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Standard infection control precautions (SICP)

It is widely recognised that Standard infection control precautions (SICPs) as well as protecting healthcare workers, could prevent the transmission of many other pathogens and make a major contribution to the reduction of healthcare associated infection (HCAI) (Lynch et al 1987; Wilson 2008).

SICPs, underpin routine safe practice, protecting both staff and residents from micro-organisms that may cause infection.

SICPs are the basic infection prevention and control measures necessary to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious agent from both recognised and unrecognised sources of infection.

To be effective in protecting against infection risks, SICPs must be used continuously and consistently by all staff.

SICPs are to be used by all staff, in all care settings, at all times, for all patients whether infection is known to be present or not to ensure the safety of those being cared for, staff and visitors in the care environment. In doing this best practice becomes second nature and the risks of infection are minimised.

The application of SICPs during care delivery is determined by an assessment of risk to and from individuals and includes the task, level of interaction and/or the anticipated level of exposure to blood and/or other body fluids.

Sources of (potential) infection include blood and other body fluids secretions or excretions (excluding sweat), non-intact skin or mucous membranes and any equipment or items in the care environment that could have become contaminated.

The use of SICPs, however, does not eliminate the need to isolate potentially infectious diseases e.g. tuberculosis or enteric infection.

The aim of SICPs is to help reduce the risk of exposure of potentially infective materials/ high risk body fluids to the healthcare worker and resident.

High risk body fluids include:

  • blood
  • vaginal secretions
  • semen
  • synovial fluid
  • cerebral spinal fluid
  • pericardial fluid
  • pleural fluid
  • breast milk
  • amniotic fluid
  • any other body fluid containing blood or that has the potential to contain blood

As microscopic blood particles or other bacterial or viral pathogens may be present in other body fluids, such as urine, faeces, nasal secretions, saliva, sputum, vomit, it is recommended that SICPs are used to deal with all these body fluids.

In addition, SICPs recommend that all healthcare workers take precautions to prevent injuries caused by needles, scalpels and other sharp instruments and devices.

Page last updated: 1 December 2023

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