Avoiding Cross Contamination
These are some of the most common ways to spread disease and contagion and ways available to prevent spread
We live in a world, more than ever, filled with all kinds of pollution, contamination and disease. It would be good for one's own health to know how preventative measures can go a long way to prevent yourself and family from getting into some sort of serious trouble and inadvertently spreading the same to unknown third parties. To begin, here are some of the contaminants that we all face on a day to day basis without knowing exactly what we face at any given time. They include toxic chemicals, disease agents, radiological agents. They can show up anywhere, but concentrate in areas where there is high traffic, such as rapid transit, elevators, ATM machines and all public spaces such as malls, transfer points in subways, airports and public washrooms. Though some areas are cleaned in a daily basis, most are not. There is no absolute way to protect from airborne pathogens and ATMs that often are not attended to except by customers, security and scammers. Disease agents to be concerned about are readily transmissible as a level four type virus such as flu. Then there are people who attempt to spread terror such as happened in Japan with the release of saran gas in a subway. Then there is the bane of the modern era in the form of radiological releases due to meltdowns. We cannot ultimately protect ourselves from unexpected saran attacks or radiological releases, however, with a little preparation we can protect ourselves from flu, tuberculosis, measles, hepatitis and other easily transmitted type four and three viruses.
Type four infections easily spread through the air from an infected person who sneezes, coughs or handles anything that others touch like door handles, buttons, railing and handshakes. The contagion can be breathed in by people nearby. Type three pathogens are a little harder to spread and require casual contact such as described above in surfaces and through handshakes. You may well avoid those who cough and sneeze, but you cannot avoid common contact points that exist in abundance all around us. The best protection you can offer yourself in all of these situations at all times is to avoid touching any mucous membrane after handing any of these common touch points. This includes handling and eating food or drink with unwashed hands, touching your nostrils if you have to blow your nose or sneeze and strict avoidance of touching the area around the eyes. Colds and flu can be as easily caught through the eyes as by breathing air near someone coughing. The very best thing you can do for yourself is to wash your hands thoroughly for a minimum of 20 seconds taking care to get under the finger nails and getting between fingers before eating and drinking, wiping your eyes or blowing your nose. This cleaning can be done with a waterless hand sanitizer or a motion activated soap and water dispenser. The motion activated soap and water dispenser is the best as no contaminated knobs are handled, which would defeat the whole purpose of decontamination. If these are not available, then the best way to turn off the water when you are done is to take the sterile paper towel you just took to dry your hands and use it as a barrier between your now clean hands and the contaminated water flow knobs or handles as you shut off the water. This prevents cross contamination either from yourself when you turned on the water with dirty hands, or from someone who did likewise before you.
Many modern facilities now have automatic door openers or feature curved access halls with no doors which prevents that form of cross contamination. Some do not, so you will have to negotiate these as best as you can without touching contaminated handles, or obey the rule of not touching any mucous membrane before cleaning your hands.
When flu and cold season is afoot, the best thing you can do is avoid any crowded situation. Walk or bike instead of taking transit. Shop at smaller ma and pa operations instead of a crowded mall. As a last resort, you might opt as some Asian people do, and that is to don a surgical mask while in crowded public spaces.
Many of us have to work in areas where a lot of people pass by. This increases chances of coming in contact with contaminants of many sorts. Unfortunately, little can be done about this except to take immune enhancers and to take all the precautions noted above. In other jobs, many of us actually have to handle contaminated materials and this is where personal protection must be taken seriously. Janitors, dish washers, laundry worker and first responders, such as paramedics, first aid attendants, security, fire officers and police are at the highest risk for catching opportunistic level three and four pathogens from surfaces they work with, or in the case of first responders, from blood, vomit and excrement. The first responder also runs the risk of blood born infection from agents like HIV/AIDS.
Preventing cross contamination, Stop and think!
There are ways to prepare in advance and this is usually in the form of latex or nitril gloves so that there is no skin to skin or skin to wound contact. The intact latex or nitril prevents contamination getting directly onto the skin and into small abrasions on the fingers and hands. They could literally save your life if used correctly. If you work as a first responder, chances are, these gloves will be provided for the situations that require them. If not, then you need to invest in a few pairs. Depending on the size of your hands, get the size that fits you best. Given the appropriate situation that calls for their use, carefully put on a pair of the gloves, gather your first aid or cleaning supplies. Take care not to let any sharp object poke holes in the gloves. Do your first aid duties or cleaning jobs and take care not to touch any part of your body with the gloves on. When the job is done, collect and secure the bio-hazards or cleaning supplies and put them safely away. Any contaminated band aids, splints, ties, packaging, rags and papers should be carefully placed in a clean disposable bag. Before closing the bag, pinch one of the gloves just below the wrist on the glove end and peal them inside out off of your hand and hold that with the remaining gloved hand. With a finger, slip inside the other glove and peel it like the other so that it wraps the other glove in it. The last one should be inside out. Dispose in the bag and close it. Where necessary, dispose in a bio-hazard container. That is glove handling in a nutshell. Unfortunately, not everyone follows this protocol as evidenced by the blue nitril gloves one can find strewn in the streets after a first responder has been around. This is not proper protocol and can put others at risk. Wash your hands as a final cleansing and dry with a virgin paper towel or clean towel as available. Failing that, obtain and use some waterless hand sanitizer. First responders often carry packets of sanitizing wipes to do a final cleaning. These are also available at a drug store or at a KFC store. These are very handy and recommended for travel. Many drug stores also carry small pocket of purse waterless hand cleaning bottles good for several cleanings. If you use the bottle form of liquid hand sanitizer, the best way to deal with these is to put a small amount in one hand, close and place the bottle in the pocket and purse and then wash your hands. These are the basics for avoiding cross contamination and will go far in preventing you from getting ill. Vigilance is the watchword here.