Awareness - Infections can occur from sources you already have in your body. For example, varicella zoster, or "shingles", is the reactivation of the herpes virus that causes Chicken Pox. Once exposed, the virus remains in our body for a lifetime. At times of immune compromise, it can become active. Infections can also be acquired from other people, food and water sources and environmental contaminants.
Prevention - There are ways to protect against infection. The simplest but most valuable is hand washing. It sounds too easy to be true, but hand washing with soap and water or liquid anti-septic solutions can reduce your exposure risk. At times when you know you are at greater risk due to treatment, avoid large crowds. When on treatment, your health care provider may prescribe preventative antibiotics. It is a common practice for patients receiving bortezomib (Velcade) to take an antiviral medication such as acyclovir to prevent "shingles".
Action - You are your own best advocate. If you develop any symptoms that indicate you have an infection, you should contact your health care provider. Symptoms may include fever, shaking chills, sore throat, diarrhea, sinus drainage or productive cough that is green in color, or shortness of breath. Skin wounds that are red, tender or have drainage may be infected. Shingles becomes active in a nerve track (dermatome) and tends to be a painful, red rash that has pimples, or fluid filled pustules. Often times the start of this rash is mistaken for a spider bite, but instead of getting better, it worsens. The earlier treatment is started, the better chance there is to reduce long term pain issues. Always contact your health care provider if you have any symptoms that may indicate an active infection.
Teresa Miceli, RN BSN OCN
BMT Nurse Coordinator
Mayo Clinic - Rochester