Spread and measures

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Biological agents spread through:

  • the air (for example, sneezing and coughing),
  • indirect contact (via objects such as taps and door handles)
  • direct contact (via bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, wound fluid, faeces, urine, etc.)
  • vectors. In the case of vectors (intermediate hosts), think for example of a mosquito (malaria) or a tick (Lyme disease).

Each method of spreading involves different risks and calls for specific measures. Read more about Infectious Diseases through the SBOH Foundation. An overview of transmission, measures and risks can be found in the Transmission Measures Table for Common Infectious Diseases.


The aim of an infection prevention policy is to prevent the spread of biological agents. Roughly speaking, this can be done by means of the following interventions:

  • Keeping biological agents out of the UMC. Unfortunately, this is not possible in most cases, because that would also mean barring people.
  • Shielding biological agents. Think for example of a laboratory setting or isolating infectious patients.
  • Vaccine. A person who has been vaccinated is (largely) protected and is often also less contagious to their environment.
  • Organisational measures. Policy measures can be used to organise the processes in such a way that the chance of spreading is minimised.
  • Technical measures. For example, by shielding, isolation, extraction and by working with differences in air pressure.
  • Hygiene measures, with a distinction being made between general hygiene (washing hands between each patient contact) and specific hygiene measures in the case of an identified risk, for example a patient with TB.
  • Personal protective equipment, such as gloves, respiratory protection and aprons.
  • Post-exposure measures. If the biological agent has spread or threatens to spread, these measures will limit the consequences as much as possible. Examples are preventive treatment with antibiotics after exposure to a patient with whooping cough or treatment with antibodies against the hepatitis B virus after a needle stick incident with a high-risk patient.

Read more at www.kiza.nl, the site of the Infectious Diseases at Work Knowledge System.