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Am J Infect Control. 2005 Mar;33(2):88-96.

Protecting health care workers from SARS and other respiratory pathogens: organizational and individual factors that affect adherence to infection control guidelines.

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  • 1Occupational Health and Safety Agency for Healthcare in British Columbia, Canada.



Traditional infection control policies have focused on engineering controls, specific protocols, and personal protective equipment (PPE). In light of the variable success in protecting health care workers (HCWs) from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, organizational and individual factors related to self-protective behavior in health care settings may also play an important role.


A critical review of the literature was conducted, directed at understanding what organizational and individual factors are important in protecting HCWs from infectious diseases at work.


Organizational factors, such as a positive safety climate, have been associated with increased HCW adherence to universal precautions. There is some evidence that appropriate training of HCWs could be effective in changing HCW behavior if appropriate follow-up is applied. Very little research into these factors has been conducted with regard to preventing exposures to respiratory tract pathogens, but there was evidence from the SARS outbreaks that training programs and the availability of adequate PPE were associated with a decrease risk of infection.


Variations in organizational and individual factors can explain much of the variations in self-protective behavior in health care settings. It is likely that these factors were also important determinants during the SARS outbreaks, but they have not been extensively studied.

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