The importance of different layers of protection in the fight against infection

The Swiss cheese model - popular explanatory model in virus control

If we want to protect ourselves against cold or risks, we often talk about 'layering' or 'braces and belts'. In some industries, it is even more popular to refer to the 'Swiss cheese model'. This article gives you a quick summary of this explanatory model with a focus on virus and infection control, and adds thoughts on something of a forgotten layer of protection.

The original developer of the Swiss cheese explanation is Professor James T Reason of the University of Manchester - although he did not refer to cheese when he first put forward his protection theory in the early 1990s. 

The basic thesis is that all individual protection measures and people can actually fail. Completely, partially or to a few tiny percentages. By having multiple layers of protection, these failures have a less severe consequence. Each layer simply makes the protection stronger and less sensitive to changes and mistakes.

The model gets its name from the fact that each layer of protection can be compared to a slice of Swiss cheese. Each 'cheese slice' has its individual larger and smaller holes. The different slices are also different thicknesses depending on the protection offered, but the important thing is that if one cheese slice disappears, there are more left. The protection can then also evolve and adapt as things change. 

Viral explanatory model of virus control

During the fight against the coronavirus, the model received international attention, mainly thanks to the Australian virologist Ian Mckay. His images and arguments went almost globally viral in some circles during the pandemic. However, the "cheese slice" technology did not take its rightful place as an obvious layer of protection in terms of fighting the virus and reducing the spread of infection. 

LightAir Swiss Cheese1

The somewhat viral Swiss cheese model, according to the English professor Reason and the Australian virologist Mckay, among others.

What "cheese slices" do we have in the fight against viruses?

The different cheese boards consist of a wide range of tools and requirements, which can be voluntary as well as statutory. As we have seen in recent years, most slices rely heavily on individual responsibility, as well as on measures decided by authorities and direct laws. This includes everything from hand-washing, social distancing, hand sanitizer and staying at home in case of symptoms, to government decisions on regulated crowds, closed offices, travel restrictions, etc.

Cheese slice measures can be removed or added - increasing or decreasing protection over time. No single cheese slice is universal and they all have their holes. Mouth guards can be used incorrectly, just as hands can be washed quickly and carelessly. These are examples of holes in these specific cheese slices.

The vaccine itself is a very strong and important protection. However, it is not 100% and the protection decreases over time, so you have to be careful with replenishment. The fact that the protection is not comprehensive and depends on the human factor means that the vaccine has holes in the cheese slice.

Each cheese slice can be an extremely essential and important measure in a protective system, but should be combined with several other cheese slices to seal the holes.

Schweizerostmodell MED technology as an actively used protective layer, which, in addition to high efficiency, has a longer and more durable lifespan than many other measures.

Technology - the cheese slice that lasts 

One of the most important and protective layers of cheese, which has unfortunately been neglected in this context, is technology. Although it is an enduring cheese slice that maintains protection even over time, other more reactive measures have taken almost all the limelight. 

It is hardly a controversial assessment that vaccines and technology are the protective measures, i.e. cheese slices, that we will accept and over time manage to maintain in everyday life in, for example, offices and schools.

Society now has a better understanding of what, for example, the coronavirus really means, including the realization that this is one of many viruses we will be living with for a long time. While vaccines are often developed and designed to work on a specific virus, there are complementary technologies that offer a broader spectrum and protection against both old and new viruses.

It is therefore high time to add the technical protection layer on a broad front - in practice as well as in the Swiss cheese model.

Download the white paper on "Technology - a forgotten layer of protection in the fight against infection"

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles