“Universal Precautions” Never Go Out of Style

I was amazed at the recent statistics: Every year, 48,000 Americans die of infections they caught while in the hospital¹. Some of the germs causing the infections have been around for years. Hospital acquired infections kill 3-times more Americans than HIV does, yet we’re only beginning to get a handle on the scope of the problem.

According to the CDC’s “Guidelines for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008”, disinfection and sterilization are essential for ensuring that medical and surgical instruments do not transmit infectious pathogens to patients.

Here’s the crux of the issue: since sterilization of all patient-care items is not necessary, health-care policies must identify, primarily on the basis of the items’ intended use, whether cleaning, disinfection, or sterilization is indicated.   Multiple studies in many countries have documented lack of compliance with established guidelines for disinfection and sterilization. Failure to comply with scientifically-based guidelines has led to numerous outbreaks.

 Medical Equipment Surface Disinfection

According to the CDC’s “Guideline” medical equipment surfaces can become contaminated with infectious agents and contribute to the spread of health care–associated infections. Environmental surfaces also could potentially contribute to cross-transmission by contamination of health care personnel from hand contact with contaminated surfaces, medical equipment or patients.  For this reason, non-critical medical equipment surfaces should be disinfected with an EPA-registered low or intermediate-level disinfectant.

The design of seca scales included attention to the surface area of the ergometric scale and height measurement products made by seca, such as removing surface crevice areas that could trap bacteria or be difficult to clean.  An example of this design sensibility would be the new seca model 856 daiper scale and the RedDot Design award winner (2006) model 374 infant digital scale.

Let’s all do our part!

Footnotes:

The Laxminarayan study appears in the Feb. 22 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine as an editorial.
SOURCES: Eber, M.R. Archives of Internal Medicine, Feb. 22, 2010; vol 170: pp 347-353. 

Murphy, D.J. and Pronovost, P.J. Archives of Internal Medicine, Feb. 22, 2010; vol 170: pp 353-355. 

Pronovost, P.J. BMJ, published online Feb. 4, 2010. 

Ramanan Laxminarayan, PhD, MPH, senior fellow, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C. 

©2010 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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