Many symptoms of influenza are non-specific. Therefore, it is possible that the patient you are treating may have the influenza virus or a number of other infectious agents without any noticeable symptoms.
The spread of influenza can occur among patients, your dental team, and yourself. It is important to use appropriate infection control precautions when providing care to minimize the possibility of spreading an infection amongst staff members and other patients.
Here are several major components that should be part of your infection control program.
Education and Training
Annual education and training around occupational exposure to potentially infectious agents and infection-control procedures is an important aspect of an infection control program. The Centers for Disease Control has a number of resources available online for educating and training your team.
During flu season, staff and patients can exposed to the influenza virus from friends, neighbors, and the community. Annual vaccinations are a critical part of limiting exposure and deciphering from other communicable diseases. Consider covering the cost of vaccination for your team, or providing vaccinations in the office during work hours.
Proper and consistent sterilization practices of all materials in contact or in close proximity to patients are paramount. Verify that your sterilization methods and equipment meet compliance standards.
Exposure Prevention and Post-Exposure Management
Make sure your practice is screening symptomatic patients. Develop etiquette regarding respiratory hygiene and coughing. Placing cough etiquette reminders in the waiting area and the staff operatory can be helpful.
Emergency Action Plan
New York University College of Dentistry developed a pandemic flu action plan. The emergency preparedness documents will give you tips and advice to prepare for and recover after an influenza outbreak.
Policy on Work-Related Illness
Encourage patients to seek preventative and curative care, and to report signs or symptoms of illness. Create a work environment that does not punish employees for illness.
For more information about establishing effective policies, procedures, and guidelines for infection control, view the ADA Guidelines for Practice Success (GPS): Managing the Regulatory Environment article on Infection Control.
For additional information on influenza and infection control, see also:
ADA GPS Managing the Regulatory Environment: What it Means and Why It Matters
The ADA Practical Guide to Infection Control
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
United States Department of Labor
This information provided courtesy of HealthFirst, an endorsed company of ADA Business Enterprises, Inc. Learn more about HealthFirst at 800-331-9184 or visit HealthFirst.com.