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Providence Healthcare
Providence Healthcare

Afat Abdullayeva is an infection control practitioner at Providence Healthcare

Infection prevention: Five bugs you should know about

Oct 16, 2018

October 15 - 19 is Infection Prevention and Control Week

Our first priority is the safety of our patients and staff, and that includes protecting our patients and staff from influenza (flu) as well as the spread of infectious diseases. In recognition of Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) Week, we asked infection control practitioner Afat Abdullayeva to share some helpful tips to remain healthy and highlight five bugs you should know about.

With the flu season approaching, what is the best way to stop the spread of infection and protect yourself and others?

When you protect yourself you protect others too.

  • Get your flu-shot.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough and sneezes. Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hand.
  • Clean your hands well and clean them often. The most common way for an infection to get into a person is via their hands.

Five Bugs You Should Know About

1. Campylobacter

Campylobacter infection is an infectious disease caused by Campylobacter bacterium. Most Campylobacter infections are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry, raw (unpasteurized) dairy products and untreated water. People also can get infected through contact with the feces of a dog or cat. As with most diarrheal illness, children are the most commonly affected worldwide.

Symptoms include a fever and headache, followed by abdominal cramps and diarrhea. These symptoms usually last about a week. However, some infected people do not have any symptoms. For those with weakened immune systems, Campylobacter can be life-threatening.

The best way to avoid Campylobacteriosis is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Wash fruits and vegetables. Keep raw poultry away from other foods. Cook food to the right temperature.

2. Measles

Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease that affects primarily children and is accompanied by a skin rash. Symptoms of measles include high fever, generalized rash, runny nose, pink, watery eyes, coughing, diarrhea, and earache. Some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis. They may need to be hospitalized and could die.

People get measles by breathing in the measles virus that is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. You can get measles just by being in the same room with an infected person.

Measles can be prevented through vaccination.

3. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia can affect the cervix and urethra, and occasionally the rectum, throat, and eyes. Chlamydia can be spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner. It can also pass from an infected mother to her infant during birth. Most of the people with chlamydia have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they might only appear several weeks after initial exposure to the bacteria.

To avoid chlamydia practice safe sex and use protection. This will lower the risk of getting chlamydia or other STIs.

4. Listeria

Listeria is a harmful germ that can hide in many foods. Listeria infections are primarily linked to deli meats, hot dogs, dairy products, soft cheeses, celery, sprouts, cantaloupe, and ice cream. People with normal immune systems rarely develop invasive infection. However, they may experience some discomfort and sickness.

The best prevention is to follow simple food safety guidelines: Keep things clean. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water before and after handling or preparing food. After cooking, use hot, soapy water to wash the utensils, cutting board and other food preparation surfaces. Scrub raw vegetables. Clean raw vegetables with a scrub brush under plenty of running water. Cook your food thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to make sure your meat, poultry and egg dishes are cooked to a safe temperature.

5. Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE)

Enterococci are germs that live in the gastrointestinal tract of most individuals and generally do not cause harm. Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) are strains of enterococci that are resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin. If a person has an infection caused by VRE it may be more difficult to treat. VRE can be present on person’s hands either from touching contaminated material excreted by an infected person or from touching articles soiled by feces. VRE can survive well on hands and can survive for weeks on inanimate objects such as toilet seats, taps, door handles, bedrails, furniture and bedpans. VRE is easy to kill with the proper use of disinfectants and good hand hygiene. The best way to prevent VRE is practicing careful and frequent hand-washing, following infection control guidelines such as routine practices and additional precautions.


Public Health Ontario and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention