So what’s cross infection in cystic fibrosis? Cross infection has been defined by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust as occurring when one person with CF passes an infection to another person with cystic fibrosis. The American Cystic Fibrosis Foundation add to that definition and talk about people with CF always being at least six feet away from another person with cystic fibrosis or somebody that’s acutely unwell. There’s two ways that germs can be passed from person to person. There’s direct contact, where bodies touch such as hugging or kissing. And there’s indirect contact where the bacteria that one person has could be left on their hands or an object such as a computer or a cup, the next person then comes along, picks up the object and the germs are transmitted. There’s also cross infection via droplets, so when we cough or when we sneeze, bacteria spray out into the environment and then can be passed directly into the mouth or into airways of the next person. Professionals that look after people with cystic fibrosis do not share equipment from person to person. And equipment that has to be shared such as lung function machines are always completely cleaned down and decontaminated before use with the next person. We’re very hot on hand washing, there’s alcohol rub at every entrance for every clinical area and some of those practical measures can also be taken into the work place or into the school. Families often worry about infections that go between child to child even though the other child might not have cystic fibrosis. So practical things such as avoiding people that are coughing or sneezing, say in classroom or on the tube or on the train, are really good ways of avoiding, sharing germs. There’s other ways we can actively prevent infection. We recommend everybody with cystic fibrosis has the winter flu vaccine every single year and it’s another infection we don’t have to share. There’s also some unavoidables, we obviously have families who’ve got children with cystic fibrosis, more than one child at home. So, if you’ve got a brother or sister with CF or a parent with CF, there’s things that we recommend. We say don’t share a bedroom, don’t do physiotherapy together and don’t share any equipment such as nebulisers and crockery around the house. Those things are obviously difficult for parents to put into place in confined spaces but we will always try and find a practical solution with the family to make sure that cross infection is minimalised. If children are obviously unwell at a specific time point, we do recommend that they obviously keep away from the other siblings with CF, just to avoid sharing those active germs. So I grew up before cross infection and I grew up going to clinic and seeing all my friends with CF. And then one day when I got into about 11 or 12, we were told we aren’t allowed to see other anymore. And we were suddenly being told you couldn’t be best friends with your best friend anymore because they might give you something dangerous. Parents lost a lot of their support network
and so did people with CF because you could say that social media has helped people with CF and CF community have embraced it like nobody else I think. But it’s not the same as being in the room, the same room as somebody with CF or just being able to talk to someone face to face who actually knows what it’s like to live with the same disease as you.