There is no single solution to infection prevention and control - a collaborative approach is required. NHMRC’s guidelines outline strategies to consider across the healthcare system and early childhood education settings. 

Why is infection prevention and control important?

Infection can occur when pathogens ('germs') such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa or fungi get into or onto the body. Every year, a large number of Australians suffer from infections which require medical attention. Infection prevention and control practices aim to prevent and/or stop the spread of disease-causing germs to others.

Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare (2019)

There are over 165,000 healthcare associated infections in Australian acute healthcare facilities every year. This makes healthcare associated infections the most common complication affecting patients in hospital. But this problem does not just affect patients and workers in hospitals — healthcare associated infections can occur in any healthcare setting, including office-based practices (e.g. general practice clinics, dental clinics, community health facilities), the setting in which paramedics work and long-term care facilities. 

Effective infection prevention and control is central to providing high quality healthcare for patients and a safe working environment for those who work in healthcare settings. The Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare provide evidence-based recommendations that outline the critical aspects of infection prevention and control, focusing on core principles and priority areas for action. 

The guidelines are for use by all working in healthcare – including healthcare workers, management and support staff. They provide a risk-management framework to ensure the basic principles of infection prevention and control can be applied to a wide range of healthcare settings. The level of risk may differ in different types of healthcare facilities; risk assessments are encouraged as part of the decision making and use of guideline recommendations. 

When implementing these recommendations all healthcare facilities need to consider the risk of transmission of infection and implement according to their specific setting and circumstances.

The Infection Control Guidelines Advisory Committee (ICGAC) provided expertise during the guideline development process.

Staying healthy: Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services (2013)

Infections are common in children and often lead to illness. At home, children are reasonably well protected from infectious diseases because they do not come into contact with as many people as children who attend education and care services. The adults they meet are usually immune to many childhood illnesses because they had them as children, or have been vaccinated against them.

Many children first enter education and care services at a time when their immune systems are still developing. They may not have been exposed to many common germs that cause infections—bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa—and they may be too young to be vaccinated against some diseases. The way that children interact in education and care services means that diseases can quickly spread in a variety of ways. Children (particularly younger children) will have close physical contact with other children and carers through regular daily activities and play; they often put objects in their mouths; and they may not always cover their coughs or sneezes.

Staying healthy-Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services is a best practice guide that provides simple and effective ways for educators and other staff to help limit the spread of illness and infectious diseases in education and care settings.

Contact

For further information please contact NHMRC at icg@nhmrc.gov.au

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