Germs are a part of everyday life and are found in our air, soil, water, and in and on our bodies. Some germs are helpful, others are harmful. Many germs live in and on our bodies without causing harm and some even help us to stay healthy. Only a small portion of germs are known to cause infection.
An infection occurs when germs enter the body, increase in number, and cause a reaction of the body.
A Source is an infectious agent or germ and refers to a virus, bacteria, or other microbe.
In healthcare settings, germs are found in many places. People are one source of germs including:
People can be sick with symptoms of an infection or colonized with germs (not have symptoms of an infection but able to pass the germs to others).
Germs are also found in the healthcare environment. Examples of environmental sources of germs include:
A susceptible person is someone who is not vaccinated or otherwise immune, or a person with a weakened immune system who has a way for the germs to enter the body. For an infection to occur, germs must enter a susceptible person’s body and invade tissues, multiply, and cause a reaction.
Devices like IV catheters and surgical incisions can provide an entryway, whereas a healthy immune system helps fight infection.
When patients are sick and receive medical treatment in healthcare facilities, the following factors can increase their susceptibility to infection.
Recognizing the factors that increase patients’ susceptibility to infection allows providers to recognize risks and perform basic infection prevention measures to prevent infection from occurring.
Transmission refers to the way germs are moved to the susceptible person.
Germs don’t move themselves. Germs depend on people, the environment, and/or medical equipment to move in healthcare settings.
There are a few general ways that germs travel in healthcare settings – through contact (i.e., touching), sprays and splashes, inhalation, and sharps injuries (i.e., when someone is accidentally stuck with a used needle or sharp instrument).