The infection control program should be managed by an infection control committee that includes physicians, representatives from custody, administration, nursing, dental, housekeeping, food services, unions if applicable, and other clinical areas at the facility such as laboratory, surgery, dialysis, respiratory therapy, and physical therapy. Although smaller facilities may not require the complex program necessary in a facility with a large medical mission, the basic elements remain the same.
Personal respiratory protection should be used by staff whenever they enter a room in which a person with known or suspected pathogen that can be transmitted via the air. Those who are in the area of cough- inducing procedures should also wear respiratory protection. Although no respiratory protective device will be 100% protective, when used consistently and correctly, respirators are highly reliable in the prevention of acquisition of respiratory pathogens. Respirators should be rated at least N-95 efficiency, be able to be fit-tested, and be available in several sizes to accommodate different facial sizes and characteristics.
Inmates are at risk for BBP exposures during injection drug use, tattooing, fights, and unprotected sexual activity. Correctional employees also face a rather unique risk of being intentionally exposed to blood borne pathogens by inmates who throw body fluids at them (known as "gassing" or "chunking").
Decreasing the risk of BBP exposure can be accomplished by vaccination of at-risk staff and inmates, education concerning the appropriate use of PPE, harm reduction education to inmates, implementation of policies and procedures to decrease the likelihood of sharps injuries, and operation of an effective post-exposure management program.
Safer sharps devices that have built-in features such as sheathing devices, blunted surgical needles, and retractable needles and blades are available. These devices have been shown to significantly reduce exposure to blood borne pathogens by decreasing the incidence of accidental needlesticks. Additionally, many injuries can be avoided by decreasing the use of needles (needleless intravenous connectors, using oral medications instead of injectables, consolidating diagnostic blood draws, and using urine or oral fluid tests instead of blood tests).
Many of the currently available safety syringes utilize a spring-loaded system. All safety syringes can be disassembled with minimal effort, and the springs in some of them are made of sturdy gauge wire that may pose security concerns.
HEPP Report July/Aug. 2003: Hepatitis B, C, and HIV Post-exposure Prophylaxis in Correctional Settings. Available at www.hivcorrections.org/archives/julyaug03/mainarticle.html.
MMWR Vol 50, No RR11; 1 06/29/2001: Updated U.S. Public Health Service Guidelines for the Management of Occupational Exposures to HBV, HCV, and HIV and Recommendations for Postexposure Prophylaxis
Staff should wear gloves when entering the patient's room, and remove gloves and wash their hands when leaving. Gowns should be worn while in the patient's room and removed prior to leaving. Face shields and eye protection should be worn during procedures that are likely to cause splashes of body fluids. Patient care items should remain in the room and not be reused on other patients unless they are disinfected.
Prior to beginning work in culinary services, all staff should receive an orientation concerning the importance of good hygiene. Comprehension of basic cleanliness and disease prevention concepts should be assured through testing. This education should be repeated at least annually. Supervisors should perform daily inspections of workers to ensure that they do not have active respiratory illnesses, open sores on their hands or arms, or an active gastrointestinal illness. Those who are ill should be removed from food services until cleared by infection control.
In the correctional environment, there are legitimate custody concerns regarding laundry distribution. Clothing and linen are often hoarded, and can be cut up to make non-approved clothing, curtains, and escape items such as ropes and altered clothing. These concerns notwithstanding, inmates should be provided an adequate supply of clothing and linens, and these items should be exchanged on a frequent and regular basis.
Those who handle contaminated laundry should be provided gloves, gowns, masks, and face shields for use while handling and sorting contaminated laundry. Thick utility gloves may provide workers with additional protection, and can be decontaminated and reused if they are not cracked, torn, or punctured.
Dirty linens should be rolled up to confine solid waste and to avoid aerosolization of organisms. Soiled linen should be bagged or put into carts at the location where it was used, and should not be sorted or otherwise excessively handled in any patient-care area. Linen from inmates who are on contact precautions should be handled according to published guidelines. Linen that has been contaminated with blood or other potentially contagious body fluids should be either placed in leak proof bags or containers labeled with the biohazard symbol, or placed in red bags for transportation. Because of the potential for disease transmission during handling of laundry, the sorting process should be minimized. Adequate ventilation should be maintained in the laundry area to decrease the potential for transmission of airborne diseases.
To minimize sharps being disposed of in the laundry stream, staff should be educated to adhere to procedures that detail the appropriate disposal of sharps, and laundry workers should be trained on how to handle sharps that are found in laundry. Needle containers should be readily available in laundry areas.
A temperature of at least 71° C (160° F) for a minimum of twenty-five minutes has commonly been recommended to effectively kill microorganisms. Studies have demonstrated that low temperature washing at 22-50° C can effectively reduce microorganism concentrations when adequate amounts of chlorine bleach are utilized.
Barbers should be provided containers to hold soiled linens. Towels should only be used on one client before being appropriately laundered. Containers should also be provided for the disinfection of combs, brushes, clippers, and scissors. An adequate supply of a disinfectant solution should be provided to allow for the complete immersion of barbering tools between haircuts.
Before each use, all non-electrical instruments should be cleaned with soap and water and then soaked in a disinfectant with known activity against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. This solution should be changed whenever visibly dirty, but at least weekly. Before each use, clippers and other electrical instruments should be brushed to remove all foreign matter and then disinfected by wiping with a disinfectant. Disinfected instruments should be stored in a clean, covered area.
All those who perform barbering activities should thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water and/or an approved hand disinfectant before each client. Barbers who are infected with an organism that is readily transmitted to others during barbering activities should not work until they are no longer contagious. Examples of conditions that can be transmitted during haircutting include purulent conjunctivitis (pink eye), VZV, respiratory illnesses such as colds, influenza, and tuberculosis, bacterial skin infection such as impetigo or cutaneous abcesses, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus infection, and ectoparasites such as scabies and lice. Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV are not transmitted during routine barbering activities and should NOT preclude employment as a barber.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is an advisory body of the federal government. The CDC creates guidelines and provides recommendations concerning health-related issues (www.cdc.gov).
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is part of the CDC (www.cdc.gov/niosh/homepage.html).
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) publishes performance standards and provides certification to health care organizations that meet them (www.jcaho.org).
The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) is a professional organization for those involved in Infection Control. APIC collaborates with the CDC to publish infection control guidelines, conducts research, sponsors educational programs, and provides resource materials (www.apic.org).
Herwaldt LA, ed. A Practical Handbook for Hospital Epidemiology. Thorofare, NJ: SlACK Incorporated 1998.
Mayhall CG, ed. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. Baltimore, Maryland: Williams and Wilkins; 1999.
MRSA information: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/hip/aresist/mrsa.htm, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Skin or Soft Tissue Infections in a State Prison-Mississippi, 2000. MMWR 2001;50:919-22, Outbreaks of Community-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Skin Infections-Los Angeles County, California, 2002--2003. MMWR 2003;52:88., Methicillin-Resistant Staphylocccus Aureus Infections in Correctional Facilities-Georgia, California, and Texas, 2001-2003. MMWR 2003; 52(992-996).
Joseph Bick, M.D., is Chief Medical Officer at California Medical Facility. He has nothing to disclose.