Infection control, what does it mean?

One threat that is small in size, but can do significant damage, is disease-causing microorganisms. Examples of dangerous pathogenic microorganisms cover viruses and bacteria such as influenza, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and Clostridium difficile (C. diff).

Many of the pathogens listed above are similar in that they have long caused problems for health care facilities, and some have affected long-term care facilities, schools, and businesses. What these pathogens do not have in common is resistance to disinfectants. What may kill one pathogen is difficult to pose a problem to another. This is why it is important to have a greater understanding of the viruses and bacteria that cause problems and how to eliminate them using appropriate concentrations of disinfectants.

Before proceeding to kill pathogens, it is helpful to know exactly what the target is and how to best remove it. Viruses are identified as either enveloped or non-enveloped. Encapsulated viruses may be worth discussing because they have caused so many diseases that have made headlines around the world in recent years. Examples of enveloped viruses include SARS, influenza, measles, Ebola, Zika virus, and SARS-CoV-2.

On closer examination, one notices that the enveloped viruses are encased in a lipid layer. This outer coating on enveloped viruses makes them relatively fragile and easy to kill. Harsh sanitisers are not always necessary. In most cases, the two-step cleaning and disinfecting process will help slow its spread. But many experts also stress the importance of handwashing, because soap can penetrate viruses and hand washing helps remove them from the skin. So what happens is that soap pulls the fat apart.

Cold and flu viruses and bacteria are the easiest to kill, meaning most disinfectants should work on them. Noroviruses and the viruses that cause hepatitis A and meningitis are harder to kill. Viruses are only part of the problem because they are associated with dangerous pathogens, and bacteria can cause a lot of pain and suffering in unlucky bodies too. Common examples of bacteria that cause major problems in humans include E. coli, salmonella, C. diff, and MRSA, the latter two being particularly prevalent in health care and long-term care facilities.

Each dangerous bacteria presents challenges to the cleaning teams, but C. diff is known to be the most difficult to kill. Chemical concentrations must be adhered to when encountering these pathogens. Whether the target is a virus or bacteria, hygiene personnel must adopt appropriate methods, processes and cleaning programs.

The first step is that employees should be trained to always clean surfaces before applying any type of disinfection. Failure to do so usually renders any efforts at sterilization futile. Once surfaces are cleaned, disinfectants should be used on frequently touched surfaces and areas where viruses and bacteria may be present. Disinfectants are the primary tool for preventing cross-contamination on environmental surfaces because they inactivate or kill dangerous microorganisms when used correctly, and modern technologies are not toxic and can be used safely.

Not all formulations and concentrations kill the same pathogens, so it is always important to ensure good compatibility. Finally, one of the most important things that a person can do when using any method of sterilization to combat a virus or bacteria is to ensure that sufficient time is met and the correct instructions must be followed to ensure that the approved sterilization method works.