Preventing the Spread of Infection: Understanding Isolation Procedures

Certain infections can spread from person to person. This is why your friend or family member may be put in a special room. Restrictions may be placed on who can go in and out of that room and what protection must be worn. This is for your protection and the patient’s protection. Read this sheet to learn more.

How infection spreads

Infection is caused by germs. An infected person carries germs that he or she can give to others. Even a person who doesn’t feel sick can still carry and spread germs. Germs can cause infection by traveling through the air or through direct contact. The rules about when and who can visit your friend or family member depends on what kind of infection he or she has.

Precautions help prevent the spread of infection

Health care provider giving masks to man and woman.

To stop infection from spreading, healthcare workers may do one or more of the following:

  • Place an infected patient in a private room, or in a room with others who have exactly the same infection. (This depends on what kind of infection the patient has.)

  • Place restrictions on who can enter and exit this room.

  • Wear a mask, gloves, gown, or other items, and ask you to do the same when you visit.

  • Wear an air filter (respirator) for some infections, and ask you to do the same when you visit.

What you can do

  • You may be asked to wear a mask, gloves, gown, or respirator when you visit. Follow any instructions carefully.

  • Practice good hand hygiene, especially after using the bathroom and before and after touching the patient or his or her surroundings. Good hand hygiene means washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based gels or foams.

  • Keep your hands away from your face.

  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue. Then throw the tissue away and wash your hands. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm.

  • Do not use the patient’s bathroom.

  • Do not visit a patient if you feel sick. Do not visit if you have been exposed to an illness such as the flu, chickenpox, or measles.