RITM kicks off IPC Week 2022, celebrates 50 years of Infection Prevention
RITM-IPCU Head Dr. Charissa Tabora (upper right) and IPCU Supervising Science Research Specialist Juan Paulo Chavez (lower left) expressing their gratitude towards Dr. Franco A. Felizarta (upper left) and Dr. Yuri D. Castillo (lower right) for being the guest speakers for the webinar conference

To celebrate 50 years of Infection Prevention, the Infection Prevention and Control Unit (IPCU) of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) hosted an online conference bannering the theme “IPC Today and Hereafter: A Webinar Conference” last October 19, 2022 via Zoom.

“The IPCU of RITM together with the Management has always put a premium on IPC. Infection prevention plays a crucial role in keeping our hospitals, our healthcare workers (HCWs), our neighborhood, our communities, and our children safe and healthy,” said RITM IPCU Head Dr. Charissa Fay Borja-Tabora in her opening remarks as she invited everyone to make IPC a way of life.

A total of 346 participants joined the conference graced by two (2) distinguished speakers; IPC Department Health System Director Dr. Yuri D. Castillo of the Saint Joseph’s Health New York, and HIV Specialist Dr. Franco A. Felizarta of the American Academy of HIV Medicine.

Dr. Castillo started the webinar by providing an overview of IPC and the core competencies an infection preventionist (IP) needs to excel in this practice. IPC was initially limited to a few hospitals that subscribed to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control in implementing public health measures. Until in 1974, the Study on the Effectiveness of Nosocomial Infection Control recognized the efforts of IPC programs, as it reported lesser infections. It was further highlighted that this landmark study was key for regulating bodies to mandate facilities to subscribe to an IPC program before earning accreditation.

He then zoomed into the multiple roles and functions carried by IPs and put much emphasis on IP’s principal goal which is to protect patients, HCWs, and communities within a healthcare environment.

“The infection preventionist really wears many hats. Our role and involvement have to do with everything that touches the light. We are not at the frontline, but we are in charge of influencing practices in facilities. It is very important that we advocate for safety,” said Dr. Castillo.

Dr. Castillo wrapped up his presentation by encouraging those in the field of IPC to aim for certification from the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. or the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology to become proficient in the profession.

On the other hand, Dr. Felizarta imparted his expertise through his lecture on evidence-based interventions in IPC that were crucial to the prevention of COVID-19. He explained that SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, has four routes of transmission: short-range airborne, long-range airborne, droplet, and fomite transmissions.

“Remember fomite transmission involves touching, droplet transmission involves deposition, short-range airborne transmission involves inhalation, and long-range airborne transmission involves inhalation in poorly-ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings,” Dr. Felizarta elaborated.

He highlighted the use of surgical masks or N95 respirator masks as part of a HCW’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when caring for COVID-19 patients. However, he strongly recommended the use of N95, N99, or PAPR for HCWs who are involved with aerosol-generating procedures.

After discussing the science behind the recommended IPC practices, Dr. Felizarta encouraged the participants to advocate for cleaner indoor air through three methods: (1) ventilation – expelling air with aerosols outside and introduce virus-free air from outdoors; (2) filtration – removing floating aerosols using heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems or portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters; and (3) disinfection – inactivating the virus using germicidal UV light technology.

“Better air brings benefits beyond COVID. Remember cleaner indoor air not only reduces the transmission of COVID, but it also reduces the transmission of other respiratory viruses,” Dr. Felizarta ended.

IPCU also launched RITM’s first Infection Prevention and Control Quick Reference Guide for HCWs on IPC. It contains procedures, equipment, checklists, and observation tools used in hospital settings to ensure that appropriate practices are in place to provide safe patient care.

“We recognize that IPC is everyone’s responsibility. It takes a team to prevent the transmission of infection. Everyone needs to work hand in hand and be committed to this endeavor. Continuous study and evidence-based practices will also play an important role as EREIDs arise. Let us continue to be an IPC advocate,” said IPCU Supervising Science Research Specialist Juan Paulo Chavez as he officially closed the webinar.

by Allenor Enciso, Communication and Engagement Office