By Lynne Lewis, RN, MS, CPNPWe hear lots in the news about infections and the risk they pose to our health and safety. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and afraid of catching a serious or deadly illness. The best way to avoid fear is to learn how these germs spread and how to avoid catching them. Transplant recipients may become sicker with certain infections than immunocompetent people and should know how to best protect themselves. Below are some suggestions for keeping infection-free:
1. Stay informed. While the general media can be helpful in letting us know about infection outbreaks, a reputable source of infection-specific information is important. Websites such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control provide sound information about disease outbreaks and prevention strategies.
2. Know who to call and when. Know the plan of when to call your transplant team and who to call after infection-specific exposures. Calling as soon as you know that you have been exposed is super important. Many infections can be prevented if specific treatment or prophylaxis is started early. If you are uncertain about an exposure, call your transplant team, and they will help establish a plan.
3. Wash your hands. Yes, you’ve heard it before—a lot! That’s because hand washing is the number one thing we can do to prevent infection. Remember to wash your hands after using the bathroom, always before you eat, after handling pets or animals and when your hands are dirty.
4. Avoid sick people. It’s important to avoid sick people, especially when their germs are spread through the air. Common airborne infections areinfluenza (the flu) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Knowing and understanding how specific infections can be spread helps us know what types of contact to avoid.
Please discuss the plan for infection exposures with your transplant team. We are here to answer your questions and to help if an infection exposure occurs.