Standard Precautions By Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC spent several years researching, improving, and developing recommendations to protect health care providers, medical assistants, patients, and their visitors from infectious diseases. This intensive period of research resulted in standard precautions, a set of infection control guidelines that should now be utilized by all health care professionals for all patients.

Standard precautions combine many of the basic principles of universal precautions with techniques known as body substance isolation (BSI), a system that maintains that personal protective equipment should be worn for contact with all body fluids whether or not blood is visible. Although BSI was developed not by a federal or state agency but by a private hospital, its techniques nonetheless have been adopted by many health care facilities and medical assistants.

The rationale behind developing the new standard precautions was that while universal precautions and body substance isolation provide a good degree of protection, the CDC recognized that both could be improved upon. Advantages of the new standard precautions are that they include all of the major recommendations of universal precautions and body substance isolation, while incorporating new information; they simplify medical terminology to be as user-friendly as possible; they use new terms to avoid confusion with existing infection control and isolation systems; and they are intended to protect all patients, all health care providers, and all visitors.

According to the CDC, standard precautions are ''designed to reduce the risk of transmission of microorganisms from both recognized and unrecognized sources of infection in hospitals (CDC, 1994)." They apply to:

1. blood;
2. all body fluids, secretions, and excretions regardless of whether or not they contain visible blood;
3. non intact skin;
4. mucous membranes.

To be effective, standard precautions must be practiced conscientiously at all times by all certified medical assistants. Although standard precautions were intended primarily for use in acute care facilities such as hospitals, they can and should be applied in other types of facilities including the ambulatory care settings where many medical assistants are likely to be employed.