The risk of infection via surfaces and the new coronavirus

Dr Greg Whiteley on how to keep surfaces clean and safe from infectious microorganisms including superbugs.

A lot of our customers are concerned about the risk of transmission of new Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) via a contaminated surface.

Many viruses cannot live for long outside a human or animal host, whereas other viruses can survive for prolonged periods on contaminated surfaces.

Based on current information, this Coronavirus (2019-nCoV ) sits somewhere in the middle of the risk zone. It can survive on a contaminated surface, but probably not for long.

Thorough surface cleaning and disinfecting will ensure that any potentially contaminated surface is left in a clean and hygienic condition.

Whiteley Corporation has conducted a huge number of disinfectant tests against a wide array of infectious viruses over the past 25 years.

We continue this long history of disinfectant and cleaning research with on-going testing and collaborative research programs, including virucidal testing. This knowledge frames the important factors to note about Coronavirus with respect to disinfectants.

Firstly, Coronavirus is an enveloped virus, and typically these viruses are not terribly difficult to kill on a surface. There is a tendency, in the context of a new pandemic, to go for the strongest disinfectant conceivable for surface disinfection.

With a harder to kill virus, or a virus with particularly high mortality, that may be appropriate, however, for 2019-nCoV that appears to be unwarranted. Of course, if you want a stronger disinfectant, with full virucidal claims, then we have several available for surface disinfection.

However, in the normal course of events, where surface contamination is a concern, but not a confirmed risk, then Transmission Precautions (see the NHMRC 2019 guidelines), using a compatible hospital grade disinfectant and wipe should be sufficient to ensure a clean and disinfected surface.

Part of the issue here, is not to destroy surfaces or adversely affect staff or medical equipment with unnecessarily strong disinfectants such as highly concentrated chlorine solutions.

A commonly available and safe to use alternative would be acceptable unless there is a confirmed Coronavirus contamination risk.

Research funded by Whiteley Corporation has shown that once on surfaces, microorganisms can be transmitted to many other surfaces via contaminated hands and fingers.

It is therefore essential, that appropriate hand hygiene with an alcohol-based hand rub (approved by the TGA), be used after touching any potentially contaminated surface.

So, the simple conclusion for concerns over cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces which may be contaminated, such as with Coronavirus, is to clean and disinfect with a TGA approved hospital grade disinfectant.

You should always wash your hands when visibly soiled, use gloves where appropriate, and sanitise your hands regularly with a TGA approved alcohol-based hand rub.

Following these simple guidelines will keep your surfaces clean and safe, and your hands free from infectious microorganisms including superbugs, and the Coronavirus.

Dr Greg Whiteley is executive chairman of Whiteley Corporation. For more information about Whiteley Corporation visit https://www.whiteley.com.au/ 

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