Isolation (health care)
In health care, isolation refers to various measures taken to prevent contagious diseases from being spread from a patient to other patients, health care workers, and visitors, or from others to a particular patient. Various forms of isolation exist, some of which contact procedures are modified, and others in which the patient is kept away from all others. In a system devised, and periodically revised, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), various levels of patient isolation comprise application of one or more formally described "precaution".
Isolation is most commonly used when a patient has a viral illness. Special equipment is used in the treatment of patients on the various forms of isolation. These most commonly include gowns, masks, and gloves.
- 1 Definitions
- 2 Types of precautions
- 3 Forms of isolation
- 4 Effects of isolation
- 5 Diseased workers
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Isolation is defined as the voluntary or compulsory separation and confinement of those known or suspected to be infected with a contagious disease agent (whether ill or not) to prevent further infections. (In this form of isolation, transmission-based precautions are imposed.) In contrast, quarantine is the compulsory separation and confinement, with restriction of movement, of healthy individuals or groups who have potentially been exposed to an agent to prevent further infections should infection occur. Biocontainment refers to laboratory biosafety in microbiology laboratories in which the physical containment (BSL-3, BSL-4) of highly pathogenic organisms is accomplished through built-in engineering controls.
Types of precautions
Universal precautions refer to the practice, in medicine, of avoiding contact with patients' bodily fluids, by means of the wearing of nonporous articles such as medical gloves, goggles, and face shields. The practice was widely introduced in 1985–88. In 1987, the practice of universal precautions was adjusted by a set of rules known as body substance isolation. In 1996, both practices were replaced by the latest approach known as standard precautions. Use of personal protective equipment is now recommended in all health settings.
Transmission-based precautions are additional infection control precautions — over and above universal/standard precautions — and the latest routine infection prevention and control practices applied for patients who are known or suspected to be infected or colonized with infectious agents, including certain epidemiologically important pathogens. The latter require additional control measures to effectively prevent transmission.
There are three types of transmission-based precaution:
- Contact precautions are intended to prevent transmission of infectious agents, including epidemiologically important microorganisms, which are spread by direct or indirect contact with the patient or the patient’s environment.
- Droplet precautions are intended to prevent transmission of pathogens spread through close respiratory or mucous membrane contact with respiratory secretions.
- Airborne precautions prevent transmission of infectious agents that remain infectious over long distances when suspended in the air (e.g., rubeola virus [measles], varicella virus [chickenpox], M. tuberculosis, and possibly SARS-CoV).
Forms of isolation
Strict isolation is used for diseases spread through the air and in some cases by contact Patients must be placed in isolation to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Those who are kept in strict isolation are often kept in a special room at the facility designed for that purpose. Such rooms are equipped with a special lavatory and caregiving equipment, and a sink and waste disposal are provided for workers upon leaving the area.
Contact isolation is used to prevent the spread of diseases that can be spread through contact with open wounds. Health care workers making contact with a patient on contact isolation are required to wear gloves, and in some cases, a gown.
Blood and body fluids precautions
This method is used when there is concern about communicable diseases found in a patient's body fluid. Health care workers making contact with the patient when body fluids are involved must wear gloves
Reverse isolation is a method to prevent a patient in a compromised health situation from being contaminated by other people or objects.
High isolation is used to prevent the spread of unusually highly contageous, or high consequence, infectious diseases (e.g., smallpox, Ebola virus). It stipulates mandatory use of: (1) gloves (or double gloves if appropriate), (2) protective eyewear (goggles or face shield), (3) a waterproof gown (or total body Tyvek suite, if appropriate), and (4) a respirator (at least FFP2 or N95 NIOSH equivalent), not simply a surgical mask.  Sometimes negative pressure rooms or powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) are also used.
Effects of isolation
Isolation can have the following effects on patients:
- Patient may not be able to receive visitors, and in turn, become lonely
- Patient may be anxious
- Small children may feel their isolation is a punishment
- Staff may need to spend more time with patients
- Patients may not be able to receive certain types of care due to the risk that other patients may become contaminated. This includes forms of care that involve use of equipment common to all patients at the facility, or that involve transporting the patient to an area of the facility common to all patients.
Health care workers who become infected with certain contagious illnesses are not permitted in many places to work with patients. While facility rules and laws vary, a common guideline that has been set is 48 hours.
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