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By Gary Evans, Senior Staff Writer
The Zika outbreak spreading through the Americas is raising a host of questions for infection preventionists, who are trying to address the unfolding public health aspects while reassuring colleagues and patients that if the virus gets in the hospital standard precautions and safe injections practices will prevent transmission.
“The most important thing from the infection prevention side is it is really back to the basics of standard precautions,” says Sue Dolan, RN, MS, CIC, hospital epidemiologist at Children’s Hospital (Aurora) Colorado and 2016 president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.
“Part of standard precautions is injection safety – that’s one of the key components,” she says. “It’s not just personal protective equipment (PPE). We need to make sure that [healthcare workers] are using the right equipment, that they are pausing and not rushing and being careful how they use devices.”
In addition to PPE (gloves, gowns and facemasks depending on anticipated exposure) standard precautions emphasizes -- for the care of all patients -- the bedrock principles of hand hygiene, respiratory and cough etiquette, safe handling of potentially contaminated equipment and surfaces in the patient environment.
“Another important thing is that a certain percentage of people [with Zika infections] do not exhibit symptoms,” Dolan says. “That is another good reason why we use standard precautions because we don’t know who have may have a virus or a disease that can be spread through bodily fluids or blood.”
Though Zika is new to the Western hemisphere after being discovered in Africa in 1947, the U.S. has faced other mosquito-borne threats and is all too familiar with bloodborne pathogens.
“There are other mosquito borne diseases that we see occasionally in patients returning from travel and there are other bloodborne disease that we know well – hepatitis B and C, HIV,” she says. “We know how these are transmitted. The key is back to the basics with standard precautions including PPE and injection safety with our frontline staff.”
For more on this story see the March 2016 issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention