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This study assessed the attitude and practice of standard precautions among primary healthcare workers in North-central zone Nigeria. HAIs are acquired unknowingly by healthcare workers during treatment of patients in healthcare facilities. These infections can be Hepatitis B, or C, HIV, Tuberculosis among others, hence the need to find out why the alarming trend among Primary Healthcare Workers (PHCWs), in this study. The study used Ex-post facto research design. The population comprises of all PHCWs in Government primary healthcare facilities across North-central zone Nigeria (with 24,741 PHCWs). A total of 760 respondents were sampled from the above population, using multistage sampling techniques. A total of 760 questionnaire of Likert measuring scale format. Validity and reliability test were administered and returned, with 100% retrieval rate (the instrument was administered and retrieved on the spot in each of the sections formed to ease the collection). Descriptive statistics of frequency counts and percentages were used to describe demographic information of respondents, mean and standard deviation were used for the research questions, while inferential statistics of one sample t.test and independent t.test statistics were used to analyse the significance of knowledge, attitude, practice and availability and differences between male and female PHCWs‘ attitude and practice of standard precautions towards preventing HAIs in North-central zone, Nigeria respectively. Results revealed that PHCWs have significant knowledge, attitude and practice (all at P-value of 0.00) but there were no adequate available standard precautions provided for PHCWs to use. There were significant differences between male and female PHCWs‘ attitude and practice of standard precautions towards the prevention HAIs in North-central zone, Nigeria (at P-values of 0.009 and 0.00 respectively). Conclusively, PHCWs have significant knowledge, attitude, practice but inadequate availability of standard precautions while female PHCWs were found to have more positive significant attitude and practice towards standard precautions in preventing HAIs in Northcentral zone, Nigeria. On the bases of the conclusion drawn, it was recommended that government should maintain training of PHCWs through seminars and workshops. It was further recommended that Government should make available adequate equipment to be used by PHCWs as standard precautions and ensure enforcement of global best practices towards the prevention of healthcare-associated infections in North-Central Nigeria. 



This chapter  reviews in brief, Health Care Associated Infections (HAI), elements required for transmission of infectious agent within a health care setting (chain of infection, sources of infection, susceptible host, mode of transmission, portal of entry and portal of exit), HAI among health-care workers, Universal Precautions (UP), Body Substances Isolation (BSI) and Standard Precautions (SP).


Health-care associated infection (HAI), also referred to as nosocomial infection and hospital acquired infection, is defined by Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an “infection caused by a wide variety of common and unusual bacteria, fungi, and viruses during the course of receiving medical care” (CDC, 2012). It either occurs while patients receive care or may develop after discharge. It also involves occupation infection among staff. HAI can also be defined as an “infection occurring in patients during the process of care in a hospital or health care facility which was not present or incubating at the time of admission. This includes infection acquired in the hospital, but appearing after discharge and also occupational infections among staff or facility” (WHO, 2012). HAI is considered an important public health problem (WHO, 2012). Globally, hundreds of millions of patients are infected by HAI every year in both developed and developing countries. According to WHO, its prevalence in developed countries varied between 3.5% and 12%, while in developing countries it varied between 5.7% and 19.1% (WHO, 2012). The highest occurrence of HAI were in acute surgical, orthopedic wards and Intensive Care Unit (WHO, 2002). The prevalence rate of ICU-acquired infection in high-income countries was 30%, while in middle and low-income countries, it was at least 2-3 times higher than that in high -income countries (WHO, 2009; WHO, 2012).

The consequences of HAI at patients’ level imply more suffering, more complications, more treatments, and increase in hospitalization periods. For example, in Europe duration of hospitalization increased to nearly 16 million extra days (WHO, 2012). This is in itself considered a risk factor for acquiring HAI, and it means an increase in costs (WHO, 2012). In addition, it increases economic burden on the health care systems of countries. For example, in England, the annual financial costs topped 1.3 billion euro’s, while in the United States of America, the costs amounted to approximately 3.5 billion euro’s and 7 billion euro’s in Europe (WHO, 2012; WHO, 2012; Agozzino et al., 2012).


HAI  can  affect  both  patients  and  health-care  workers. It   involves  Occupational  infections among nurses. Due to  the  nature  of  their occupations, the major occupational hazard is the transmission of blood-borne disease such as hepatitis B and AIDS by being exposed to injuries caused by contaminated sharp objects such as scalpels and broken glass and needle stick (CDC, 2012). Nurses can be infected by HAIs while dealing with patients or providing them with health treatment. They can play a role in the widespread of infections. For example, the nurses played an important role in the amplification of the outbreak of Marburg viral hemorrhage fever in Angola (WHO, 2015). The mode of transmission depends on many factors such as immunity of HCW and amount of blood transferred during injuries (CDC, 2012). According to WHO, nearly three million HCW are exposed to percutaneous blood borne pathogens each year worldwide; 2 million of those were exposed to HBV ,0.9 million to HCV and 170, 000 to HIV. These sharp injuries resulted in 15,000 HCV, 70,000 HBV and 500 HIV infections. About 90% of these events happened in the developing countries (WHO, 2014). The infectious agent is transmitted to nurses mainly via droplet: direct contact or contact with inanimate contaminated objects by infectious material. The risk of transmission of infectious agents would increase if infection control practice and standard precautions were not applied (WHO, 2013).


Solutions of this problem include the following (WHO, 2012):

    Determination of the local factors of the HAI burden.

    Encouragement of the reporting and surveillance system.

    Improvement of education  and  training of nurses in applying safety precaution.

4.Implementation and application of standard precaution which is simple and low-cost but helpful in controlling spread of HAI as it saves money and saves life.


In 1983, CDC disseminated a document called (Guidelines for Isolation Precautions in Hospitals). This document included a section about precautions that must be taken when dealing with blood and body fluid of suspected patient infected by blood-borne pathogen (CDC, 2001).In 1985, in response to HIV /AIDS epidemic(CDC, 2007), CDC developed precautions to be applied to all patients irrespective of their blood-borne infection status. They were called universal precautions. These precautions are defined as ” a set of precautions devised to prevent, and minimize accidental transmission of all known blood-borne pathogens including HIV, hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C virus to/from health care personnel when providing first aid or other health care services” (Vaz et al., 2010). These universal precautions can also be defined as an “approach to infection control to treat all human blood and certain human body fluids as if they were known to be infectious for HIV,HBV and other blood borne pathogens” (NIOSH,2016). These precautions apply to blood, body fluid containing visible blood, semen, cerebrospinal, synovial, pleural, peritoneal and amniotic fluid but don’t apply to feces, nasal secretion, sputum, sweat, tears, urine and vomits unless blood appears (Vaz et al., 2010).


BSI appeared in 1987. This precaution supposed that all moist substances except sweat (execrations and secretions) were infectious (not just blood in UP) (Vaz et al., 2012). It depended mainly on using gloves, and it was advised to use clean gloves before dealing with or touching mucous membranes or contact with body fluids or moist substances, but after removing gloves there would be no need for hand washing if there was recommended(CDC, 2007; Vaz et al., 2010). UP and BSI were presented nearly in the same period.Some hospitals adapted UP while others adapted BSI. This problem and other problems required additional precautions to prevent transmission of diseases that are transmitted via airborne and droplet routes. However, there was no agreement on the washing of hands after using gloves. The existence of such problems led to emergence of another system of precautions called Standard Precautions (SP) (Vaz et al., 2012).


The main principles of Universal Precautions and Body Substance Isolation practice were mixed by CDC in a new precaution system called Standard Precautions (SP) which now has replaced the “Universal Precautions”. Standard precautions are defined as “group of infection prevention practices that apply to all patients, regardless of suspected or confirmed diagnosis or presumed infection status” (CDC, 2012). These precautions are the basic level of infection control precautions which are to be used, as a level of precautions (CDC, 2012; WHO, 2013). The fact is that “standard precautions” are recommended when delivering the care to all patients,regardless of their presumed infection status. It is also recommended that when handling equipment and devices that are contaminated or suspected of contamination, and in situations of contact risk with blood, body fluids, secretions and excretions except sweat, without considering the presence or absence of visible blood and skin with solution of continuity and mucous tissues. They included precautions against agents that are transmitted by the following routes of transmission: air-borne, droplet and contact routes (CDC, 2007; Vaz et al., 2013).

The aims of standard precautions are the following: prevention and/ or reduction of transmission of HAI, and, at the same time, protection of nurses from sharp injuries. These aims can be achieved by the application of SP measures which consist of the following elements: hand hygiene, personal protective equipment (gloves, gown, gaggle, facemasks, head protection, foot protection and wearing face shields) and prevention of sharp injuries (CDC, 2015; WHO, 2012).


Hand washing is the most important element of SP measures. This concept includes hand washing with soap (plain or antiseptic soap) and water or rubbing hands by using alcohol-based products without using water.

Hand hygiene is recommended in following situations (WHO, 2013):

i.       After direct contact with patients

ii.      Before direct contact with patients.

iii.     After exposure to blood, body fluids, secretions, excretions, non-intact skin, and contaminated items.

iv. After contact with patients surrounding

v.Before doing aseptic tasks like using an invasive device.


The second part in the SP is PPE. It is defined as a group of barriers that are used alone, or in combination, to prevent transmission of infectious agents to mucous membrane, skin, airways and clothing of nurses when they are in contact with infectious agents. It is also used when contamination or splashing with blood or body fluids is anticipated and it is important to protect nurses from getting infections during contact with patients. This PPE should be found in each hospital, and the selection of this PPE is dependent on the nature of procedures, skills of nurses, nature of patients and mode of transmission. PPE includes the following: disposable gloves, face protection (masks, safety glasses, goggles) and gowns or aprons ) (Vaz et al., 2010; WHO, 2012).


Gloves are used while dealing with or touching blood, secretion, body fluids, execration, impaired membranes and mucous membranes, handling contaminated equipment and when in contact directly with patients who are infected with disease transmitted by direct contact. After removing them, hand hygiene should be done. In addition to this, nurses must know that gloves have to be changed if there was risk of cross contamination when dealing with the same patient and before going to another patient to prevent transmission of infections and prevent the occurrence of HAI (WHO, 2010). Removal of gloves has to be considered.


This is worn to protect the clothes and skin of nurses from contact and contamination with blood or body fluid. The gown covers the body from neck to mid-thigh or below to prevent contamination of skin or clothe (WHO, 2010). Removal of gown has to be considered.



This must be used when there is a possibility for splashing or spraying of blood or body substances,and when nurses are doing procedures requiring sterile condition to prevent transmission of infection or infectious agents to patients. In addition to this, sometimes patients must wear mask especially if patient is suffering from coughing to limit spreading of his or her infection (CDC, 2010; WHO, 2012; WHO, 2013). Mask must be removed in a correct way as described in Figure 1.


Infectious agents can enter body from mucous membrane in eyes, by direct route through exposure to infectious agents from splash of blood or from cough, or by an indirect way through touching of the eye by contaminated hands. Many types of infectious agents are transmitted in this way including both viruses (for example, adenovirus) and bacteria (for example, hepatitis C) (CDC, 2010).


Face protection can be used with other PPE if there is potential splashing of blood, body and respiratory secretions. Face shield can be worn as an alternative to goggles but face shield covers more face area than goggles which covers only the eyes (CDC, 2010). Like other PPE, caution  must be taken when removing face protection, taking into account its removal after removing gloves.


SI are defined as “an exposure to event occurring when any sharp penetrates the skin” (CDC, 2012). These include needles, scalpels, broken glass, and other sharps. This term is interchangeable with percutaneous injury. It is considered a serious hazard in hospitals because it may allow the contaminated blood that has pathogen to be in contact with nurses. SI and NSI lead to infection. They expose nurses to blood- borne pathogens which mean” pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus” (CDC, 2012). SI and NSI are considered a major source of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection among HCWs. Nearly (39%) of cases of HCV that occurred worldwide happened among HCWs, while hepatitis B virus (HBV) formed (37%) (Goniewicz et al., 2012). Furthermore, needle stick injuries can transmit more than twenty types of infections such as malaria, syphilis and herpes (Elizabeth 2012).

SI and NSI are challenges that threaten health workers especially nurses and form a significant risk in professional nursing. This is due to their daily activities which may expose

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