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Doctors say ‘Swiss cheese model’ is key to COVID-19 prevention

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MADISON (WKOW) – Nothing is more Wisconsin than cheese, and it turns out it may be the key to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“Like Swiss cheese, a single layer of protection against COVID-19 has “holes” or weaknesses that may allow the virus to get through. When you depend on just one, there is higher risk of virus exposure,” said Katelyn Harms, MPH, CIC, Infection Prevention program lead at UnityPoint Health – Meriter. “But when you layer multiple prevention strategies together, the holes are covered, and protection is greatly improved.”

In 1990, James Reason, PhD, introduced the “Swiss Cheese Model” that has been adopted to improve safety across many industries. In any work setting, there are inherent risks. Most of the time, these risks are never realized because safeguards are in place to prevent them. These safeguards are represented in his model as multiple layers of swiss cheese. However, every process has “holes” that, under the right circumstances, can line up and lead to an error, accident or “hazard” as Reason described it.

Health officials recommend that people continue to use multiple layers of protection against COVID-19, including physical distancing, wearing a mask, hand washing and cleaning heavily touched surfaces. Each layer on its own is imperfect but using multiple strategies together provides stronger protection against exposure to COVID-19.

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