January 09, 2008
Don’t underestimate the importance of hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
PORTSMOUTH, NH, 1/9/2008 – Flu season has arrived in New Hampshire with the first confirmed adult case being here in the Seacoast area. During the cough, cold and flu season, there are some simple tips that will help the spread of a variety of infections:
- If you have not received your flu shot it is not too late
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly—use alcohol hand disinfectant when you can not use soap and water
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and discard tissue after each use
- If no tissue is available cough into your sleeve and NOT your hand
- Get plenty of rest
- Eat a balanced diet, good nutrition is important in helping the body resist infection
- Avoid common candy and peanut dishes and finger foods--serve with serving utensils
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Manage stress
- Stay home if you have symptoms of a fever, cough or cold
- Stay away from people that are sick
- Healthcare providers should encourage and offer a mask and tissues to those with respiratory symptoms
Hand hygiene is the cornerstone of preventing the spread of ANY infection. At Portsmouth Regional Hospital hand hygiene compliance audits are performed and results are regularly shared with staff and physicians. Preventing the spread of infection is a national challenge facing hospitals and communities alike. The hospital, along with its parent company, HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) are continuously working to improve infection prevention strategies.
In 2007, a comprehensive corporate initiative to reduce methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was started. Infection Control Practitioner Martha Wassell, MT(ASCP),CIC oversees the Portsmouth Regional Hospital effort. Components of the program have been in place since 2001, such as surveillance screening cultures and “flagging” of the electronic medical records to alert staff to place certain patients on contact precautions with each admission. While these were considered innovative at the time, they have become standard practice in many hospitals. Ms. Wassell works closely with facilities personnel, housekeeping, support staff, nursing and physicians to ensure proper infection control procedures. Education is provided to all employees regarding infection control policies and best practices.
Wassell is the Past President and Board Member of the New Hampshire Infection Control and Epidemiology Professionals (NHICEP) group and a Member of the NH Taskforce on Public Reporting of Healthcare Associated Infections.