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Hand Hygiene: Infection Control/Exposure Control Issues for Oral Healthcare Workers

Géza T. Terézhalmy, DDS, MA; Michaell A. Huber, DDS

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In 2002, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published its most recent Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings.1  Yet, recent reports of outbreaks of HBV and HCV infections, primarily in medical settings outside of acute care hospitals, indicate a failure of HCWs to adhere to fundamental principles of infection control and aseptic technique (e.g., failure to wear gloves and perform hand hygiene).2 The 2002 guidelines apply to oral healthcare settings.3  Recent evidence also suggests low compliance with recommended hand hygiene practices by OHCWs as well.4

It is axiomatic that wearing gloves during patient care is an essential element of standard precautions, yet gloves do not provide complete protection against hand contamination and the hands are also frequently contaminate after the gloves are removed.5,6  However, it is documented that the acquisition of various healthcare-associated pathogens is reduced when hand hygiene is performed more frequently by HCWs and the prevalence of healthcare-associated infections is decreased as adherence to recommended hand hygiene practices is improved.7,8

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