International Infection Prevention WeekInternational Infection Prevention Week is observed during the third week of October each year. The aim of this annual campaign is to raise interest in and awareness about infection prevention.

Health acquired infections (HAIs) are a major complication of hospital care. HAIs may be caused by any infectious agent, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, as well as other less common types of pathogens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 25 people in the U.S. get infections in hospitals while being treated for something else. IIPW raises awareness about the role that infection prevention plays to improve patient safety. This year, International Infection Prevention Week is from October 18-24.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) stresses that everyone, from patients and families to healthcare personnel, plays an important role in infection prevention both in and out of healthcare facilities. The main focus of this year’s campaign is hand hygiene – IIPW’s slogan is ‘Clean Hands Stop Germs’.

Adhering to hand hygiene recommendations can prevent the transmission of microorganisms in health care and directly contribute to patient safety. IIPW encourages patients and families to learn the basics of infection prevention and know what they should do to stay away from infections when they are in the community or in a healthcare setting.

It is crucial for clinical laboratories to support the goals of IIPW with hand hygiene and other infection prevention and control activities. Hand hygiene in clinical settings and laboratories include handwashing using soap and water as well as an antiseptic agent. The World Health Organization emphasizes that health-care workers, caregivers or persons involved in direct or indirect patient care such as laboratory professionals need to be concerned about hand hygiene and should be able to perform it correctly and at the right time. For instance, maintaining hand hygiene is critical:

  • Before and after touching the patient
  • Before handling an invasive device for patient care (with or with out gloves)
  • After contact with body fluids
  • After removing sterile or non-sterile gloves

Other best practices for preventing infection in healthcare settings include using disinfectants that have microbicidal activity, receiving all specimens in a closed container or plastic bag with the appropriate patient information attached, safe blood collection practices, avoiding reuse of needles, cannulae and syringes and using aprons and personal respiratory protection when handling specimens. Laboratories need to maintain biosafety levels and ensure safe specimen transport, and have proper waste management strategies and accident management plans in place.