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How to live like the experts: Staying healthy in a germ-filled world with Melisa Avaness

Written by Monica Matys

Ever wonder if your doctor or specialist follows their own advice? Sunnybrook experts get candid with the approaches they take in their personal lives.

Melisa Avaness is an Infection Prevention and Control Coordinator at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

At dinner parties, is your job often misunderstood?

A lot of people wonder what my job entails, and it’s a lot of things. Infection control coordinators assess hospitalized patients every day who are on additional precautions for various communicable diseases to see if those need to continue. We give advice to different departments about infection prevention questions they have, and some coordinators are also involved in research, analyzing data and outbreak management, just to name a few. I think the pandemic has increased the understanding about what I do.

Knowing what you know, how do you live in a world full of germs?

It makes it easier because I have the knowledge to do a risk assessment of certain situations, and that reduces my anxiety. Let’s say I’m in the grocery store and I don’t have an antibacterial wipe for the cart. I know there is likely contamination but I should be OK if I don’t touch my hands to my eyes, nose or mouth. Knowledge is power!

Are you constantly thinking about risk?

It’s not always on my mind, but I’d say it’s become second nature to assess the room and make the right decision.

Do you avoid touching doorknobs and similar surfaces?

No, I use my hands to open doors every day. It’s the same logic as shopping carts: it’s a given they are dirty so I wash or sanitize my hands.

What’s the one thing you do that might surprise people?

There is a poster from Public Health Ontario that’s commonly seen in public washrooms. It’s a series of graphics on how to wash your hands properly to reach all the spots that are commonly missed. I have that image embedded in my brain! In my mind, I go through each step thoroughly whenever I wash my hands.

Do you have a favourite soap?

Soaps at the hospital have to meet certain safety specifications. At home, I do like scented soaps because they do the job and also smell good! My favourite scent is rosewater.

What are your thoughts on the five-second rule?

It depends where it lands!

About the author

Monica Matys

Monica Matys is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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