Infection Prevention & Control

Prevention is better than cure.

Infection causing microorganisms are present everywhere. Hence, Infection Prevention & Control is crucial and necessary.

Use the Interactive to understand the difference of a Room being treated with Infection Prevention Products.
Infection can occur when disease-causing organisms known as pathogens enter a person's body.

If the conditions are right for the pathogen, it is able to multiply and take over the body's natural defenses and cause an infection.

Infections may produce clinical signs such as fever, purulence (pus) and inflammation (warmth, redness and swelling).

This means that, a human with an infection has another organism inside them which gets its sustenance or nourishment, from that person, it colonizes that person and reproduces inside that person. The human with that organism inside is called the host, while the germ or pathogen is referred to as a parasitic organism. Another name for an organism that causes infection is an infectious agent.

It is only an infection if the colonization harms the host. It uses the host to feed on and multiply at the expense of the host to such an extent that his/her health is affected. The normal growth of the bacterial flora in the intestine is not an infection, because the bacteria are not harming the host.

An organism which colonizes and harms a host's health is often called a pathogen.

Examples include:
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi, they include Yeasts and molds
  • Viruses
  • Prions
All, including human beings, animals, birds, and even plants, develop a wide range of infections, but fight them off rapidly. Some however, develop persistent, long-term (chronic) infections. The majority of chronic infections are caused by viruses. Chronic bacterial infections are more likely to affected patients with weakened immune systems.

Sometimes, if two organisms are present in the host together, they fight each other instead of the human body, and the levels of each colony remain balanced - their presence, together does not pose a problem for the host. An example could be some skin bacteria and yeast.

Bacterial infections

Bacteria are tiny single-cell microorganisms, usually a few micrometers in length that normally exist together in millions - they are neither plants nor animals - they belong to a group all by themselves. A gram of soil typically contains about 40 million bacterial cells. A milliliter of fresh water usually holds about one million bacterial cells.

Planet Earth is estimated to hold at least 5 nonillion bacteria. Scientists say that much of Earth's biomass is made up of bacteria.

Bacteria can live in virtually any kind of environment, from extremely hot to super cold, some even in radioactive waste. A number of bacteria live in our bodies, on our skin, airway, mouth, digestive and urinary tracts - most of the time without causing any harm to the host.

A relatively small number of bacteria causes diseases in humans. Bacterial infections typically present with localized redness and heat, inflammation (swelling) and pain. Bacterial infections tend to present localized pain more frequently than viral infections (not always). Even with a throat infection, a bacterial one will usually have more severe pain on one side of the throat. If there is pain in just one ear, it is more likely to be a bacterial infection.

Mycosis (fungal infection/disease)

Mycosis is a fungal infection in or on a part of the body, or a disease caused by a fungus. Some fungi reproduce through very small airborne spores which people either inhale or pick up on their skin - i.e. must fungal infections start in the lungs or the skin.

Patients on long-term strong antibiotics are at higher-than-normal risk of developing a fungal infection. Strong antibiotics can eventually reduce the population of good bacteria which help maintain the balance of microorganisms in the intestines, mouth, vagina and other parts of the body. If enough of these good bacteria are destroyed, the fungi have an opportunity to grow and cause health problems for the host.

Viral infections

Infections caused by a virus. An individual may become infect by:
  • Inhaling the virus (breathing it in)
  • Being bitten by infected insects or parasites
  • Through sexual contact
  • Respiratory infections of the upper airways, nose and throat are the most common forms of viral infections.
Some antiviral medications may help, they either undermine the virus' ability to reproduce, or boost the patient's immune system.

Viruses are tiny organisms, much smaller than bacteria or fungi. The virus invades its host and attaches to a cell, entering it and releasing genetic material (DNA or RNA). This genetic material helps the virus multiply; it takes over control of the cell, making it replicate the virus. A cell that has this genetic material inserted into it cannot function properly and soon dies. When it does it releases new viruses, which infect new cells, etc.

Not all viruses destroy their host cell. Some of them just alter what the cell does. Experts say that some cells become cancerous as a result of a virus interfering with its functions.

Sometimes the genetic material lies dormant in a cell; some time in the future something triggers the cell and the virus starts multiplying again, making the host ill

Viruses target specific cells in the body, such as those in the genitals or upper respiratory tract. Some target certain age groups, such as babies or young children. However, some viral infections can be systemic - they affect many different parts of the body.

Prion disease

A prion is an infectious agent consisting mainly of protein - it contains no genetic material. It is neither bacterial nor fungal. It occurs normally in a harmless form, but when it folds into an abnormal shape it turns into a rogue agent and affects the structure of the brain or other parts of the nervous system. All forms of prion infections are currently untreatable and fatal.

Prions cause degenerative brain diseases, such as mad cow disease, (Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease), kuru, fatal familial insomnia, and scrapie. Experts also link some cases of Alzheimer's disease to prion infection.

Prion diseases, also called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, are brain wasting diseases that affect humans and animals. Made primarily of protein, prions are small active agents that act a bit like viruses: they do not replicate themselves but hijack material in the host and cause it to behave abnormally, for instance they force host proteins to fold into shapes that clump together into plaques that clog up the brain, causing it gradually to waste away.

A team of scientists from the US and the UK have found a new type of prion disease in mice that damages brain arteries and may help us better understand and treat types of Alzheimer's disease that cause similar damage.

Microorganisms or pathogens capable of causing disease, usually enter our bodies through the mouth, eyes, nose, or uro-genital openings, or through wounds or bites that breach the skin barrier.

Organisms can spread or be transmitted by several routes.

Through contact: Some diseases spread via direct contact with infected skin, mucous membranes, or body fluids. Diseases transmitted this way include cold sores (herpes simplex virus type 1) and sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS. Pathogens can also be spread by indirect contact when an infected person touches a surface such as a doorknob, countertop, or faucet handle, leaving behind microbes that are then transferred to another person who touches that surface and then touches his or her eye, mouth, or nose.

Droplets spread by sneezes, coughs, or simply talking can transmit disease if they come in contact with mucous membranes of the eye, mouth, or nose of another person. SARS, tuberculosis, and influenza are examples of diseases spread by airborne droplet transmission.

Airborne transmission: Pathogens can also spread when residue from evaporated droplets or dust particles containing microorganisms are suspended in air for long periods of time. Diseases spread by airborne transmission include measles and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

Common vehicles: Contaminated food, water, blood, or other vehicles may spread pathogens. Microorganisms like E. coli and Salmonella enter the digestive system in this manner.

Vectors: Creatures such as fleas, mites, ticks, rats, snails, and dogs called vectors, can also transmit disease. The most common vector for human infection is the mosquito, which transmits malaria, Dengue, Chikkankunya, etc.

There are some proven ways to keep ourselves healthy.

But it is very important about some other practical ways of staying infection-free. This has become of even greater concern in recent years. While the risk related to "traditional infections" has often been reduced by vaccination and antibiotics, emerging infectious diseases are popping up to remind us how vulnerable we really are.

Not only are new "bugs" appearing, but some of the "old bugs" are getting smarter.

Our skin acts as a natural barrier against harmful microbes that cause infections, but "smart bugs" have found alternative routes to get into our body and cause infection. Smart bugs have also learned how to produce compounds which can make many and sometimes all of our current antibiotic arsenal ineffective.

We are all quite aware about these emerging infectious diseases. It is quite possible that we all know of someone who was basically healthy, yet developed an infection that caused significant sickness and disability.

While both wizened old and emerging infections can frighten the most stoic individual, we are not without measures to fight back.

For those who are pregnant, extra vigilance is needed. Some infections, those which are only a nuisance in healthy people who are not pregnant, can lead to problems in pregnancy. Several infections can lead to miscarriage and still birth while others can result in birth defects.

Hospital acquired infections, known as "nosocomial infections" are a significant cause of death around the world. Not only is the hospital a literal breeding ground for nasty microorganisms, but many of these have developed resistance to many antibiotics.

For those who are receiving chemotherapy, or infected with HIV, or are immunosuppressed in some other way, a little extra fortitude is needed to protect against microscopic menaces. Micro organisms which do not cause infections in people with healthy immune systems can become a problem (opportunistic infections,) and these people may also become much sicker when exposed to infections.

From infections transmitted by pets, to food-borne infections, there are several things we will need to know about infections that go beyond the prevention and control tips.

Good hygiene: the primary way to prevent infections

The first line of defense is to keep germs at bay by following good personal hygiene habits. Prevent infection before it begins and avoid spreading it to others with these easy measures.

Understanding how infections are transmitted can help anyone avoid getting infected or sick

Not long ago, no one understood that infectious diseases were caused by tiny organisms that moved from person to person. Even now, although we know that microscopic living microbes cause disease, how they do so is not always obvious. But we do know that most microbes enter through openings in the body, our noses, mouths, ears, anuses, and genital passages. They can also be transmitted through our skin through insect or animal bites. The best way to prevent infections is to block pathogens from entering the body.

How to prevent infections by sexual transmission

The only sure way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases is to not have sexual intercourse or other sexual contact.

Avoiding bug-borne pathogens

Both mosquitos and ticks are carriers of viruses and bacteria. And both have been associated with serious epidemics in the last decade.

Using animal-control to prevent infections

Controlling the population of mice or rats in and near your home can help you avoid pathogens spread by rodents and also help control the population of ticks that spread disease. Rodents can harbor a number of pathogens, including lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, leptospirosis, plague, and hantavirus. Other wild animals can also transmit rabies and other infections.

Practice good food-safety techniques to avoid getting sick

Although most cases of food-borne infection are not dangerous, some can lead to serious medical conditions, including kidney failure and meningitis. You can prevent infections by food-borne pathogens in your household by preparing and storing foods safely.

Infections are caused by bacteria, viruses and other microscopic organisms. These germs are found in the environment (water, soil, air) as well as in and on humans, in our body secretions (stool) and in the tiny droplets that are generated by breathing, coughing, sneezing. The routes of infection may include: blood circulation, digestive, respiratory, and body fluids.

A person can be a source of infection; either for him/her self (endogenous) or to other people (directly through personal contact, or indirectly, e.g. by contaminating food or beverages).

Droplet spread: Germs that cause colds, strep throats, are found in the saliva and secretions of the nose. Colds and other minor infections including the eyes, nose and throat, are the most frequent illnesses in young children. When people cough, sneeze, have runny noses, or do anything that spreads droplets of secretions from the respiratory tract, the germs can spread. The germs can then be inhaled, or they may land in a person’s eye, nose or mouth.

Indirect spread may also occur because some viruses can survive in the environment (counter tops) for days at a time. Because the respiratory viruses can be found in the nose and throat of children for several days before they show signs of an illness, it is important to follow good infection control practices at all times.

Direct physical contact: Infections, particularly skin infections such as impetigo and ringworm, are spread by direct physical contact. This is when children play together and one child touches the infected skin area of another child.

The skin offers an excellent barrier when in contact with blood. Several infections may be spread by direct contact with blood if there is a break in the skin (blood to blood) or direct contact with mucous membranes (eye, mouth). Only a small amount of blood or body fluids can cause infections so whenever any amount of blood or bloody body fluids is noticed, equipment such as gloves, and proper cleaning and disinfection of exposed objects must occur.

In addition to people, also animals can be sources of infection.
Objects may be sources of infection; food, water, air-conditioning systems, showers, medical instruments, recreational waters, door knobs, handkerchiefs etc.

Contaminated Objects: Contaminated objects like toys, towels, even food and water, can also infect people.

In most outbreak investigations, the principal objective is to identify the source of the infection. Interestingly enough this sometimes leads to semantic problems: an identified 'source' (e.g. a chocolate cake) is usually contaminated by some other source (e.g. the baker of the cake, or the eggs used).

Inanimate sources of infection are sometimes referred to as 'vehicle of infection' (e.g. the chocolate cake) or 'fomites' (e.g. the cotton handkerchief). Inanimate sources (vehicles, fomites) are part of the indirect transmission route..

Source of infection should be distinguished from source of contamination (e.g. overflow of a septic tank, contaminating a water supply).

So, anything or everything can be a source for infection.

An infective agent might enter the body through a number of different ways that an infective agent (pathogenic organisms) can enter the body to cause infection.

These are called Routes of infection, and include: Inhalation (breathing in droplets from coughs or sneezes into the lungs causing coughs, cold, influenza and other common airborne infections are contracted in this fashion); Ingestion (food, drink or other infected products can be swallowed and infect the stomach or bowels. Most people have experienced a pain stomach, which reveals itself in the form of diarrhoea and or vomiting); Injection (via needle stick injury, insect bites or where tubes are inserted such as catheters or wound drains); Up the urinary and reproductive systems (the infectious agent may remain localized or may enter the blood stream leading to sexually transmitted diseases e.g. HIV; AIDS virus.

It is important that all objects are properly cleaned and sanitized and all food/water is from approved sources.

Infection control means taking action to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Such diseases are mostly caused by micro-organisms which can be spread in several ways; Air-borne (in the air by breathing); Blood-borne (transfer through blood); Food-borne (food poisoning); Hand to hand contact.

All of us have a duty of care to protect the each other from harm, including harm from infectious disease. To do this we need to understand the causes of infection and how infection is spread from one person to another. Once we have a clear understanding of where infections come from and how they are spread, we can take the necessary actions to reduce the likelihood of becoming infected.

It is believed that the over-use of antibiotics in recent years has played a large part in antibiotic resistance, and the rise of what are often called ‘superbugs’, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Nowadays, doctors think carefully before prescribing antibiotics.

Governments and Healthcare officials have acknowledged the pressure on doctors to prescribe, but have warned them that it adds to the cycle of antibiotic resistance.

The difference between infectious and non-infectious disease is that infectious disease can be spread from person to person. Infection can pass from person to person by cross-contamination (cross-infection, indirect contamination) or by direct contact (direct contamination).

Cross-contamination is where the pathogenic organisms are moved from their source to another location and then to a person.

Sharing contaminated objects such as a bedpan or hairbrush can lead to cross contamination, as can misusing cleaning equipment, for example, by using cleaning cloths in more than one location. Remember, hands are the most common vehicles of cross-infection. It is very important to remember that some people are more susceptible to infection than others.

One of the reasons that the organisms that cause infections spread so easily is because they cannot be seen by the naked eye. For that reason we need to be aware of how to minimise the conditions for their growth and how they get into our bodies.

With this information we can start to minimise the chances of transmission of infections. Bacteria live on or in just about every material and environment on this planet: from soil, to water, to air; from inside home environments, to arctic ice. Every living creature, including humans, is covered with bacteria.

Some microbes live on the skin and offer protection from harmful agents. The drier areas of the body, such as the back and forearm, have few microbes; moist areas, such as the armpit, have many more. Each square centimetre of skin averages about 100,000 bacteria. The forearms, which tend to be dry, average approximately 1,000 bacteria per square centimetre, while the armpits may have many millions per square centimetre.



Emerging and Re-emerging Infections in India

Chemical Occupational Risk

Pesticides Health Effects


Emerging Infectious Diseases