With coronavirus all over the news, and misinformation all over everywhere, I thought I’d write a bit about infection control. As a nurse for 30+ years, I’m familiar with the concept.
Infection control basics are the same for whatever you are trying to prevent. Stop the devils from getting from their infected host to a new host. We are usually affected by viruses (coronavirus, colds, flu) but bacterial infections operate under this same concept.
For the sake of easy imagining, we’ll talk about flu and cold viruses now. Let’s say they are like little green beasties. SusyQ is infected with these beasties, and they are living in her breathing department. Their whole objective in life is to survive and reproduce. They do this by leaving through her face (mouth, nose, eyes) and finding their way to another victim (again through the face), where they can survive and reproduce in that breathing department.
SusyQ may not feel sick, or not sick enough to stay home, or so sick she doesn’t want to get off the sofa. Maybe the green beasties just moved in and haven’t gotten far with their reproduction. Maybe her immune system is keeping their population down. Or maybe the green beasties have gone to town like mice in your pantry. They are destroying everything, pooping everywhere, and making babies like mad until your pantry (breathing department) is so irritated that you are coughing, sniffling, and sneezing everywhere, and your whole house (body) feels under assault.
So, what’s the agenda of these green beasties? STEP 1 – SuzyQ touches her face, covers her hands with green beasties, and leaves them on whatever she touches. SusyQ coughs and sneezes, covering her mouth (like her mom taught her), and now her hands are even more covered with green beasties. SusyQ blows her nose into a tissue which is now full of green beasties, and it gets thrown into the trash (to be touched by whomever empties the trash, perhaps?) or worse, she just tosses it any old place. SuzyQ is spreading green beasties everywhere. Yuck!
STEP 2 – Now it’s your turn. Pick them up! Touch something with green beasties, maybe a doorknob, phone, bathroom door, or any number of other surfaces. (The green beasties are patient. They may wait for you for a day, or even a week and still be ready to carry on.)
STEP 3 – Now, with the green beasties on your hand, touch your face. Transfer some of then to your eyes, nose, or mouth. YAY!! Happy beasties. Now they have a new home. They move in a and set up shop in your breathing department, like mice in your pantry. The cycle is complete.
How do you stop this?? Stop the transfer at each step. #1 – SuzyQ needs to stay away from people if she is sick. She needs to wash her hands and disinfect surfaces she touches. She needs to dispose of tissues in a plastic bag, and tie it shut before putting in in the trash. But, you can’t count on SuzyQ to do her part. YOU have to stop picking up green beasties, and stop giving them a trip to your face.
#2 – WASH YOUR HANDS! Really wash, with soap and plenty of friction under running water. Wash them long enough to sing happy birthday to yourself. Wash the fronts, the backs, and between your fingers. When your hands are clean, grab a paper towel and dry your hands. Don’t touch that dirty faucet! Use the paper towel to turn off the water, and use the paper towel to open the door. Then toss the towel in the trash behind you as you leave. If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer and rub it all over your hands, and let it dry. KEEP THOSE HANDS CLEAN! You can’t transfer the green beasties to your face if there are none on your hands.
#3 – DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE You can’t avoid touching everything in the world or guarantee that your hands are free of green beasties at all times, so avoid touching your face. We don’t realize how much we touch our faces to brush away that bit of hair, to rub that minor itch, to rest our face in our hand, etc etc etc. Masks will only protect you from someone coughing or sneezing directly on you but they do have value in keeping your hands from touching your face.
So, do both parts that are under your control and you can succeed in infection control! Congratulations! Your reward is not getting sick, and not passing along any green beasties to make others sick. And, of course if you ae sick, or suspect that you could be sick, the first part now applies. Keep your green beasties to yourself. We love you and wish you well, but we don’t love your green beasties.
Here’s wishing you all good health! These measures aren ‘t just for coronavirus. They apply at all times, especially in crowded environments and if you are around sick people. Stay calm and wish your hands.
not to mention drug overdoses, gun violence, traffic accidents, poverty, lack of health care….. the list goes on and on. You get the idea. Do everything you can to be sensible and protect yourself, but do not expect the world to be a safe place. “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near” (Roadhouse Blues, the Doors). Every day is a gift. Appreciate it, stay calm, and wash your hands.