Breaking the Chain of Infection

We are always told to wash our hands after sneezing and to keep surfaces clean, especially during flu season, but why? To break the chain of infection! What is the chain of infection, and how many links are there in the chain, you ask? In this guide, we break down the links of the chain of infection and how you can help stop the spread of disease by implementing some simple techniques.

What is the Chain of Infection?

The chain of infection is a series of events that need to happen for the transmission of infection to occur. There are six links that make up this process, including the infectious agent, reservoir, portal of exit, mode of transmission, portal of entry, and susceptible host. By breaking the links between any of these elements, we can reduce the chance of transmission, stopping the spread of disease.

The 6 Links of the Chain of Infection

The process of transmission can be broken down into six different components. Each of these elements plays an important role in the transmission of a disease, so it is crucial to know the chain of infection in order and understand how each linkworks before we can tackle breaking the chain altogether.

1. Infectious Agent

An infectious agent is any form of virus, bacteria, fungi, or parasite that can spread disease. Also known as a pathogen, the presence of an infectious agent begins the process of transmission. Examples of pathogens include the common cold virus, E. coli, and Streptococcus (Strep Throat).

2. Reservoir

The reservoir is the location where a pathogen can thrive by surviving and multiplying itself. This can be somewhere in the human body but also in animals, plants, and other living organisms. But the location of a reservoir isn’t just limited to a place in a living organism. It can also include areas in the environment such as door handles and surfaces.

3. Portal of Exit

Once an infectious agent has survived and multiplied itself enough times, it will look to move to another location. To do this, it needs to leave the reservoir. Common forms of a portal of exit include coughing and sneezing but it can also include vomit and faeces.

4. Mode of Transmission

For a pathogen to leave the reservoir, it needs a mode of transmission. This differs from a portal of exit as this is the method that the infectious agent will use to be transmitted, whereas the portal of exit is the path the infectious agent will take.

The modes of transmission can be divided into two categories: direct and indirect. Direct transmission is when a person is in close proximity with an infected person, and they are infected through droplets from speaking or even kissing. Indirect transmission differs as there is no direct contact between an infected person and a new host. An example of indirect transmission is an infectious person sneezing and spreading droplets onto a surface. A new host then touches the surface and immediately touches their face, causing the spread of disease.

This shows the different modes of transmission: person to person, air to person, and surface to person. Each of these modes depends on the type of pathogen, reservoir, and the portal of exit.  

5. Portal of Entry

The portal of entry is the path the infectious agent will take to infiltrate a new individual. There are many ways a pathogen can do this, from entering through a mucous membrane to entering through a wound. An example of a portal of entry isan influenza virus entering a new host through sneeze droplets.

6. Susceptible Host

Finally, a susceptible host is a vulnerable individual that has contracted the infectious agent. This means the pathogen has now infiltrated the defences of a person’s body, making them a new reservoir. The chain can now begin again, further spreading the infection.

How to Break the Chain of Infection

To break the chain of infection, any of the links can be disrupted through infection control. Below, we have listed some methods you can implement to help stop the spread of infection and how this affects each link of the chain of infection.

Complete Your Round of Antibiotics

If you are prescribed antibiotics, it is important you complete the full course of medication. This will help reduce the chances of antibiotic resistance, meaning others who contract the infection also have a good chance of fighting the infectious agent. This is one way to break the chain, starting from the infectious agent link.

Maintain Regular Cleaning and Decontamination of Areas

One of the most reiterated methods of breaking the chain of infection is to ensure areas are regularly cleaned and decontaminated. There are a few ways of doing this. From using surface cleaning products that have the capability of killing infectious agents to using air purifiers to decontaminate the air, there are many methods that can disrupt the chain of infection, no matter where the reservoir is located.

Social Distancing

If you are aware of an infectious person, it is recommended that you distance yourself from them to prevent the chances of the infectious agent finding a new host. This minimises the chances of the pathogen locating a new reservoir, breaking the chain.  

Cover Your Mouth When Sneezing and Coughing

By covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, you are reducing the chance of droplets being deposited onto surfaces or transmitted into the air. This breaks the chain of infection from the portal of exit link as you are preventing the pathogen from being spread further.

Hand Hygiene

The number one task you should ensure you complete is washing your hands. Whether that be after sneezing or before eating, it is crucial you wash your hands frequently to minimise your chances of contracting an infection and spreading a pathogen further through a mode of transmission. Using liquid soap and washing your hands for 20 seconds will remove pathogens from your hands, breaking the chain.

It is recommended you wash your hands using liquid soap from a soap dispenser rather than a bar of soap, as bars of soap can harbour pathogens. Additionally, if you don’t have access to handwashing facilities, you should opt for hand sanitiser to maintain hand hygiene.

Keep Areas Well Ventilated

Having good ventilation is an easy method of reducing the amount of pathogens in an area. Opening windows will allow pathogens to diffuse outside, diluting the amount of pathogens and leaving you with a cleaner space. This reduces the spread of infection from air to person, breaking the chain from the mode of transmission.

Wear Personal Protective Equipment

To protect yourself from infection, you could wear personal protective equipment (PPE). There are various examples of PPE, including face masks, eye protection, and gloves. Wearing PPE will reduce the risk of infection as your nose and mouth will be covered, meaning pathogens will have less chance of a portal of entry through your mucous membranes.

Stop the Spread with Woosh

Stopping the spread of infections can benefit not only yourself but also those around you. Nobody likes being sick!

Breaking the chain is simple. By taking these straight forward steps, you can help break the chain, allowing those who are more vulnerable to infections to be more stress-free when it comes to going out in public, and you will also have a reduced risk of becoming sick.

Take care of yourself and those around you by equipping your washrooms with the latest in washroom technology. From simple soap dispensers to high-tech air purifying machines, at Woosh Washrooms, we have everything you need to ensure your environment is clean and pathogen-free. Get in touch with our team to see how we can break the chain of infection together!

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