Glossary of Infection Control Terms

August 24, 2020

As you work to create new health and safety protocols for your business, it can be challenging to navigate unfamiliar infection-control terminology. What's the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting? How is antimicrobial different from antibacterial?
Facilisafety is here to help. we've created a glossary of frequently used infection-control terms to help you better understand what to look for when you're creating new health and safety guidelines and stocking up on products.

Antimicrobial
Kills or suppresses the growth of microorganisms (both bacteria and viruses).

Antibacterial 
Prevents bacteria from growing or spreading and may kill them.

Bacteria
Single-celled organisms that produce their own energy and can reproduce on their own. Most bacteria cause no harm to people. Compare to Virus.

Bactericide 
An agent that kills bacteria.

Cleaning
Removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. Compare to Disinfect and Sanitize.

Contact Time (aka Kill Time)
The time a disinfectant is in direct contact with the surface or item to be disinfected. For surface disinfection, this period is framed by the application to the surface until complete drying has occurred.

Detergent
A cleaning agent that makes no antimicrobial claims on the label.

Disinfect/Disinfection
Kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection. Compare to Cleaning and Sanitize.

Disinfectant vs Sanitizer: The main difference is that EPA-approved sanitizers only have claims for bacteria, while disinfectants have claims against both bacteria and viruses.

Disinfectant
Usually a chemical agent (but sometimes a physical agent) that destroys disease-causing pathogens or other harmful microorganisms but might not kill bacterial spores. It refers to substances applied to inanimate objects. The EPA groups disinfectants by product label claims of “limited,” “general,” or “hospital” disinfection.

Face Covering
Generally refers to a piece of material used to cover the nose and mouth, often in the form of a homemade cloth mask.

Facemasks (nonsurgical masks)
Covers the mouth and nose. May not provide protection from fluids or may not filter particles, needed to protect against pathogens, such as viruses. They are not for surgical use. See also Surgical Mask.

Face Shield
A special type of clear plastic visor that covers the entire face. It helps prevent fluids from making contact with the face.

Fungicide 
An agent that destroys fungi (including yeasts) and/or fungal spores pathogenic to humans or other animals in the inanimate environment.

Germicide 
An agent that kills germs.

Kill Time
See Contact Time

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)
See Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

N95 Respirator
One of nine types of disposable particulate respirators. “95” refers to the percentage of particles filtered. CDC infographic explains the differences between surgical masks and N95 respirators.

One-Step Disinfection Process
Simultaneous cleaning and disinfection of a noncritical surface or item. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Specialized clothing or equipment worn by for protection against a hazard (e.g., gloves, masks, protective eyewear, gowns). General work clothes (e.g., uniforms, pants, shirts, or blouses) not intended to function as protection against a hazard are not considered personal protective equipment. 

Respirator
Personal protective equipment that tightly fits the face and filters airborne particle. They provide a higher level of protection against viruses and bacteria when properly fit-tested. Usually reserved for healthcare workers.

Safety Data Sheet (SDS)
(formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheet or MSDS). A Safety Data Sheet for a product lists any hazardous ingredients, safety precautions, and first aid. 

Sanitize
Lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection. Compare to Cleaning and Disinfect.

Sanitizer
An agent that reduces the number of bacterial contaminants to safe levels as judged by public health requirements. Commonly used with substances applied to inanimate objects. According to the EPA protocol for the official sanitizer test, a sanitizer is a chemical that kills 99.999% of the specific test bacteria in 30 seconds under the conditions of the test. Compare to Detergent and Disinfectant.

Disinfectant vs Sanitizer: The main difference is that EPA-approved sanitizers only have claims for bacteria, while disinfectants have claims against both bacteria and viruses.

Sterilize
The process of killing all forms of microbial life including bacteria, fungi, spores, and viruses.

Surgical Masks
Fluid-resistant, disposable, and loose-fitting devices that create a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and the immediate environment. They are for use in surgical settings and do not provide full protection from inhalation of airborne pathogens, such as viruses. CDC infographic explains the differences between surgical masks and N95 respirators.

Virucide 
An agent that kills viruses.

Virus
Viruses are not living organisms and require living hosts to reproduce. When a virus enters your body, it invades some of your cells and takes over the cell machinery, redirecting it to produce the virus. Compare to Bacteria.





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