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Stopping the Spread of Pathogens

Microorganisms live everywhere in our environment. Humans normally carry them on their skin and in the upper respiratory, intestinal and genital tracts. In addition, microorganisms live in animals, plants, soil, air and water. However, some microorganisms are more pathogenic (considered foreign to the host body) than others. That is, they are more likely to cause disease. Given the right circumstances, all microorganisms may cause infection. Upon entering the body, they cause infection either by damaging cells directly or releasing toxins that will eventually cause damage. The prevention of disease-causing microbes in a patient care environment is generally accomplished through aseptic or sterile techniques.

Patients having invasive medical or surgical procedures are at a higher risk. Infection can result from equipment or other objects that come in contact with the patient. This is called vehicle-borne infection because the microbe is transported from another place on some object or vehicle and introduced through a break in the skin or mucosal membranes.

Healthcare facilities have come a long way from the days when hospitals were full of infections, equipment was not sterilized, and infection control measures were non-existent. However, because of new viruses and drug resistant organisms, medical experts predict that infection control will continue to challenge the healthcare community in the years ahead. By committing yourself to follow infection control practices, you can successfully meet this challenge by protecting yourself and those whom you come in contact with from infection.