Several measures help protect people against infection.
Handwashing is an effective way of preventing the spread of infectious microorganisms from one person to another. Handwashing is particularly important for people who handle food or who have frequent physical contact with other people. People visiting hospital patients who are seriously ill should wash their hands and may be asked to put on a gown, mask, and gloves before entering the patient’s room. Many hospitals also provide sanitizing gels or foams that contain alcohol. Using these agents on the hands before and after touching patients can help prevent the spread of infection.
Sometimes antibiotics are given to people who do not yet have an infection to prevent them from getting an infection. This preventive measure is called prophylaxis. Many healthy people who undergo certain types of surgery—particularly abdominal surgery and organ transplantation—require prophylactic antibiotics.
Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent infections. People who are at increased risk of developing infections (especially infants, children, older people, and people with AIDS) should receive all the vaccinations necessary to reduce this risk.
(See also Overview of Infectious Disease.)