• The article discusses the need to identify and manage aerosolized pathogens in healthcare settings.
• It outlines the steps required to reduce the potential for transmission of airborne infectious agents, such as implementing engineering controls and administrative processes.
• It also highlights the importance of using personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect healthcare workers from exposure to aerosolized pathogens.
Identifying Aerosolized Pathogens
In healthcare settings, it is essential to identify and manage aerosolized pathogens that can be transmitted through air or by contact with surfaces. These airborne infectious agents are a major cause of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). To reduce the potential for transmission, effective engineering controls and administrative processes must be implemented, including appropriate ventilation systems and environmental cleaning protocols.
Engineering controls are physical designs used to minimize exposure in patient care areas. These include using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in ventilation systems, increasing air exchange rates, and maintaining proper temperature and humidity levels. Other measures may include partitioning rooms with physical barriers or installing ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) lights for additional disinfection in patient care areas.
Administrative processes are important components of infection prevention strategies that involve policies, procedures, training programs, and communication plans designed to protect personnel from hazards associated with aerosolized pathogens. Healthcare facilities should develop written policies outlining how best to contain airborne droplets generated during medical procedures or coughing/sneezing episodes in patients or staff members. They should also provide comprehensive training programs on proper use of PPE when caring for patients known or suspected to have an HAI caused by an aerosolizable pathogen.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, eye protection, gowns/aprons, gloves, shoe covers/boots is essential for protecting healthcare workers from exposure to aerosolized pathogens in clinical settings. PPE must be selected based on risk assessment specific to each procedure performed by a healthcare worker while caring for patients known or suspected of having an HAI caused by an aerosolizable pathogen. Proper donning and doffing techniques must also be taught so that contamination does not occur during removal or adjustment of PPE components while working with infected individuals.
Identifying risks associated with aerosolized pathogens is key in preventing HAIs among healthcare workers as well as patients within a facility setting; thus requiring implementation of appropriate engineering controls combined with effective administrative processes along with appropriate use of PPE when providing care for patients at risk for transmitting airborne infectious agents..