSV [559, 727, 728]; or [3]) handling or touching visibly or potentially contaminated patient care equipment and environmental surfaces [72, 73, 559]. Gloves can protect both patients and healthcare personnel from exposure to infectious material that may be carried on hands [73]. The extent to which gloves will protect healthcare personnel from transmission of bloodborne pathogens (e.g., HIV, HBV, HCV) following a needlestick or other pucture that penetrates the glove barrier has not been determined. Although gloves may reduce the volume of blood on the external surface of a sharp by 4686% [729], the residual blood in the lumen of a hollowbore needle would not be affected; therefore, the effect on transmission risk is unknown. Gloves manufactured for healthcare purposes are subject to FDA evaluation and clearance [730] . Nonsterile disposable medical gloves made of a variety of materials (e.g., latex, vinyl, nitrile) are available for routine patient care 731. The selection of glove type for non-surgical use is based on a number of factors, including the task that is to be performed, anticipated contact with chemicals and chemotherapeutic agents, latex sensitivity, sizing, and facility policies for creating a latex-free environment [17, 732-734]. For contact with blood and body fluids during non-surgical patient care, a single pair of gloves generally provides adequate barrier protection [734]. However, there is considerable variability among gloves; both the quality of the manufacturing process and type of material influence their barrier effectiveness [735]. While there is little difference in the barrier properties of unused intact gloves [736], studies have shown repeatedly that vinyl gloves have higher failure rates than latex or nitrile gloves when tested under simulated and actual clinical conditions [731, 735-738]. For this reason either latex or nitrile gloves are preferable for clinical procedures that require manual dexterity and/or will involve more than brief patient contact. It may be necessary to stock gloves in several sizes. Heavier, reusable utility gloves are indicated for non-patient care activities, such as handling or cleaning contaminated equipment or surfaces [11, 14, 739].

During patient care, transmission of infectious organisms can be reduced by adhering to the principles of working from "clean" to "dirty", and confining or limiting contamination to surfaces that are directly needed for patient care. It may be necessary to change gloves during the care of a single patient to prevent cross-contamination of body sites [559, 740]. It also may be necessary to change gloves if the patient interaction also involves touching portable computer keyboards or other mobile equipment that is transported from room to room. Discarding gloves between patients is necessary to prevent transmission of infectious material. Gloves must not be washed for subsequent reuse because microorganisms cannot be removed reliably from glove surfaces and continued glove integrity cannot be ensured. Furthermore, glove reuse has been associated with transmission of MRSA and gram-negative bacilli [741-743].

When gloves are worn in combination with other PPE, they are put on last. Gloves that fit snugly around the wrist are preferred for use with an isolation gown because they will cover the gown cuff and provide a more reliable continuous barrier for the arms, wrists, and hands. Gloves that are removed properly will prevent hand contamination (Figure). Hand hygiene following glove removal further ensures that the hands will not carry potentially infectious material that might have penetrated through unrecognized tears or that could contaminate the hands during glove removal [559, 728, 741].

II.E.2. Isolation gowns

Isolation gowns are used as specified by Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions, to protect the HCW's arms and exposed body areas and prevent contamination of clothing with blood, body fluids, and other potentially infectious material 24, 88, 262, 744-746. The need for and type of isolation gown selected is based on the nature of the patient interaction, including the anticipated degree of contact with infectious material and potential for blood and body fluid penetration of the barrier. The wearing of isolation gowns and other protective apparel is mandated by the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard [739]. Clinical and laboratory coats or jackets worn over personal clothing for comfort and/or purposes of identity are not considered PPE.

When applying Standard Precautions, an isolation gown is worn only if contact with blood or body fluid is anticipated. However, when Contact Precautions are used (i.e., to prevent transmission of an infectious agent that is not interrupted by Standard Precautions alone and that is associated with environmental contamination), donning of both gown and gloves upon room entry is indicated to address unintentional contact with contaminated environmental surfaces [54, 72, 73, 88]. The routine donning of isolation gowns upon entry into an intensive care unit or other high-risk area does not prevent or influence potential colonization or infection of patients in those areas365, [747-750].

Isolation gowns are always worn in combination with gloves, and with other PPE when indicated. Gowns are usually the first piece of PPE to be donned. Full coverage of the arms and body front, from neck to the mid-thigh or below will ensure that clothing and exposed upper body areas are protected. Several gown sizes should be available in a healthcare facility to ensure appropriate coverage for staff members. Isolation gowns should be removed before leaving the patient care area to prevent possible contamination of the environment outside the patient's room. Isolation gowns should be removed in a manner that prevents contamination of clothing or skin (Figure). The outer, "contaminated", side of the gown is turned inward and rolled into a bundle, and then discarded into a designated container for waste or linen to contain contamination.

II.E.3. Face protection: masks, goggles, face shields

II.E.3.a. Masks

Masks are used for three primary purposes in healthcare settings: 1) placed on healthcare personnel to protect them from contact with infectious material from patients e.g., respiratory secretions and sprays of blood or body fluids, consistent with Standard Precautions and Droplet Precautions; 2) placed on healthcare personnel when engaged in procedures requiring sterile technique to protect patients from exposure to infectious agents carried in a healthcare worker's mouth or nose, and 3) placed on coughing patients to limit potential dissemination of infectious respiratory secretions from the patient to others (i.e., Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette). Masks may be used in combination with goggles to protect the mouth, nose and eyes, or a face shield may be used instead of a mask and goggles, to provide more complete protection for the face, as discussed below. Masks should not be confused with particulate respirators that are used to prevent inhalation of small particles that may contain infectious agents transmitted via the airborne route as described below. Masks should not be confused with particulate respirators that are used to prevent inhalation of small particles that may contain infectious agents transmitted via the airborne route as described below.

The mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and eyes are susceptible portals of entry for infectious agents, as can be other skin surfaces if skin integrity is compromised (e.g., by acne, dermatitis) 66, 751-754. Therefore, use of PPE to protect these body sites is an important component of Standard Precautions. The protective effect of masks for exposed healthcare personnel has been demonstrated 93, 113, 755, 756. Procedures that generate splashes or sprays of blood, body fluids, secretions, or excretions (e.g., endotracheal suctioning, bronchoscopy, invasive vascular procedures) require either a face shield (disposable or reusable) or mask and goggles 93-95, 96 , 113, 115, 262, 739, 757 .The wearing of masks, eye protection, and face shields in specified circumstances when blood or body fluid exposures are likely to occur is mandated by the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard 739. Appropriate PPE should be selected based on the anticipated level of exposure.

Two mask types are available for use in healthcare settings: surgical masks that are cleared by the FDA and required to have fluid-resistant properties, and procedure or isolation masks 758 #2688. No studies have been published that compare mask types to determine whether one mask type provides better protection than another. Since procedure/isolation masks are not regulated by the FDA, there may be more variability in quality and performance than with surgical masks. Masks come in various shapes (e.g., molded and non-molded), sizes, filtration efficiency, and method of attachment (e.g., ties, elastic, ear loops). Healthcare facilities may find that different types of masks are needed to meet individual healthcare personnel needs.

II.E.3.b. Goggles, face shields

Guidance on eye protection for infection control has been published 759. The eye protection chosen for specific work situations (e.g., goggles or face shield) depends upon the circumstances of exposure, other PPE used, and personal vision needs. Personal eyeglasses and contact lenses are NOT considered adequate eye protection ( NIOSH states that, eye protection must be comfortable, allow for sufficient peripheral vision, and must be adjustable to ensure a secure fit. It may be necessary to provide several different types, styles, and sizes of protective equipment. Indirectly-vented goggles with a manufacturer's anti-fog coating may provide the most reliable practical eye protection from splashes, sprays, and respiratory droplets from multiple angles. Newer styles of goggles may provide better indirect airflow properties to reduce fogging, as well as better peripheral vision and more size options for fitting goggles to different workers. Many styles of goggles fit adequately over prescription glasses with minimal gaps. While effective as eye protection, goggles do not provide splash or spray protection to other parts of the face.

The role of goggles, in addition to a mask, in preventing exposure to infectious agents transmitted via respiratory droplets has been studied only for RSV. Reports published in the mid-1980s demonstrated that eye protection reduced occupational transmission of RSV 760, 761. Whether this was due to preventing hand-eye contact or respiratory droplet-eye contact has not been determined. However, subsequent studies demonstrated that RSV transmission is effectively prevented by adherence to Standard plus Contact Precations and that for this virus routine use of goggles is not necessary 24, 116, 117, 684, 762. It is important to remind healthcare personnel that even if Droplet Precautions are not recommended for a specific respiratory tract pathogen, protection for the eyes, nose and mouth by using a mask and goggles, or face shield alone, is necessary when it is likely that there will be a splash or spray of any respiratory secretions or other body fluids as defined in Standard Precautions Disposable or non-disposable face shields may be used as an alternative to goggles 759. As compared with goggles, a face shield can provide protection to other facial areas in addition to the eyes. Face shields extending from chin to crown provide better face and eye protection from splashes and sprays; face shields that wrap around the sides may reduce splashes around the edge of the shield. Removal of a face shield, goggles and mask can be performed safely after gloves have been removed, and hand hygiene performed. The ties, ear pieces and/or headband used to secure the equipment to the head are considered "clean" and therefore safe to touch with bare hands. The front of a mask, goggles and face shield are considered contaminated (Figure).

II.E.4. Respiratory protection

The subject of respiratory protection as it applies to preventing transmission of airborne infectious agents, including the need for and frequency of fit-testing is under scientific review and was the subject of a CDC workshop in 2004 763.

Respiratory protection currently requires the use of a respirator with N95 or higher filtration to prevent inhalation of infectious particles. Information about respirators and respiratory protection programs is summarized in the Guideline for Preventing Transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Health-care Settings, 2005 (CDC.MMWR 2005; 54: RR-17 12).

Respiratory protection is broadly regulated by OSHA under the general industry standard for respiratory protection (29CFR1910.134)764 which requires that U.S. employers in all employment settings implement a program to protect employees from inhalation of toxic materials. OSHA program components include medical clearance to wear a respirator; provision and use of appropriate respirators, including fit-tested NIOSH-certified N95 and higher particulate filtering respirators; education on respirator use and periodic re-evaluation of the respiratory protection program. When selecting particulate respirators, models with inherently good fit characteristics (i.e., those expected to provide protection factors of 10 or more to 95% of wearers) are preferred and could theoretically relieve the need for fit testing 765, 766. Issues pertaining to respiratory protection remain the subject of ongoing debate. Information on various types of respirators may be found at and in published studies 765, 767, 768. A user-seal check (formerly called a "fit check") should be performed by the wearer of a respirator each time a respirator is donned to minimize air leakage around the facepiece 769. The optimal frequency of fit-testng has not been determined; re-testing may be indicated if there is a change in facial features of the wearer, onset of a medical condition that would affect respiratory function in the wearer, or a change in the model or size of the initially assigned respirator 12.

Respiratory protection was first recommended for protection of preventing U.S. healthcare personnel from exposure to M. tuberculosis in 1989. That recommendation has been maintained in two successive revisions of the Guidelines for Prevention of Transmission of Tuberculosis in Hospitals and other Healthcare Settings 12, 126. The incremental benefit from respirator use, in addition to administrative and engineering controls (i.e., AIIRs, early recognition of patients likely to have tuberculosis and prompt placement in an AIIR, and maintenance of a patient with suspected tuberculosis in an AIIR until no longer infectious), for preventing transmission of airborne infectious agents (e.g., M. tuberculosis) is undetermined. Although some studies have demonstrated effective prevention of M. tuberculosis transmission in hospitals where surgical masks, instead of respirators, were used in conjunction with other administrative and engineering controls 637, 770, 771, CDC currently recommends N95 or higher level respirators for personnel exposed to patients with suspected or confirmed tuberculosis. Currently this is also true for other diseases that could be transmitted through the airborne route, including SARS 262 and smallpox 108, 129, 772, until inhalational transmission is better defined or healthcare-specific protective equipment more suitable for for preventing infection are developed. Respirators are also currently recommended to be worn during the performance of aerosol-generating procedures (e.g., intubation, bronchoscopy, suctioning) on patients withSARS Co-V infection, avian influenza and pandemic influenza.

Although Airborne Precautions are recommended for preventing airborne transmission of measles and varicella-zoster viruses, there are no data upon which to base a recommendation for respiratory protection to protect susceptible personnel against these two infections; transmission of varicella-zoster virus has been prevented among pediatric patients using negative pressure isolation alone 773. Whether respiratory protection (i.e., wearing a particulate respirator) would enhance protection from these viruses has not been studied. Since the majority of healthcare personnel have natural or acquired immunity to these viruses, only immune personnel generally care for patients with these infections 774-777. Although there is no evidence to suggest that masks are not adequate to protect healthcare personnel in these settings, for purposes of consistency and simplicity, or because of difficulties in ascertaining immunity, some facilities may require the use of respirators for entry into all AIIRs, regardless of the specific infectious agent.

Procedures for safe removal of respirators are provided. In some healthcare settings, particulate respirators used to provide care for patients with M. tuberculosis are reused by the same HCW. This is an acceptable practice providing the respirator is not damaged or soiled, the fit is not compromised by change in shape, and the respirator has not been contaminated with blood or body fluids. There are no data on which to base a recommendation for the length of time a respirator may be reused.


II.F. Safe work practices to prevent HCW exposure to bloodborne pathogens

II.F.1. Prevention of needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries

Injuries due to needles and other sharps have been associated with transmission of HBV, HCV and HIV to healthcare personnel 778, 779. The prevention of sharps injuries has always been an essential element of Universal and now Standard Precautions 1, 780. These include measures to handle needles and other sharp devices in a manner that will prevent injury to the user and to others who may encounter the device during or after a procedure. These measures apply to routine patient care and do not address the prevention of sharps injuries and other blood exposures during surgical and other invasive procedures that are addressed elsewhere 781-785.

Since 1991, when OSHA first issued its Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to protect healthcare personnel from blood exposure, the focus of regulatory and legislative activity has been on implementing a hierarchy of control measures. This has included focusing attention on removing sharps hazards through the development and use of engineering controls. The federal Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act signed into law in November, 2000 authorized OSHA's revision of its Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to more explicitly require the use of safety-engineered sharp devices 786. CDC has provided guidance on sharps injury prevention 787, 788, including for the design, implementation and evaluation of a comprehensive sharps injury prevention 789 program.

II.F.2. Prevention of mucous membrane contact

Exposure of mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth to blood and body fluids has been associated with the transmission of bloodborne viruses and other infectious agents to healthcare personnel 66, 752, 754, 779. The prevention of mucous membrane exposures has always been an element of Universal and now Standard Precautions for routine patient care 1, 753 and is subject to OSHA bloodborne pathogen regulations. Safe work practices, in addition to wearing PPE, are used to protect mucous membranes and non-intact skin from contact with potentially infectious material. These include keeping gloved and ungloved hands that are contaminated from touching the mouth, nose, eyes, or face; and positioning patients to direct sprays and splatter away from the face of the caregiver. Careful placement of PPE before patient contact will help avoid the need to make PPE adjustments and possible face or mucous membrane contamination during use. In areas where the need for resuscitation is unpredictable, mouthpieces, pocket resuscitation masks with one-way valves, and other ventilation devices provide an alternative to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, preventing exposure of the caregiver's nose and mouth to oral and respiratory fluids during the procedure.

II.F.2.a. Precautions during aerosol-generating procedures

The performance of procedures that can generate small particle aerosols (aerosol-generating procedures), such as bronchoscopy, endotracheal intubation, and open suctioning of the respiratory tract, have been associated with transmission of infectious agents to healthcare personnel, including M. tuberculosis 790, SARS-CoV 93, 94, 98 and N. meningitidis 95. Protection of the eyes, nose and mouth, in addition to gown and gloves, is recommended during performance of these procedures in accordance with Standard Precautions. Use of a particulate respirator is recommended during aerosol-generating procedures when the aerosol is likely to contain M. tuberculosis, SARS-CoV, or avian or pandemic influenza viruses.

II.G. Patient placement

II.G.1. Hospitals and long-term care settings

Options for patient placement include single patient rooms, two patient rooms, and multi-bed wards. Of these, single patient rooms are prefered when there is a concern about transmission of an infectious agent. Although some studies have failed to demonstrate the efficacy of single patient rooms to prevent HAIs 791, other published studies, including one commissioned by the American Institute of Architects and the Facility Guidelines Institute, have documented a beneficial relationship between private rooms and reduction in infectious and noninfectious adverse patient outcomes 792, 793. The AIA notes that private rooms are the trend in hospital planning and design. However, most hospitals and long-term care facilities have multi-bed rooms and must consider many competing priorities when determining the appropriate room placement for patients (e.g., reason for admission; patient characteristics, such as age, gender, mental status; staffing needs; family requests; psychosocial factors; reimbursement concerns). In the absence of obvious infectious diseases that require specified airborne infection isolation rooms (e.g., tuberculosis, SARS, chickenpox), the risk of transmission of infectious agents is not always considered when making placement decisions. When there are only a limited number of single-patient rooms, it is prudent to prioritize them for those patients who have conditions that facilitate transmission of infectious material to other patients (e.g., draining wounds, stool incontinence, uncontained secretions) and for those who are at increased risk of acquisition and adverse outcomes resulting from HAI (e.g., immunosuppression, open wounds, indwelling catheters, anticipated prolonged length of stay, total dependence on HCWs for activities of daily living) 15, 24, 43, 430, 794, 795.

Single-patient rooms are always indicated for patients placed on Airborne Precautions and in a Protective Environment and are preferred for patients who require Contact or Droplet Precautions 23, 24, 410, 435, 796, 797. During a suspected or proven outbreak caused by a pathogen whose reservoir is the gastrointestinal tract, use of single patient rooms with private bathrooms limits opportunities for transmission, especially when the colonized or infected patient has poor personal hygiene habits, fecal incontinence, or cannot be expected to assist in maintaining procedures that prevent transmission of microorganisms (e.g., infants, children, and patients with altered mental status or developmental delay). In the absence of continued transmission, it is not necessary to provide a private bathroom for patients colonized or infected with enteric pathogens as long as personal hygiene practices and Standard Precautions, especially hand hygiene and appropriate environmental cleaning, are maintained. Assignment of a dedicated commode to a patient,and cleaning and disinfecting fixtures and equipment that may have fecal contamination (e.g., bathrooms, commodes 798, scales used for weighing diapers) and the adjacent surfaces with appropriate agents may be especially important when a single-patient room can not be used since environmental contamination with intestinal tract pathogens is likely from both continent and incontinent patients 54, 799. Results of several studies to determine the benefit of a single-patient room to prevent transmission of Clostridium difficile are inconclusive 167, 800-802. Some studies have shown that being in the same room with a colonized or infected patient is not necessarily a risk factor for transmission 791, 803-805. However, for children, the risk of healthcare-associated diarrhea is increased with the increased number of patients per room 806. Thus, patient factors are important determinants of infection transmission risks, and the need for a single-patient room and/or private bathroom for any patient is best determined on a case-by-case basis.

Cohorting is the practice of grouping together patients who are colonized or infected with the same organism to confine their care to one area and prevent contact with other patients. Cohorts are created based on clinical diagnosis, microbiologic confirmation when available, epidemiology, and mode of transmission of the infectious agent. It is generally preferred not to place severely immunosuppressed patients in rooms with other patients. Cohorting has been used extensively for managing outbreaks of MDROs including MRSA 22, 807, VRE638, 808, 809, MDR-ESBLs 810; Pseudomonas aeruginosa 29; methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus 811; RSV 812, 813; adenovirus keratoconjunctivitis 814; rotavirus 815; and SARS 816. Modeling studies provide additional support for cohorting patients to control outbreaks Talon 817-819. However, cohorting often is implemented only after routine infection control measures have failed to control an outbreak.

Assigning or cohorting healthcare personnel to care only for patients infected or colonized with a single target pathogen limits further transmission of the target pathogen to uninfected patients 740, 819 but is difficult to achieve in the face of current staffing shortages in hospitals 583 and residential healthcare sites 820-822. However, when continued transmission is occurring after implementing routine infection control measures and creating patient cohorts, cohorting of healthcare personnel may be beneficial.

During the seasons when RSV, human metapneumovirus 823, parainfluenza, influenza, other respiratory viruses 824, and rotavirus are circulating in the community, cohorting based on the presenting clinical syndrome is often a priority in facilities that care for infants and young children 825. For example, during the respiratory virus season, infants may be cohorted based soley on the clinical diagnosis of bronchiolitis due to the logistical difficulties and costs associated with requiring microbiologic confirmation prior to room placement, and the predominance of RSV during most of the season. However, when available, single patient rooms are always preferred since a common clinical presentation (e.g., bronchiolitis), can be caused by more than one infectious agent 823, 824, 826. Furthermore, the inability of infants and children to contain body fluids, and the close physical contact that occurs during their care, increases infection transmission risks for patients and personnel in this setting 24, 795.

II.G.2. Ambulatory settings

Patients actively infected with or incubating transmissible infectious diseases are seen frequently in ambulatory settings (e.g., outpatient clinics, physicians' offices, emergency departments) and potentially expose healthcare personnel and other patients, family members and visitors 21, 34, 127, 135, 142, 827. In response to the global outbreak of SARS in 2003 and in preparation for pandemic influenza, healthcare providers working in outpatient settings are urged to implement source containment measures (e.g., asking couging patients to wear a surgical mask or cover their coughs with tissues) to prevent transmission of respiratory infections, beginning at the point of initial patient encounter 9, 262, 828 as described below in section III.A.1.a. Signs can be posted at the entrance to facilities or at the reception or registration desk requesting that the patient or individuals accompanying the patient promptly inform the receptionist if there are symptoms of a respiratory infection (e.g., cough, flu-like illness, increased production of respiratory secretions). The presence of diarrhea, skin rash, or known or suspected exposure to a transmissible disease (e.g., measles, pertussis, chickenpox, tuberculosis) also could be added. Placement of potentially infectious patients without delay in an examination room limits the number of exposed individuals, e.g., in the common waiting area.

In waiting areas, maintaining a distance between symptomatic and non-symptomatic patients (e.g., >3 feet), in addition to source control measures, may limit exposures. However, infections transmitted via the airborne route (e.g., M tuberculosis, measles, chickenpox) require additional precautions 12, 125, 829. Patients suspected of having such an infection can wear a surgical mask for source containment, if tolerated, and should be placed in an examination room, preferably an AIIR, as soon as possible. If this is not possible, having the patient wear a mask and segregate him/herself from other patients in the waiting area will reduce opportunities to expose others. Since the person(s) accompanying the patient also may be infectious, application of the same infection control precautions may need to be extended to these persons if they are symptomatic 21, 252, 830. For example, family members accompanying children admitted with suspected M. tuberculosis have been found to have unsuspected pulmonary tuberculosis with cavitary lesions, even when asymptomatic 42, 831. Patients with underlying conditions that increase their susceptibility to infection (e.g., those who are immunocompromised 43, 44 or have cystic fibrosis 20) require special efforts to protect them from exposures to infected patients in common waiting areas. By informing the receptionist of their infection risk upon arrival, appropriate steps may be taken to further protect them from infection. In some cystic fibrosis clinics, in order to avoid exposure to other patients who could be colonized with B. cepacia, patients have been given beepers upon registration so that they may leave the area and receive notification to return when an examination room becomes available 832.

II.G.3. Home care

In home care, the patient placement concerns focus on protecting others in the home from exposure to an infectious household member. For individuals who are especially vulnerable to adverse outcomes associated with certain infections, it may be beneficial to either remove them from the home or segregate them within the home. Persons who are not part of the household may need to be prohibited from visiting during the period of infectivity. For example, if a patient with pulmonary tuberculosis is contagious and being cared for at home, very young children (<4 years of age) 833 and immunocompromised persons who have not yet been infected should be removed or excluded from the household. During the SARS outbreak of 2003, segregation of infected persons during the communicable phase of the illness was beneficial in preventing household transmission 249, 834.


II.H. Transport of patients

Several principles are used to guide transport of patients requiring Transmission-Based Precautions. In the inpatient and residential settings these include 1) limiting transport of such patients to essential purposes, such as diagnostic and therapeutic procedures that cannot be performed in the patient's room; 2) when transport is necessary, using appropriate barriers on the patient (e.g., mask, gown, wrapping in sheets or use of impervious dressings to cover the affected area(s) when infectious skin lesions or drainage are present, consistent with the route and risk of transmission; 3) notifying healthcare personnel in the receiving area of the impending arrival of the patient and of the precautions necessary to prevent transmission; and 4) for patients being transported outside the facility, informing the receiving facility and the medi-van or emergency vehicle personnel in advance about the type of Transmission-Based Precautions being used. For tuberculosis, additional precautions may be needed in a small shared air space such as in an ambulance 12.


II.I. Environmental measures

Cleaning and disinfecting non-critical surfaces in patient-care areas are part of Standard Precautions. In general, these procedures do not need to be changed for patients on Transmission-Based Precautions. The cleaning and disinfection of all patient-care areas is important for frequently touched surfaces, especially those closest to the patient, that are most likely to be contaminated (e.g., bedrails, bedside tables, commodes, doorknobs, sinks, surfaces and equipment in close proximity to the patient) [11, 72, 73, 835]. The frequency or intensity of cleaning may need to change based on the patient's level of hygiene and the degree of environmental contamination and for certain for infectious agents whose reservoir is the intestinal tract [54]. This may be especially true in LTCFs and pediatric facilities where patients with stool and urine incontinence are encountered more frequently. Also, increased frequency of cleaning may be needed in a Protective Environment to minimize dust accumulation 11. Special recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting environmental surfaces in dialysis centers have been published [18]. In all healthcare settings, administrative, staffing and scheduling activities should prioritize the proper cleaning and disinfection of surfaces that could be implicated in transmission. During a suspected or proven outbreak where an environmental reservoir is suspected, routine cleaning procedures should be reviewed, and the need for additional trained cleaning staff should be assessed. Adherence should be monitored and reinforced to promote consistent and correct cleaning is performed.

EPA-registered disinfectants or detergents/disinfectants that best meet the overall needs of the healthcare facility for routine cleaning and disinfection should be selected [11, 836]. In general, use of the existing facility detergent/disinfectant according to the manufacturer's recommendations for amount, dilution, and contact time is sufficient to remove pathogens from surfaces of rooms where colonized or infected individuals were housed. This includes those pathogens that are resistant to multiple classes of antimicrobial agents (e.g., C. difficile, VRE, MRSA, MDR-GNB [11, 24, 88, 435, 746, 796, 837]). Most often, environmental reservoirs of pathogens during outbreaks are related to a failure to follow recommended procedures for cleaning and disinfection rather than the specific cleaning and disinfectant agents used 838-841.

Certain pathogens (e.g., rotavirus, noroviruses, C. difficile) may be resistant to some routinely used hospital disinfectants [275, 292, 842-847].The role of specific disinfectants in limiting transmission of rotavirus has been demonstrated experimentally [842]. Also, since C. difficile may display increased levels of spore production when exposed to non-chlorine-based cleaning agents, and the spores are more resistant than vegetative cells to commonly used surface disinfectants, some investigators have recommended the use of a 1:10 dilution of 5.25% sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) and water for routine environmental disinfection of rooms of patients with C. difficile when there is continued transmission [844, 848]. In one study, the use of a hypochlorite solution was associated with a decrease in rates of C. difficile infections [847]. The need to change disinfectants based on the presence of these organisms can be determined in consultation with the infection control committee [11, 847, 848]. Detailed recommendations for disinfection and sterilization of surfaces and medical equipment that have been in contact with prion-containing tissue or high risk body fluids, and for cleaning of blood and body substance spills, are available in the Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities.

II.J. Patient care equipment and instruments/devices

Medical equipment and instruments/devices must be cleaned and maintained according to the manufacturers' instructions to prevent patient-to-patient transmission of infectious agents 86, 87, 325, 849. Cleaning to remove organic material must always precede high level disinfection and sterilization of critical and semi-critical instruments and devices because residual proteinacous material reduces the effectiveness of the disinfection and sterilization processes 836, 848. Noncritical equipment, such as commodes, intravenous pumps, and ventilators, must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before use on another patient. All such equipment and devices should be handled in a manner that will prevent HCW and environmental contact with potentially infectious material. It is important to include computers and personal digital assistants (PDAs) used in patient care in policies for cleaning and disinfection of non-critical items. The literature on contamination of computers with pathogens has been summarized 850 and two reports have linked computer contamination to colonization and infections in patients 851, 852. Although keyboard covers and washable keyboards that can be easily disinfected are in use, the infection control benefit of those items and optimal management have not been determined.

In all healthcare settings, providing patients who are on Transmission-Based Precautions with dedicated noncritical medical equipment (e.g., stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, electronic thermometer) has been beneficial for preventing transmission [74, 89, 740, 853, 854]. When this is not possible, disinfection after use is recommended. Consult other guidelines for detailed guidance in developing specific protocols for cleaning and reprocessing medical equipment and patient care items in both routine and special circumstances [11, 14, 18, 20, 740, 836, 848].

In home care, it is preferable to remove visible blood or body fluids from durable medical equipment before it leaves the home. Equipment can be cleaned on-site using a detergent/disinfectant and, when possible, should be placed in a single plastic bag for transport to the reprocessing location [20, 739].


II.K. Textiles and laundry

Soiled textiles, including bedding, towels, and patient or resident clothing may be contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms. However, the risk of disease transmission is negligible if they are handled, transported, and laundered in a safe manner 11, 855, 856. Key principles for handling soiled laundry are 1) not shaking the items or handling them in any way that may aerosolize infectious agents; 2) avoiding contact of one's body and personal clothing with the soiled items being handled; and 3) containing soiled items in a laundry bag or designated bin. When laundry chutes are used, they must be maintained to minimize dispersion of aerosols from contaminated items 11. The methods for handling, transporting, and laundering soiled textiles are determined by organizational policy and any applicable regulations 739; guidance is provided in the Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control 11. Rather than rigid rules and regulations, hygienic and common sense storage and processing of clean textiles is recommended 11, 857. When laundering occurs outside of a healthcare facility, the clean items must be packaged or completely covered and placed in an enclosed space during transport to prevent contamination with outside air or construction dust that could contain infectious fungal spores that are a risk for immunocompromised patients 11.

Institutions are required to launder garments used as personal protective equipment and uniforms visibly soiled with blood or infective material 739. There are few data to determine the safety of home laundering of HCW uniforms, but no increase in infection rates was observed in the one published study 858 and no pathogens were recovered from home- or hospital-laundered scrubs in another study 859. In the home, textiles and laundry from patients with potentially transmissible infectious pathogens do not require special handling or separate laundering, and may be washed with warm water and detergent 11, 858, 859.


II.L. Solid waste

The management of solid waste emanating from the healthcare environment is subject to federal and state regulations for medical and non-medical waste 860, 861. No additional precautions are needed for non-medical solid waste that is being removed from rooms of patients on Transmission-Based Precautions. Solid waste may be contained in a single bag (as compared to using two bags) of sufficient strength. 862.


II.M. Dishware and eating utensils

The combination of hot water and detergents used in dishwashers is sufficient to decontaminate dishware and eating utensils. Therefore, no special precautions are needed for dishware (e.g., dishes, glasses, cups) or eating utensils; reusable dishware and utensils may be used for patients requiring Transmission-Based Precautions. In the home and other communal settings, eating utensils and drinking vessels that are being used should not be shared, consistent with principles of good personal hygiene and for the purpose of preventing transmission of respiratory viruses, Herpes simplex virus, and infectious agents that infect the gastrointestinal tract and are transmitted by the fecal/oral route (e.g., hepatitis A virus, noroviruses). If adequate resources for cleaning utensils and dishes are not available, disposable products may be used.


II.N. Adjunctive measures

Important adjunctive measures that are not considered primary components of programs to prevent transmission of infectious agents, but improve the effectiveness of such programs, include 1) antimicrobial management programs; 2) postexposure chemoprophylaxis with antiviral or antibacterial agents; 3) vaccines used both for pre and postexposure prevention; and 4) screening and restricting visitors with signs of transmissible infections. Detailed discussion of judicious use of antimicrobial agents is beyond the scope of this document; however the topic is addressed in the MDRO section (Management of Multidrug-Resistant Organisms in Healthcare Settings 2006.

II.N.1. Chemoprophylaxis

Antimicrobial agents and topical antiseptics may be used to prevent infection and potential outbreaks of selected agents. Infections for which postexposure chemoprophylaxis is recommended under defined conditions include B. pertussis 17, 863, N. meningitidis 864, B. anthracis after environmental exposure to aeosolizable material865, influenza virus611 , HIV 866, and group A streptococcus 160. Orally administered antimicrobials may also be used under defined circumstances for MRSA decolonization of patients or healthcare personnel 867 .

Another form of chemoprophylaxis is the use of topical antiseptic agents. For example, triple dye is used routinely on the umbilical cords of term newborns to reduce the risk of colonization, skin infections, and omphalitis caused by S. aureus, including MRSA, and group A streptococcus 868, 869. Extension of the use of triple dye to low birth weight infants in the NICU was one component of a program that controlled one longstanding MRSA outbreak 22. Topical antiseptics are also used for decolonization of healthcare personnel or selected patients colonized with MRSA, using mupirocin as discussed in the MDRO guideline 870 867, 871-873.

II.N.2. Immunoprophylaxis

Certain immunizations recommended for susceptible healthcare personnel have decreased the risk of infection and the potential for transmission in healthcare facilities 17, 874. The OSHA mandate that requires employers to offer hepatitis B vaccination to HCWs played a substantial role in the sharp decline in incidence of occupational HBV infection 778, 875. The use of varicella vaccine in healthcare personnel has decreased the need to place susceptible HCWs on administrative leave following exposure to patients with varicella 775. Also, reports of healthcare-associated transmission of rubella in obstetrical clinics 33, 876 and measles in acute care settings 34 demonstrate the importance of immunization of susceptible healthcare personnel against childhood diseases. Many states have requirements for HCW vaccination for measles and rubella in the absence of evidence of immunity. Annual influenza vaccine campaigns targeted to patients and healthcare personnel in LTCFs and acute-care settings have been instrumental in preventing or limiting institutional outbreaks and increasing attention is being directed toward improving influenza vaccination rates in healthcare personnel 35 , 611, 690, 877, 878 , 879.

Transmission of B. pertussis in healthcare facilities has been associated with large and costly outbreaks that include both healthcare personnel and patients 17, 36, 41, 100, 683, 827, 880, 881. HCWs who have close contact with infants with pertussis are at particularly high risk because of waning immunity and, until 2005, the absence of a vaccine that could be used in adults. However, two acellular pertussis vaccines were licensed in the United States in 2005, one for use in individuals aged 11-18 and one for use in ages 10-64 years 882. Provisional ACIP recommendations at the time of publication of this document include adolescents and adults, especially those with contact with infants < 12 months of age and healthcare personnel with direct patient contact 883 884.

Immunization of children and adults will help prevent the introduction of vaccine-preventable diseases into healthcare settings. The recommended immunization schedule for children is published annually in the January issues of the Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report with interim updates as needed 885, 886. An adult immunization schedule also is available for healthy adults and those with special immunization needs due to high risk medical conditions 887.

Some vaccines are also used for postexposure prophylaxis of susceptible individuals, including varicella 888, influenza 611, hepatitis B 778, and smallpox 225 vaccines 17, 874. In the future, administration of a newly developed S. aureus conjugate vaccine (still under investigation) to selected patients may provide a novel method of preventing healthcare-associated S. aureus, including MRSA, infections in high-risk groups (e.g., hemodialysis patients and candidates for selected surgical procedures) 889, 890.

Immune globulin preparations also are used for postexposure prophylaxis of certain infectious agents under specified circumstances (e.g., varicella-zoster virus [VZIG], hepatitis B virus [HBIG], rabies [RIG], measles and hepatitis A virus [IG] 17, 833, 874). The RSV monoclonal antibody preparation, Palivizumab, may have contributed to controlling a nosocomial outbreak of RSV in one NICU , but there is insufficient evidence to support a routine recommendation for its use in this setting 891.



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