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5 Things All Health Care Personnel Should Know About Infection Control, Viruses and Respiratory Droplets

It is important to protect yourself, your colleagues, and your community from SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious diseases. The CDC formed Project Firstline, a national infection control training collaborative, to provide all health care personnel with foundational knowledge so that you can be ready to implement infection control protocols and procedures during patient care activity and health care interactions. The AMA is one of the many diverse health care and public health partners that are part of Project Firstline.

The CDC created the Inside Infection Control vlog series to share some basic ideas behind infection control, how they apply to COVID-19 and how these ideas can help yourself and others.

  1. The difference between SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.

    SARS-CoV-2 is the scientific name of the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

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    A person with the disease COVID-19 may experience these symptoms: fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, etc. When discussing the pandemic, we often talk about the number of people with COVID-19.

  2. All viruses have a couple of parts, including genes and proteins.

    These parts help the virus get around inside the infected person's body and transmit to others.

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    The genes contain the information a virus needs to multiply. Most of the proteins in a virus come together to create a shell or capsid that protects the blueprint genes from getting damaged. Other proteins stick out from the capsid and they help the virus travel around the body and from one person to another.

    In SARS-CoV-2 the capsid has another outer layer, an envelope. The envelope for the virus protects the genes inside of it. Like the capsid, the envelope has some proteins sticking out of it that enable the virus to travel around the body and between people.

  3. Respiratory droplets are the water in your breath.

    Every time we let out air, we also let out tiny respiratory droplets. When someone is infected with SARS-CoV-2, those droplets have virus particles inside of them.

    Most of these droplets are invisible and can travel different distances in the air.

    SARS-CoV-2 can get into the cells in our nose, our throat, our eyes, and our lungs. The virus can then hijack the cells and that is how we get sick with COVID- 19.

  4. Viruses use cells in people (and other living things) to reproduce and spread within a person's body and from person to person.

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    Viruses that can make us sick have found a way to invade a person's cells. While viruses cannot hack into every cell type, once a virus gets inside, it hijacks the machinery of the cell and uses it to make more copies of itself. Those copies then break out of the infected cells and move on to infect new cells. In many cases, the cell that has been infected and is destroyed in the process.

    As the virus starts hacking into more of our cells, the body recognizes that there is an infection. The body then sends out an alarm to activate the immune system, so it can fight off the virus. It is this activity of our immune system getting to work that makes us feel sick.

  5. Viruses and other germs can spread when people touch infected surfaces.

    When you touch something that has live virus on it and then you touch your face without cleaning your hands first, you can get virus into your eyes, your nose, and your mouth.

    Respiratory droplets from infected people can fall on nearby items. Once the droplets land on something, the virus can survive long enough for you to touch that surface and for the virus to go onto your hands and others that also touch the infected surface.

    Therefore, good hand hygiene and thorough cleaning of the environment are so important for infection control.

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