Monday, January 23, 2017

Alexander Fleming won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of Penicillin. With this discovery, people thought we would be able to live in a world that was free from infectious diseases. Fleming understood that his miracle drug could have a short-coming with the potential development of resistance. Despite the warning he provided in his acceptance speech, overutilization or improper prescribing continued.

When someone acquires an antibiotic resistant infection, the treatment options become limited, more costly as well as potentially more toxic. Their time in the hospital would most likely be extended, their recovery from major surgery or chemotherapy could be negatively impacted and they have a higher potential of spreading infections to other people. It is also important to mention the toll from pain and suffering.

There are precautions to help keep these important medications effective in the germ and infection fighting battle against bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. Prevention is the best medicine. By properly washing your hands, you can help stop the spread of germs. According to Julie Smith, RN, Infection Prevention Specialist at Norman Regional Health System, "A quick 20 seconds could prevent you from acquiring a cold, flu or other infectious disease. When using hand sanitizer, use enough of the product to coat the same areas as when you wash your hands and rub until all areas are dry; this process should take about 15-20 seconds as well. People tend to wipe off the excess which defeats the purpose of the hand sanitizer; it works best if you rub it until it is dry." Norman Regional Health System has a hand hygiene program in place for all its employees called Wash In / Wash Out, or WIWO for short. WIWO helps remind everyone of the expectation to wash hands every time employees enter AND exit a patient room. Washing can be performed using soap and water or with our hospital provided hand sanitizer. This program has helped everyone focus on basic hand washing.

It is important to take the appropriate steps to avoid infection in the first place. These precautions are more important than ever.

a. Hand Washing, Hand Washing, Hand Washing!
b. Proper food handling and preparation
c. Respiratory hygiene - Cover your cough with the inside of your elbow, don’t use your hands
d. Stay home when you are sick and keep your germs to yourself
e. Antibiotic Stewardship – While it is up to the physicians to prescribe the appropriate medication, at the most effective dosage, for the right length of time; as patients, we need to follow through on our end as well.

i. Take antibiotics as prescribed
ii. Finish the entire course/prescription of antibiotic, even when you start to feel better.
iii. Discuss with your physician when you need antibiotics - antibiotics do not treat viruses

For additional information on antibiotic stewardship, please visit the Centers for Disease Control’ and Prevention’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/

Remember, the easiest way to help prevent infection, including any onset of a superbug, starts with simply washing your hands.