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Respiratory Viruses Are On the Rise in Alberta

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Alberta College of Dental Hygienists

Registrants of the ACDH should be aware that circulation of respiratory viruses is normally highest in the fall and winter. The Government of Alberta publishes weekly data on influenza, COVID-19, and RSV on its Respiratory Virus Dashboard.

Review the below strategies to better prepare yourself for cold and flu season and to reduce your risk of illness and the spread of infection to your patients:

Follow Routine Practices
Routine practices are based on the premise that all patients potentially carry infectious agents capable of causing disease or infections. Use routine practices for every patient interaction.

Routine practices include:

  • point-of-care risk assessment
  • hand hygiene program (including point-of-care, alcohol-based hand rub)
  • source control (triage, early diagnosis and treatment, respiratory hygiene, spatial separation)
  • patient placement, accommodation, and flow
  • aseptic technique
  • PPE use
  • sharps safety and prevention of blood-borne pathogens
  • patient care environment management
  • patient care environment cleaning
  • non-critical patient care equipment cleaning and disinfecting
  • waste and linen handling
  • patient, family, and visitor education
  • visitor management

Conduct a Point of Care Risk Assessment
Performing a Point of Care Risk Assessment (PCRA) is the first step in routine practices. The purpose of a PCRA is to protect the patient, the dental hygienist, and the public. PCRAs reduce the risk of exposure to infectious disease in the oral healthcare settings.

A PCRA takes into account:

The Patient

  • screening the patient for infectious diseases

The Patient Environment

  • identifies risk based on distance to the patient
  • ensures the environment includes controls that decrease the risk of disease transmission

The Nature of the Practitioner's Interaction with the Patient

  • assess risk to the practitioner from exposure to the patient’s blood, body fluids, secretions, excretions, and non-intact skin

A PCRA will help you decide what PPE you need to protect yourself and to prevent the spread of germs.

Follow Infection Prevention and Control Guidelines

Ensure that Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) standards are being implemented and consistently reviewed within your practice setting. This includes policies and procedures that address all related IPC practices.

Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Guidelines were developed as a collaboration between the Alberta College of Dental Hygienists, the College of Alberta Dental Assistants, the College of Alberta Denturists, and the College of Dental Technicians of Alberta and have been approved by the Councils of all four Colleges.

Be Aware of Your Immunization Status
The Safety and Risk Management Standard of Practice states that dental hygienists must be aware of their personal immunization status and how it could impact risk related to the transmission of infection.

Immunization minimizes potential risk for contracting an infectious disease from a patient and from transferring an infectious disease to patients and other staff.

The IPC Guidelines recommend that healthcare professionals be immunized against:

  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis B
  • Influenza and influenza-like illnesses
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis
  • Polio
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus
  • Varicella
  • Other vaccines recommended by provincial health authorities

The IPC Guidelines went into effect June 1, 2022. Per the Safety and Risk Management Standard of Practice, dental hygienists must apply appropriate infection prevention and control measures to prevent the transmission of infectious agents in compliance with legislation, standards, ethical principles, and guidelines including council-approved IPC requirements and guidelines.

Follow Guidance if You Experience Symptoms
There is guidance from the Government of Alberta on managing and protecting yourself from influenza and COVID-19.



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