Keeping a Tight Rein on Deadly Diseases

Stringent infection-control measures best way to fight spread, study finds

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WEDNESDAY, July 30, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Strict infection-control measures in hospitals are the most effective way to combat new, deadly infectious diseases that resist treatment and for which there are no vaccines.

So says a study in the July 30 issue of the journal Proceedings B.

Health-care workers need to wear masks, gowns and wash their hands regularly to contain untreatable infectious diseases that can spread rapidly in a hospital, according to the American scientists who did the study.

These inexpensive and easily implemented precautions are the most effective of disease-control measures. They can substitute for other approaches such as expensive isolation facilities, quarantine and sequestering of health-care workers.

The University of California, Berkeley scientists used a mathematical model of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to reach their conclusions. In every scenario, they found a breakdown in general infection control was more damaging to efforts to contain the disease than a breakdown in any other measure meant to reduce disease transmission.

"New, untreatable infectious diseases pose a growing risk as globalization leads to unprecedented human mobility, and they will continue to challenge public health systems worldwide. Our study examined priorities and trade-offs -- how one measure can compensate for another which isn't available in a given setting -- between alternative strategies of disease control," researcher James Lloyd-Smith says in a news release.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about infection control.

SOURCE: Royal Society, news release, July 30, 2003

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