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The Best Disease Prevention is Action

More than vaccine, personal protection requires personal action


Personal protection equipment (PPE) can protect us from everything from anthrax to influenza but use of such equipment is unrealized as is the value of a good infection control program until someone gets sick.  Our personal protection is more than  a “thing” we put on, our best personal protection is our action.

No matter which side of the mandated vaccine debate you happen to be on, vaccine is a top preventive measure. Vaccines are proven to be safe and effective. Not only do they provide the individual with protection from specific diseases, vaccination also provides herd immunity to a given population. A community that is vaccinated and protected against disease also protects those who have not developed immunity. Herd immunity is vital to those with compromised immune systems and even to some healthy groups such as schoolchildren.

CDC photo
Pharmacological measures such as vaccine are fantastic at preventing disease. However, the downfall is that they are not always readily available and pharmaceutical shortages have become frequent. Deployment of vaccine and oral medications can be challenging. It's important to understand the role of non-pharmaceutical interventions in disease spread control. The non- pharmaceutical interventions include; hand washing, respiratory etiquette, appropriate social isolation.

Hand hygiene, the simple act of washing your hands, is rated as the number one means for preventing the spread of disease. The use of warm water and soap for washing hands for between 15 and 30 seconds is a major component in effectively stopping disease spread in any population.

Respiratory etiquette means covering your cough and your sneeze and limiting other secretions you discharge from your mouth or nose. Covering your cough and sneeze is a mainstay of respiratory etiquette and helps prevent droplet transmission of disease. Droplet transmission is a major mode of transmission for Type A influenza. Don't be afraid to put a mask on yourself or patients exhibiting signs of influenza-like illness. Placing a mask on the patient goes a long way to containing the source of the droplets and respiratory secretions at the source and placing a mask on you significantly decreases your intake potential of those droplets and respiratory secretions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that standard surgical masks were sufficient to prevent droplet transmission in the setting of many respiratory illnesses including Type A influenza.

Social distancing means staying home when you're sick and includes staying out of public areas when you're ill. It does us no good to have someone stay home from work and/or school only to go to the local shopping mall or otherwise be out in public. I realize this is not a popular topic with many employers but the fact remains that people who are ill with gastrointestinal problems or respiratory illness should not be in a position to spread that disease whenever possible.

Simply wiping down flat surfaces in your work environment will go a long way to preventing your exposure to disease and the spread of many illnesses. Many commercial products are available for this purpose and a quick wipe on telephones and computer keyboards will help prevent disease spread.

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