Infection Introduction

An important part of your career as a nurse’s aide is to know the signs and symptoms of infection. You also need to know how to prevent the spread of infection in the healthcare environment. Infections can be very common in hospitals and medical settings.

Patients are particularly susceptible to infection when their immune systems are compromised or after surgery. Understanding the types and causes of infection will help you prevent their spread amongst the patient population.

Although germs are everywhere, there are only certain kinds that will cause infection. Some infections may be short-term, while others are chronic. Infections can be localized and confined to one part of the body, or they can be systemic, which may involve the entire body.

Types of Infectious Agents


These one celled organisms can only be seen with the microscope. They are shaped like spheres, spirals, or rods. Only about one percent of bacteria can cause disease. Examples of sickness caused by harmful bacteria are: urinary tract infections, strep throat and tuberculosis.


These cells are even smaller than bacteria and are shaped like spheres, rods are small tadpoles. Viruses cause issues with the way that the cells work in the body. They ultimately destroy the body’s host cells. Examples of diseases caused by viruses are: measles, smallpox, common cold, AIDS, genital herpes and influenza.


The single cell organisms reside in your intestinal tract. Most of the time they are harmless, but some do cause disease. Examples of diseases caused by protozoa are malaria and giardia.


Mushrooms, cheese and yeast are examples of types of fungi. Although they don’t typically cause sickness, some types of fungi can be problematic for the body. Some fungi can cause skin problems such as ringworm or athletes foot. Another example is candida, which is yeast that can cause infection in the mouth.

Chain of Infection

The chain of infection is a widely known method of gathering information that is vital to prevent its spread in the community. Each link in the chain represents a possible step that will cause the infection to continue.

The goal of the medical community is to disrupt the chain of infection and to prevent it from continuing. The following six links make up the chain:

The Organism

These infectious agents include bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi. Once one of these organisms is identified, it helps to understand what possible treating agent can stop its spread. For example, whether you use an antiseptic or disinfectant depends of the type of organism involved.


This is any place where infectious agent can survive. While the human body is the most common reservoir, other examples include hospitals, water supply, plants, animals and medical equipment.

Portals of Exit

This is a name which the organism departs from the reservoir. Examples of portals of exit include body fluids, coughing, mouth, nose, and feces.


This is how the organism travels from one host to the next. Some organisms require a living host like a mosquito or fly, while others can be passed by blood, secretion contact, or in the air.

Portals of Entry

This is where the organism enters the body. Portals of entry include the nose, skin and mouth, but any opening of the body can act as a portal for organism.

Vulnerable Hosts

Who is vulnerable to the organism? Susceptible populations include infants and elderly, as well as immune suppressed patients. Occupational exposure, stress and environment can also play a role in the transmission of organisms.


Q.  With what patients do you use Standard Precautions-to help prevent the spread of infections?


A.  Standard precautionary methods to help reduce the spread of infections to you, other healthcare members and other patients should be used with each and every patient with whom you come in contact with.

Explanation:  Standard steps to help minimize infection risks should be used with any patient.  These steps are in place to help protect the spread and transmission of infections.  You should always wash your hands before and after performing procedures and completing tasks for any patient.  Gloves should be worn each time as well.  Other precautions will need to be taken depending on the conditions of a particular patient.

Q.  What is one of the primary methods you can use to help to lower the risk of the spread of infection to yourself or to others when working as a certified nursing assistant?

A.  You must wash your hands to help lower the risk of the spread of infection.  This method works well for a range of germs and bacteria. This is an inexpensive and simple way for everyone in a hospital setting to help lower the spread of infection and germs.

Explanation:  Washing of hands helps to remove germs and bacteria.  These germs and bacteria are less likely to be spread to other people when proper hand washing is used.  You should wash your hands before and after working with each patient.  You would be surprised at how much washing hands decreases risks of spreading infections.

Q.  Your employer might offer you a vaccine for which type of blood borne illness?

A.  Employers will typically make it possible for you to receive a Hepatitis B vaccine.

Explanation:  There is a vaccine for Hepatitis B that can be made available for healthcare workers.  This is usually not something that is required but it is certain a good idea for individuals to accept this vaccine.  It will be necessary to receive a series of 3 shots to complete this vaccine.

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