13 October 2018 | Commentary



October 14-20, 2018 is International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW). Established in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, IIPW is a week to highlight the role infection prevention plays in patient safety. This year’s theme is Protecting Patients Everywhere.

Did you know that Infection preventionists (IPs) are healthcare professionals whose mission is to prevent healthcare-associated infections? Their job is to protect patients, visitors, volunteers, employees and healthcare providers from healthcare-associated infections. IPs wear many hats. Their responsibilities include: surveillance of healthcare-associated infections; patients, staff and visitor education; and serving as subject matter experts on hospital committees.  

IPs Essential in Preventing Waterborne Infections
At SPL, our mission is to prevent illnesses caused by Legionella and waterborne pathogens—especially in healthcare facilities due to the high mortality rate. Toward that end, IPs are essential. Here is a list of  just a few things IPs do to keep you safe:

  • Serve as a key member on the facility water management team to ensure that the facility’s water management program is effective in keeping patients safe from infections due to waterborne pathogens; 
  • Perform surveillance for healthcare-associated waterborne pathogen infections.  
  • Oversee or collect water samples for proactive testing for Legionella;
  • Work with local and state health department officials to investigate outbreak and cases of Legionnaires’ disease;
  • Provide subject matter expertise to committees dealing with construction and products to prevent the installation of equipment and structures that increase risk for Legionella and other waterborne pathogens. 

How Can You Promote Infection Prevention? 
Ask your healthcare administrators if they regularly test their water systems for Legionella and waterborne pathogens.

Laura Morris, MT (ASCP), CIC
Laura Morris, MT (ASCP), CIC

Laura Morris is the education coordinator at Special Pathogens Laboratory. Certified in infection professional since 2009, Morris most recently served as senior infection preventionist at St. Clair Hosptial (Pittsburgh). She has more than five years experience in microbiology research in Legionella. An active member of the Three Rivers Pittsburgh Chapter of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, and has served on the chapter’s board of directors for eight years.