Sunday, February 22, 2009

3 rules for infection control, applied

Son of a bitch, Isadora, that hurt! Twice--once when I was on the receiving end of a deep bite after fluids/feeding, and again when I poured alcohol over it.

Fortunately, I'm current on my tetanus booster shots, given how often I get bitten, scratched, or otherwise punctured around here.

Yesterday, I saw Dr. John Huckabee's talk on infection control at the WARA conference; I thought, though, I'd have a few more days before actually applying them.

Rule 1--Don't be a fomite! Fomites are inanimate objects that can transmit infection, so reusing needles or gloves that can carry germs, or not cleaning telephones, keyboards, or doorknobs that are handled frequently can pass on infection. By "don't be a fomite", he means take care to clean and disinfect your clothing, instruments, and environment in such a way that their potential for passing on infection is minimized.

Rule 2--Wash your hands! I'm pretty good on this one, actually; I wash my hands frequently, especially after handling the cats, or going to the bathroom, and before handling food.

Rule 3--Clean first, then disinfect. This is the one that I've been the sloppiest about in the past, partly because I've never thought too much about the difference between cleaning and disinfection. As Huckabee clarified yesterday, cleaning uses friction to remove microbes from the environment, while disinfection is the use of agents that actually kill microbes (I am deliberately not linking to Wikipedia in this instance because their article confuses the two; I am not the expert who needs to clean it up, but they conflate cleaning and disinfection).

What I've done in the past is pour alcohol over the bite, thinking I was cleaning and disinfecting simultaneously. Wrong! The presence of organic material reduces disinfectant activity; that's what Huckabee means by "clean first, then disinfect". So this time, I washed the wound well, scrubbing and rinsing for an entire minute, before pouring alcohol on it, and then drying it, applying Neosporin, and bandaging.

UPDATE: Ooops, hit "Post" too fast--I meant to say that I hope the fact that Isadora has the strength to deliver a bite like that means she's feeling better, at least a little...

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