At 20/30 Labs, we offer a range of microbiological analysis, including medical device decontamination, Legionella analysis of water systems and environmental monitoring of cleanrooms such as theatres, all to help the fight against potential infection within healthcare settings. 7th of April is World Health Day and we thought it would be the perfect time to talk about the simple prevention tactics that people can follow themselves, and to also talk about the biggest issue for fighting microbiological diseases today: antibiotic resistance.
There are some simple things that you can do to help stop yourself getting infected by harmful bacteria. Good hand hygiene is first step towards best practice. You should always wash your hands thoroughly, and try to avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes (especially if you are sick). Your surroundings should be clean as well, and you should try to minimise contact with people who are infected.
If you do get an illness, that is really important to try to prevent spreading that infection to other people. You should use a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and try to avoid touching objects unless your hands are clean. You can also separate yourself from other people to help prevent spreading the infection.
Are you against vaccinations? We hope not! “Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and others. When a vaccine against an infection or a disease is available, get it.” Whilst there are fears about the side effects from vaccinations, these are often mild and short-lived. The benefits are invisible but include, reducing the risk of catching potentially serious, even fatal diseases, for the individual and potentially also the ‘herd’. The term “herd immunity” refers to when there are a few herd members who cannot be vaccinated (due to age, sickness or other factors), but the immunity within the significant portion of the other herd members makes it difficult for the disease to spread to the ‘at risk’, unvaccinated individuals. Therefore, not only are you protecting yourself (or your child if you decide for to vaccinate them) you are also protecting those who cannot be vaccinated. The fear of vaccines has led to a decrease in children being vaccinated. Measles outbreaks in the UK and pertussis outbreaks in the US have been attributed to declining herd immunity.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the most important issues being raised within infection prevention in healthcare. “Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines.” According to the WHO (World Health Organization) antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today. Antibiotic resistance can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.
Bacterial strains that are antibiotic resistant may infect humans and animals and the infections they cause are harder (or sometimes impossible) to treat. Antibiotic resistance leads to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality.
The danger is very real, as more and more cases of antibiotic resistant bacteria are being reported. For example “Nightmare bacteria” with unusual resistance to ‘last resort’ antibiotics were found more than 200 times in the United States last year. In March, Public Health England started to investigate the case of a UK man infected with a multidrug-resistant form of gonorrhoea caught in Asia.
Microbiologists are constantly working to stop antibiotic resistance and also to develop new antibiotics day by day, but the time required may be longer than the time we have available. To do your bit for the fight against antibiotic resistance, you should not take unnecessary antibiotics, however if you need to take them, always complete the full course you have been prescribed.
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