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International Infection Prevention Week

International Infection Prevention Week, October 16 – 22, may be met with a higher level of concern this year than in years past due to the coronavirus. Although, going into cold and flu season, the practices for cleaning, disinfecting, and ways to keep you and your loved ones safe remain the same in the fight against many types of diseases. 

“COVID-19 is more infectious than the flu,” Melissa Vaughn an Infection Prevention Specialist for Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center said. “It appears a person who is infected with COVID-19 spreads it to more people than the flu, so it may spread farther and faster. COVID-19 is also more likely to kill than the flu.”

According to Vaughn, the most common infections in Kentucky are the flu, pneumonia, hepatitis, and sexually transmitted diseases. The common flu and pneumonia, she said, are the tenth leading cause of death in the state. 

Following the Center for Disease Control guidelines for disinfecting and sterilization, Vaughn said it is recommended that a person wear disposable gloves when they clean and disinfect surfaces with soap and water followed by disinfectant. Individuals should also practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, disinfect objects in public places before each use, follow guidelines on disinfectant labels to keep surfaces wet for a period of time, and clean all high-touch surfaces frequently. 

“The best weapon against infection is hand washing,” Vaughn said. “Regular hand washing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.”

Vaughn said the proper way to wash your hands is for 20 seconds with soap in warm water to help decrease infection. If a person washes for a shorter amount of time, they may not remove harmful germs. 

“Make sure to scrub all areas of your hands, including your palms, backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails,” Vaughn said. 

Another way immunity can be achieved when it comes to infection prevention is through vaccinations. Vaccines can help bodies develop immunity by introducing a tiny dose of the disease into the body without causing illness. Diseases that have been controlled by vaccinations include measles, whooping cough, polio, pneumococcal disease, tetanus, meningococcal disease, hepatitis B & A, mumps, and the chickenpox. Unfortunately, a few infectious diseases are still without a vaccine. Those diseases include HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, respiratory syncytial virus, and Lyme disease. 

“When an infectious disease is left untreated, bacteria can develop,” Vaughn said. “It is reported each year more than 1.7 million adults in the United States develop sepsis, and 270,000 people die as a result.”

As a community, Vaughn said the best way to stop the spread of an infectious disease is through hand washing, wearing a mask, and social distancing. 

For more information visit www.emhealth.org.