Infection Control

Infection control is a method of protecting patients, healthcare workers and visitors from getting infections in the hospital and in the home. Infection control is important because people with CF can unknowingly spread germs (bacteria) to other people with CF.

People with CF should be aware that their lungs can become infected with bacteria very easily. In a young person with CF, bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Haemophilus influenzae are most common. As people with CF grow older Pseudomonas aeruginosa is most common. Pseudomonas aerouginosa affects two thirds of adults with CF. Some other less common bacteria are methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Burkholderia cepacia complex (B. cepacia).

People with CF related lung disease often have bugs (bacteria) in the lungs. Read more about the different bacteria and infection control practices below.

About Bacteria

Bacteria May Be Transmitted In One Of Three Ways:

  1. Direct Contact occurs through activities such as touching, hugging and kissing.
  2. Indirect Contact occurs through touching surfaces or objects that have germs on them, such as door handles, respiratory equipment, toys, and computers.
  3. Droplet Transmission occurs when small droplets exit the mouth or nose of a person when he/she coughs or sneezes. These droplets are projected a distance of up to 2m (or 6 feet) and these droplets containing bacteria can enter the eyes, nose, or mouth of another individual or fall onto surfaces such as tables.

All individuals with CF should give a sputum sample at each clinic visit. The sputum sample will tell your doctor what bacteria you are growing in your sputum and help the doctor to treat you when you are sick.

The thick and sticky nature of mucous in the airways of individuals with CF makes it difficult to get rid of bacteria from the lungs. These individuals may have more frequent lung infections and require hospital admissions to receive IV antibiotics. Some individuals require treatment with inhaled antibiotics twice daily to help keep the bacteria in their lungs under control.

Burkholderia cepacia complex (BCC) is a family of bacteria, or germs, which live in soil and damp or wet places and cause rot in plants such as onions. This family of bacteria rarely causes infection in healthy people but can be a problem for people with cystic fibrosis. We now know that there are approximately 17 different kinds (species) of closely related Burkholderia and we call this group of bacteria, Burkholderia cepacia complex (BCC).

Burkholderia cepacia complex is like a “family” of bacteria. This family is made up of 17 different family members or species. Regular testing in the lab does not allow us to distinguish between all members of the family and thus specialized testing is required to determine the species of BCC. We use the Burkholderia cepacia reference and research lab in Michigan to test which species of BCC are present.

  • Know what type of bacteria grows in your lungs so can attend clinic on the appropriate day
  • Be sure to maintain a distance of 6 feet or more from others with CF
  • Throw away tissues immediately after use
  • Always cover your mouth when you cough
  • Avoid people who are sick whenever possible
  • Persons with CF should avoid long, close physical contact with each other
  • Do not share personal items such as cups, utensils, toys, computers, compressors and nebulizers with other CF patients
  • Clean and disinfect your nebulizer and physiotherapy device daily
  • Ask your health care provider if they have washed their hands and cleaned any equipment before they examine you
  • Wash your hands or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer:
    • After coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose
    • Throughout your clinic visit and as you leave clinic
    • After using ATMs, handrails, grocery carts etc
    • Before and after eating

How To Clean Your Hands With Hand Sanitizers

Put a nickel sized amount in palm of hand.
Rub your hands together. Make sure all parts of your hands, fingers and nails are rubbed with the gel.
Briskly rub your hands together until dry, often about 15 seconds
Do not rinse or dry hands with a towel

What We Are Doing To Protect You?

Infection Control Is One Of Our Priorities.

Read more about steps we have taken to protect you during a ward admission, including use of SmartPumps for monitoring compliance, and for when you visit clinic. You can also review the PDF document of hand hygiene tips for patients, families and friends prepared by St. Michael’s Hospital

  1. Separate clinics are provided for people with CF based on what type of bacteria grows in their sputum. To learn about the different clinics, please visit the clinic schedule.
  2. When you arrive to clinic you will be given a mask to wear and assigned a clinic room. While waiting for this room, you should wear the mask and keep a distance of 6 feet or more between yourself and other individuals with CF.
  3. When you are in the clinic room, you do not need to wear the mask. You can leave your room for testing but otherwise you should remain in your room. The CF team will come to see you in your assigned room.
  4. A sputum specimen is collected from each individual on every visit and sent to the microbiology laboratory for analysis. A sputum induction may be performed on those who have been unable to produce a sputum sample in the past year.
  5. Your breathing test is usually done in your clinic room. Occasionally you will be taken to the Pulmonary Function Lab and will have you breathing test done in a clean room and you will not be tested in the same room as someone with different bacteria. All individuals will be asked to clean their hands before and after performing their breathing test.
  6. Staff will wear a yellow gown and gloves upon entering your room and discard the gown and gloves upon leaving the clinic room.
  7. Staff will wash their hands, or use hand sanitizer upon entering and exiting your clinic room. Feel free to ask them if they remembered to wash their hands.
  8. Staff will clean all contact surfaces of clinic rooms with disinfectant wipes before a new patient enters the room.
  1. An Infection Control Practitioner provides continuous monitoring on the ward for evidence of cross contamination. Environmental swabs are performed on a regular basis.
  2. Individuals with CF do not share a room or bathroom with other admitted patients. All rooms have their own showers and bathroom facilities.
  3. Staff are required to wash their hands and then put on a yellow gown and gloves upon entering your room and examining you. The gown and gloves are discarded upon leaving the room.
  4. Nurses are assigned to patients based on what bacteria they have in their sputum; so that a nurse who is looking after someone who has Burkholderia cepacia complex does not also look after a cepacia negative patient.
  5. All rooms are cleaned and disinfected once an individual has been discharged.
Monitoring Of Hand Hygiene On The Ward

Hand hygiene is the responsibility of all individuals involved in health care. Hand hygiene means removing or killing microorganisms (bacteria and viruses) on the hands. There are two methods of removing/killing microorganisms on hands: washing with soap and running water or using an alcohol-based hand rub. Alcohol-based hand rub is the preferred method for decontaminating hands. Using alcohol-based hand rub is better than washing hands (even with an antibacterial soap) when hands are not visibly dirty.


The CF ward is part of a pilot project to assess an automated hand hygiene monitoring system (SmartPump) to track how well staff follow hand hygiene guidelines.

The SmartPump system includes sensors for existing wall-mounted dispensers (soap and alcohol) in the ward including in patient rooms. These sensors record each time a dispenser is activated.

Data regarding how many patients are admitted on the ward, the type of unit and the severity of illness of the patients is fed into the system to create an estimate of how many hand washes in a 24-hour period should be occurring.

A hand hygiene compliance number is calculated as: number of actual hand washes per 24 hours ÷ estimated number of hand washes expected in 24 hours X 100

Although the estimated number of hand washes may not be completely accurate, general calculations that we have done on the CF/Respirology ward suggest that this number is fairly accurate.

This system allows accurate monitoring around the clock and results are provided within 24 hours.

Weekly reports are created and posted on the ward and also on this website.

When this system is compared to audits where a person comes to the ward and watches the staff to see if they are washing their hands, the SmartPump system gives results that are much lower than the visual audit.

The audit of the CF/Respirology ward shows hand hygiene compliance of 85-90% whereas the SmartPump system shows compliance of 50-75%. These initial results show that we have room for improvement and initiatives are underway to increase the amount of hand washing that is done on our ward.