A hospital or medical facility is where you go when you’re not feeling well due to a bacterial or viral infection. Consequently, hospitals are also common places where pathogens spread, putting staff, visitors, and patients at risk. Transmission, which is the method by which pathogens move from host to host, relies on contaminated air and infected hard surfaces. These are some of the most common ways that pathogens spread in hospitals.
One of the most common ways for pathogens to spread in hospitals is through people. Ill patients can spread bacteria, viruses, or microbes by touching surfaces or excreting them through the air. Even unsuspecting patients, visitors, or staff without symptoms of a disease can spread pathogens as a carrier. Failing to isolate patients with especially contagious diseases can lead to rapid transmission in a hospital setting. Also, medical staff who don’t follow the proper safety protocols, like washing hands frequently, can easily spread germs among patients.
Susceptible or immunocompromised people are more likely to be visiting a hospital or medical facility. They are also more likely to become infected if proper cleaning and sanitizing protocols aren’t in place because their immune systems aren’t as capable of fighting off infection. Some medications that patients in a hospital setting take may also compromise their immune systems, which also further promotes the spread of disease.
High-touch surfaces are also a common source of spreading pathogens in hospitals and medical facilities. Surfaces with a lot of touch points are especially at risk of carrying pathogens, including door handles, light switches, stair rails, and bed rails. Pathogens can infect both dry and wet surfaces, including medical devices.
Wet surfaces like faucets and sinks are prone to lingering bacteria and viruses. Medical equipment like catheters and IVs can also be a common source of pathogen spread. Contaminated surfaces can infect others for hours or days, leading to rapid spread among patients and staff members.
Pathogens can also easily spread in the air. Air contamination can be one of the most difficult transmission methods to avoid, especially since some bacteria and viruses can remain in the air for several hours. Cleaning hard surfaces and high-touch points does little to clean and sanitize the air. Airborne pathogens are spread through coughing, sneezing, talking, or talking. Medical equipment can cause pathogens to spread even further by air, especially in construction zones within the hospital.
Instead, hospitals and medical facilities need to use HEPA filters to filter pathogens out before the air flows into patient rooms and waiting areas. The use proper air filtration in the hospital’s HVAC system can help prevent the spread of pathogens.
Medical equipment that enters the body through surgical procedures can also spread pathogens to an unsuspecting host. Using unclean needles or surgical equipment is one of the most common causes of bloodborne pathogen spread. Medical equipment should be properly cleaned and sterilized before being stored carefully in a secure, sanitary environment.
Upgraded technologies can help medical facilities better clean and sanitize medical equipment, including UV sterilization and ultrasonic techniques. These techniques work by penetrating the pathogen’s barrier, helping to disinfect more stubborn germs.
Bathrooms are especially prone to spreading germs in a hospital setting. Patients may use the restroom to blow their nose or cough, quickly contaminating the small room with pathogens. The toilet also harbors bacteria that, if not cleaned frequently enough, can spread bacteria among the patients and staff. The bathroom may host a number of different pathogens at one time, meaning it requires multiple hospital cleaning products to remove them all effectively.
Improperly disinfected kitchens or kitchen equipment can also be a source of transmission in hospitals. Contaminated food and water can quickly spread to patients whose immune systems may be compromised for other reasons. Lack of training or food quality that includes outdated ingredients or cross-contaminating foods can also lead to foodborne illnesses among patients, staff, and visitors.
Hospital-acquired infections most commonly occur from a lack of safety protocols and cleaning and sanitization standards within a medical facility. Reducing the spread of pathogens in a medical facility requires a comprehensive approach. Hospital staff needs to follow strict cleaning and sanitizing practices to prevent the spread of pathogens.
Medical providers can do their part in reducing pathogen spread by washing and disinfecting hands between patients and ensuring all medical equipment used is properly cleaned. Hospital administrators also play a role in stopping the spread of disease by putting quarantine policies in place and ensuring the facility’s air filtration system is updated and working properly.