The A-Z of Patient Care - V for Virus

Viruses are microscopic organisms that exist almost everywhere on earth. They can infect animals, plants, fungi and even bacteria, making them the most abundant biological entity on the planet.

 

Each human body is host to an average of five viruses at any given time2. Your immune system works to defend you against these viruses, producing antibodies and T-cells to help fight the virus1. Unfortunately for humans, some viral infections outpace these natural defences, in turn causing you to become unwell.

Currently we know of 219 virus species that can infect humans, although it is highly likely there are more undiscovered3. One of the most common of these viruses is influenza which is thought to affect up to 15% of the population each year4

 

Influenza Virus

Seasonal Influenza (flu) is a highly infectious disease that attacks the respiratory system5. It can be very dangerous, causing serious complications and even death, especially for people in high risk groups such as young children and the elderly5. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that a typical flu season kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people worldwide every year6. This number can fluctuate dramatically as flu viruses can rapidly mutate, resulting in new strains of influenza emerging that vary in severity.

This was the case in 1918 when the Spanish Flu pandemic infected 1/3rd of the planets population and killed an estimated 50 - 100 million people7.  Still today, scientists are unsure how this strain mutated and spread so rapidly around the world and therefore cannot be certain that a similar lethal mutation of influenza won’t occur again. Factors such as urbanisation, overcrowding, global transport and trade all accelerate the speed that a virus such as this could spread and spiral out of control8.

 

However, a century on from 1918, drugs and public hygiene are much improved and international institutions all now collaborate their scientific efforts, putting the international community in a much stronger position to face a future outbreak9. A Global Influenza Programme was established in 1947 to track changes in the virus. Today this network comprises 153 institutions in 114 countries, who work together to develop a multi-layered approach to prepare for and respond to seasonal flu outbreaks including producing recommendations on the composition of influenza viruses circulating, to help guide the best prevention measures9.

 

The flu vaccine remains the best defence we have against flu and its potential side effects. During 2017-2018, it is estimated the flu vaccine prevented 7.1 million influenza illnesses10. The vaccine is usually available to the most vulnerable groups in society including adults aged over 65, pregnant ladies and frontline health and social care workers, to protect them from serious complications of flu such as pneumonia11.

When people have not been vaccinated, flu outbreaks can occur very easily, particularly in densely populated areas such as care homes and hospitals. If a flu outbreak does occur, there are non-pharmaceutical interventions that can help.

Prevention Strategies for Influenza in Healthcare Settings

Someone infected with influenza can easily pass it on when they cough or sneeze, it can also be contracted by touching a contaminated surface and then putting your fingers in your mouth, nose or near your eyes12. It is important that healthcare facilities implement steps to limit the spread of infection wherever possible.

 

Follow Droplet Precautions

Flu viruses can survive as droplets in the air for several hours14. Droplet precautions are used to stop germs spreading by droplets from patients mouth or nose when they speak, sneeze or cough. These precautions include ensuring that patients hands are cleaned frequently, isolating the patient as much as possible and limiting the number of visitors they receive13. Find out more here.

 

Environmental Infection Control

The influenza virus is able to live on a hard surface for up to 24 hours, so proper disinfection is crucial to ensure any dangerous pathogens are killed14.

Our Azo™ range of disinfection solutions offers products for rapid disinfection and two in one cleaning and disinfection. These come in a pre-dosed wipe format, which have been proven to be a more effective method of cleaning and disinfection for two reasons:

 

    1. Using one wipe per surface limits the spread of microorganisms from one surface to another.

    2. Pre dosed wipes reduce the risk of disinfectant mixing errors, incorrect dosages of disinfectant could impact the              effectiveness of the formulation to kill microorganisms.

AzoWipe® is designed to disinfect clean surfaces. It contains 70% IPA which has a very quick microorganism kill time, leaves no residue and dries quickly, meaning surfaces can be used shortly after disinfecting.

AzoMax® is designed as a time saving solution for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in one wipe.

For more information about cleaning and disinfection procedures, click here.

Good personal hygiene

Keeping patients’ hands and bodies germ-free can help protect against influenza and prevent germs being spread on to others. For bedbound patients in hospital, being bathed regularly can be difficult. Our Oasis® waterless bathing range provides a comfortable bed bathing solution without the issues associated with traditional soap and water bed bathing. Oasis® Bed Bathing Washcloths are pre impregnated with a unique combination of skin cleansers that help to remove sweat and dirt from the skin. The washcloths are intended to be used individually, using one single-use cloth per anatomical region to reduce the potential for cross-contamination that arises from reusable items.

For more information about our Oasis® Waterless bathing range, click here.

The World Health Organisation run yearly campaigns that give people advice on the influenza virus and include lessons we can learn from previous flu pandemics. Find out more information and help your healthcare facility arm against future viral disease outbreaks15.