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Torking About Cross- Contamination

Ian Catchpole, from professional hygiene products specialist Tork, considers the types of

cleaning and hygiene systems that help to reduce cross-contamination and prevent infection in care homes.

Care homes are a potential breeding ground for bacteria and viruses and infections can spread like wildfire among vulnerable elderly people.

In such places, those who are more susceptible to illness share the same sources of air, food, water and healthcare; and a constant throughput of visitors, staff and residents means that new pathogens are being brought in all the time. These micro-organisms can be spread in different ways. For example, the viruses responsible for colds and flu are airborne and can be passed on through coughing or sneezing.

A common cause of gastroenteritis in the care home is Norovirus, which can be transmitted via physical contact or through food and water. The major culprits when it comes to transmitting infections and viruses, however, are the hands. Therefore, scrupulous hand hygiene should be practised at all times by staff, residents and visitors alike.

Any member of staff who touches an infected resident may go on to contaminate surfaces and equipment that he or she subsequently touches, and colds and flu can be spread by people sneezing into their hands and then touching a surface.

If hand hygiene is neglected aſter using the washroom, germs may be spread via the faecal-oral route. This is a particular risk in the kitchen where food preparation staff could pass illnesses on to the vulnerable residents.

Staff should wash and dry their hands thoroughly before and aſter any direct contact with a resident. Hand washing should also take place aſter using the washroom and before preparing food. Visitors to the home could also potentially bring in infections from

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outside which could then be transmitted to an elderly friend or relative.

Kitchen and general care staff should have access to user-friendly hand hygiene facilities, including liquid soaps and paper hand towels, which are the Health Protection Agency’s recommended option in its 2013 document on the Prevention and Control of Infection in Care Homes.

Great care should be taken in the kitchens to prevent the spread of infections via hands or surfaces. Good hand hygiene facilities should be supplied and consideration given to the choice of wiping products, which may simply be spreading contamination around the unit surfaces. Tork Reflex Single Sheet Centrefeed works well in a care home kitchen. Available either as a fixed dispenser or in a portable

format, both fully enclose the roll inside, preventing contamination. This means kitchen staff have access to a clean paper wiper every time. Tork colour-coded cloths for surface cleaning also work well in the kitchen since these will enable staff to segregate cleaning tasks by colour.

All soaps should be supplied in cartridges that are completely sealed before use, while hand towels should be housed in dispensers that give out only one towel at a time.

In resident washrooms, all systems should be designed to make hygiene both easy and accessible. Paper towels should be sufficiently soſt to gently dry the delicate skin of the elderly without causing chapping, while all soaps should be easy to access. For example, Tork soap dispensers have a low push force to make them easy to use, even for the frail and elderly. These units have earned a seal of approval from the Swedish Rheumatism Association as a result.

Hand sanitisers placed in strategic positions around the home will act as a further hand hygiene prompt while also supplementing the hand washing facilities. However, sanitisers should not be used during outbreaks of C Difficile since these infections cannot be destroyed by chemicals. Only soap and water will do, too, when the hands are visibly dirty or contaminated with human secretions.

The stakes are high in a care home where the risk of infections and viruses is huge. Staff, residents and visitors alike need to play their part in practising good hand hygiene, while a good supply of user-friendly washroom and kitchen products will help to keep the environment safe for everyone.

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