Hospital Launches Infection Prevention Week

Community Urged to Wash Their Hands

Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) today launched Infection Prevention Week, with this key message: Washing your hands is the most simple and effective way to protect against illness.

Hands are the most common way for germs to spread. By regularly and effectively washing your hands, or using a hand sanitizer, germs can be killed before you are affected by everyday illnesses such as colds and more serious conditions such as flu or salmonella. Even antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, such as MRSA, can be killed by hand washing.

“At home, work and in the hospital, our hands continuously pick up germs from touching objects and people, or by sneezing into our palms,” notes Linda Rothwell, Manager of the Infection Control Department at BHB. “Washing your hands regularly and properly is the best way for you to prevent the spread of illnesses, especially as we head into the cold and flu season.”

Anti-bacterial hand soaps are not necessary for effective hand washing, but a proper technique, along with regular soap and warm water or a hand sanitizer is needed.

Kate Tomkins, a member of the Infection Control Team, advises, “Ensure all areas are rubbed vigorously, including the palms, along and between fingers and the back of the hands. You should keep washing for about 15 seconds (or the time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice). It is the soap combined with the friction that dislodges and removes germs.”

Healthcare workers are not the only ones who play a major role in infection prevention.

“Every year thousands of visitors and patients enter our doors and many are unaware of the steps they can take to prevent the spread of infection,” says Janice DeSilva, Infection Control Practitioner. “Staff, patients and visitors all play a role in preventing the spread of infection both in the hospital and at home. Patients are encouraged to remind staff members to perform hand hygiene before providing care.”

As part of this year’s campaign, seminars were presented last week by guest speaker, Gordon Burrill, a Canadian engineer who writes standards for reducing infection risks at construction and maintenance sites.

About 60 people, including design and mechanical engineers, architects, contractors and facilities staff from both the hospital and the community, learned how to contain and minimize dust and protect water systems from excessive bacterial loads during construction and maintenance activities.

Other events scheduled for this week include handwashing displays in the lobbies at both King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH) and Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute on the importance of hand hygiene, covering sneezes and coughs and following instructions posted outside a patient’s room. In addition, lectures for healthcare professionals are being offered during the week at KEMH.

Handy Facts
• One of the most common ways you catch colds is by rubbing your nose or eyes after touching someone or something that’s contaminated with the cold virus (rhinovirus)

• Germs can live for a long time (some can live for months) on surfaces like doorknobs, desks and tables

• Effective hand washing is the most effective means to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses which cause infection and food borne illnesses, such as:
Cold virus
Flu virus
Hepatitis A
MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus)

• Stop the spread:
Wash your hands well and regularly
Cough or sneeze into a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue, use your upper arm, not your hands.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth



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