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The role of surface disinfection in outbreak management

Why it's time to ramp it up during cold and flu season
Thursday, February 14, 2019
By Zandile Chiwanza

Wintertime is the busiest for most healthcare workers, as the beginning of the year often sees an influx of patients during the peak of the cold and flu season which lasts from October to March. Alongside overtired and overworked staff, everyone becomes more vulnerable during this time.

In hospitals, the cleaning protocols are clearly established but in addition to infection prevention strategies such as antimicrobial stewardship, promoting personal hygiene and providing environmental hygiene and barriers, surface disinfection plays a key role in outbreak management in healthcare facilities.

“It’s critical to ramp up surface disinfection in your facility during the winter months to help prevent cold and flu outbreak,” says Barley Chironda, an infection control specialist at Clorox. There is added pressure that comes from flu season as pathogens can spread more aggressively in the winter months, it becomes the cleaning staff’s biggest responsibility to reduce the burden of infection.

Training

Staff should receive ongoing training and education on surface-specific cleaning procedures. Make sure the necessary training accompanies whatever tools or products are provided.

“Having an evaluation component is something you want to prioritize as it adds a continuous improvement layer to your disinfection process,” Chironda says. With this evaluation process, there is an opportunity for re-education or re-training, allowing for a good standard of practice to be in place at all times.

Don’t neglect floor care

In the past, hospital floors were not considered an important source for pathogen transmission because they are rarely touched, however, studies have shown they are often heavily contaminated.  According to a study published in 2018 by the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC) hospital privacy curtains may harbour dangerous germs,  another study published in AJIC in 2017 revealed: “medical devices and other items that touch the floor within a hospital can quickly transmit disease-causing bacteria to other high-touch surfaces and hands.”

It has become necessary to observe floor care as more than just an aesthetics issue.

Promote education and technology

Chironda says managers and staff can clean healthcare facilities without cutting corners by continually seeking out innovative ways to keep up with the higher burden of infection during the wintertime. He urges facility managers to rely on innovation and technology to do a thorough cleaning and cover more areas faster, without the risk of compromising patient and healthcare workers safety.

Chironda adds that one of the most effective ways to reduce the transmission of bacteria is to have the necessary concentration of effective disinfection products near the point of view so that anybody that needs to wipe a surface can do so readily and easily, including non-custodial staff.

Zandile Chiwanza is the online editor of Facility Cleaning and Maintenance and Canadian Property Management. 

Barley Chironda is an infection control specialist at Clorox. You can email him at [email protected] Photo courtesy of Clorox Professional Products Company.

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