Universal Precautions is the practice of preventing getting into contact with different patient’s bodily fluids and blood by wearing special gear for protection like goggles and gloves especially where blood is gushing from a patient. Disposing off needles also helps in prevent transmission of viruses and diseases in case of needle injuries and accidents.
Use of protective gear is now recommended in all health settings for the safety of the public health and that of the health worker.
Universal Precautions was designed for all nurses, doctors, patients and health care support staff workers in the health sector.
The Universal Precautions practices must be followed by health workers carefully for the following reasons:
- It is to protect the health workers from exposure to infections from bodily fluids and blood borne pathogens that may be from a patient’s body. Bodily fluids may include:
- Vaginal secretions
- Amniotic fluid
- Cerebrospinal fluids
- Pleural fluids
These fluids together with blood may contain viruses which may cause infections such as HIV (causes AIDS) which attacks the body’s natural defence leaving it susceptible to other serious infections. Hepatitis B which is caused by Hepatitis b virus attacks the liver and results in severe illnesses that may lead to death. Other viruses known to be transmitted through blood and body fluids are Syphilis, Measles, TB, Urinary Tract Infections, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis C.
The health workers may not only contact these viruses from the patients but also from contaminated equipment in the labs and area of work. It is safe to carry out precautions like use of disposable gloves and disposing needles to avoid accidents.
- The safety of the Public Health and that of the Patients is also a matter of concern as the health workers come into contact with them while in duty. It is best to treat all patients present as Infected so as to ensure proper and maximum security and care is taken. This is especially in a situation where differentiation of different bodily fluids is difficult hence all fluids are treated as potential infectious materials.
Great care is to be taken when handling lab equipment during testing and treatment of patients. Disposable gloves, disposing needles, washing of hands should be done by the professionals so that there is no transfer of pathogens and diseases from one patient to another after handling them. The patients rely on them for assistance and not for the spread of diseases.
- In the Public Health eye, health facilities and health workers portray hope and a source of healing. This gives in great confidence in the patients as they know that the healthcare to be provided is good for their wellbeing and that of their families. This is majorly built when the health workers abide and follow up the Universal Precautions bring in safety of the health of both the patients and the workers themselves.
Cases of stigma and discrimination in the Public Health have implicated the progress of universal Precautions as health workers show varying care to patients based on their health status especially those with HIV during its outbreak in the 80’s. The health workers were said to show feelings of stigmatization to the affected which speculated approach and misconceptions around their transmission and way of life. This led to depression.
Avoiding all these malpractices will prevent health centres from being viewed as a source of diseases and infections but believed to be a source of healing and care.
- Application of Universal Practices in health is the best way of preventing an epidemic from occurring when a medical malpractice or accident occurs. People from different regions and areas converge at a particular health centre for treatment coming in with different types of infections and diseases. Any mishandling of the tests and fluids can cause a major outburst of disease whereby the patients may contact the infection or disease, go back to their homes and transmit it to the people close, causing an epidemic. This will lead to loss of life and scores will die. Even the health professionals put their lives at risk. Proper care is needed when handling different infections failure of which risks the public health from going in a meltdown and an epidemic occurring.
An epidemic can also be controlled and maintained when precautions are adhered fully. For example, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, was handled well thanks to expertise by the professionals who were deployed there. Though many civilians lost their lives, the virus was able to be maintained and not manage to grow to a full blown catastrophe that could affect the whole continent.
- It is a requirement as a job description and as law of the land that all health professionals should practice Universal Precautions for the safety of the Public Health. Failure to which the health professional may lose his or her licence and job.
Any health professional that operates on a patient without following safety practices like use of gloves, disposing needles, washing of hands before and after consultation, use of bandages and disinfectants to treat and heal wounds. Sterilization of surgical tools is also a factor in safety during surgeries and operations. Failure of which puts the life of the patient at the grave danger.
It is unethical of a health worker not to follow the precautions. This shows negligence of duty which can lead to a court case that may put the health worker to prison to serve a jail term.
Universal precautions were introduced to bring in the safety of the public health both in the present and in the future. Additional precautions were included for the infections that were not entirely blood related or not contracted by bodily fluids. Such were the airborne diseases such as Tb and whooping cough, infections caused by contact such as colonisation which were also deadly and should be maintained to prevent an outbreak that could affect millions of lives worldwide.