AEC Systems regularly tackles projects for clients whose needs require complicated cleaning strategies and cleanliness specs, but the healthcare industry relies entirely on stringent cleaning and disinfection specifications. For them, clean is quite literally life or death.
Recent reports regarding the Ebola outbreak in the countries of West Africa are very concerning. Not only does this strain of Ebola seem to be more virulent than all previous strains, large numbers of medical personnel are perishing fighting it. Thus far more than 240 health care workers have contracted the Ebola virus and more than 120 of them have died from it. Without trained medical personnel, the average patient with Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, or Nigeria will have even less of a chance to survive this deadly disease and will be more likely to pass it along to his family members and neighbors.
Fortunately, Ebola is not an airborne virus. Like HIV, it’s transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. This means that casual contact with a patient with Ebola will not be at risk. However, the disease itself often produces diarrhea, vomiting, and hemorrhaging all of which introduce the virus to anyone treating the patient or dealing with waste removal.
Hospitals in America are beginning to examine their strategies for fighting Ebola if it should emerge in the population here. Typically, these would include quarantine and palliative measures to fight symptoms such as dehydration and fever as Ebola has no cure and no real treatments at this time. The most important way to deal with Ebola is to limit the outbreak as carefully as possible. During an epidemic, medical personnel run up against two difficulties: a shortage of medicines and medical supplies and finding ways to dispose of waste and clean medical equipment.
Guidelines like the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Cleaning, Sterilization, High-Level Disinfection and Storage of Patient Care Devices and Other Items offer detailed instructions for accomplishing and maintaining sterile equipment and facilities to enable medical personnel to be able to attend to patients. However, having guidelines such as these in place will not be sufficient if staff are not adequately trained in them and well designed cleaning and sterilization equipment has not already been installed and implemented. In a true epidemic, transportation quickly becomes problematic, and much of the cleaning and sterilization of garments and tools can not be outsourced. It must be done onsite.
We can all hope that this Ebola outbreak will not spread further and officials and doctors will be able to aid the people of West Africa, but this situation demonstrates the need to prepare people and cleaning systems well in advance of medical risks in order to deal with them effectively.
By: Ryan Westphal