COVID – 19 | Infection Control
March 21, 2020
Mary Gilliam, MBA, LNHA
Infection Control is important during flu season but especially now during a COVID-19 pandemic. Infection control addresses factors related to the spread of infections including prevention, investigation of origin, infection monitoring, vaccination surveillance and management of outbreaks. There things can be done to help prevent the spread of disease.
- Hand Hygiene
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that hand hygiene is the most important measure for preventing the spread on pathogens is effective hand washing. Good hand hygiene should be at minimum before, during and after preparing and eating food, after using the restroom, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, after touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste and after touching garbage.
Follow these five steps when washing hands:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm) and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the back of your hands, between fingers and under nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20-30 seconds. Need a timer? Hum “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
- Clean & Disinfect
The World Health Organization notes that COVID – 19, as well as other viruses can stay on surfaces for several hours to several days. Keeping areas clean and sanitized is one of the best ways to keep bacteria and viruses away.
Common areas that should be disinfected include but are not limited to tables, doorknobs, light switches, desks, faucets, sinks, computers and cell phones.
- Use Personal Protective Equipment When Needed
Personal Protective Equipment, also known as PPE, is an important step in protecting one-self from germ exposure. The most common PPE is gloves. Wearing gloves does not mitigate the need to wash hands, but provides a barrier for our hands from exposure to bacteria. Another form of PPE is facemasks. Currently only N95 type of masks protect from COVID-19. Texas Health and Human Services released a statement that facemasks were encouraged when working with the senior population. Unfortunately, Medline, McKesson and other major medical supply providers currently do not have supplies readily available for purchase leaving caregivers to provide care without these supplies.
- Handle Food with Care
By handling food with care, we can limit the spread of bacteria and infection. Many people think if something looks clean, it is safe. Bacteria and other organisms cannot be seen with the naked eye and if not disinfected can cause contamination.
Always wash your hands before preparing food and wash hands in-between handling different types of food. For example, wash hands after touching bacon, before handling the vegetables. After prepping and cooking a meal, ensure utensils and plate ware are washed and sanitized properly and make sure the counter tops are disinfected as not to leave any residue from raw or other foods.
Listen to your body and monitor for signs and symptoms of infection. If you feel like you have a sore throat that does not get better with tea, listen. If you feel hot, take your temperature. If your chest is tight – let your physician know. Surveillance starts with yourself. No one knows your body as you do – so listen.
During a pandemic, it is easy to allow anxiety to cause fear of phantom symptoms. This happened to me just the other day: I was helping take multiple loads upstairs when I started sweating. Was this a fever? Was I sick? No, I was just out of shape.
- Isolation & Quarantine
There are now COVID-19 tests available, however, they are not widely available. Unless fever or respiratory issues require hospitalization, physicians are going to tell you to isolate and quarantine yourself for fourteen (14) days.
Isolation and quarantine is not to protect you, rather to protect the community around you that is vulnerable to the disease. If you encounter anyone that has been diagnosed, it is recommended a 14 day self-quarantine to stop the spread of disease.
- Stay Informed
The CDC has web-pages and constant updates to the status of COVID-19 diagnosis, spread, precautions and prevention and treatment among other items. Only listen to trusted, authentic sources such as the CDC and Texas Health and Human Resources. Call Monarch Senior Home Care with any questions that come up. Social media can easily spread propaganda creating anxiety and fear. Do your homework, stay informed, heed precautions and stay safe.
Mary Gilliam’s passion for serving seniors has become a lifelong mission. She is the founder of Monarch Senior Home Care and Monarch Care Source.
Mary holds a Master’s Degree of Business Administration with an emphasis on Health Care Administration and is a multi-state Licensed Nursing Home Administrator. She has been in long term care operations since 2002 serving those in home care, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing.