While hospitals and clinics have staff trained to handle COVID-19 patient waste, the highest percentage of infected people recover at home, so it is necessary to take precautions not to contribute to the spread of the virus, say specialists in infectology and health authorities.
The current health protocols for the pandemic indicate that people with COVID-19 who have an asymptomatic or mild condition, They can pass the disease and fulfill the corresponding ten days of isolation at their home. In mild to moderate cases, these days are counted from the onset of symptoms; in asymptomatic patients, from the date of diagnosis.
Waste generated by patients while passing the disease -health professionals warn based on what has been observed for other respiratory viruses- They could pose a risk of infection to people who come in direct contact with them. Therefore, the need arises to adopt a special handling to eliminate: disposable tissues, gloves, chinstraps, diapers, dressings, disposable items for dry baths, food packaging who have been in contact with the case, food remains consumed by the case and waste generated in the cleaning of the isolation room, among others.
For the health care of others
“In order to rule out any possibility of transmission of the virus, in homes where there are patients who pass the disease, we recommend taking extreme care in the handling and destination of the waste that is generated,” he told Infobae the infectious disease doctor Leda Guzzi, member of the Argentine Society of Infectology (SADI).
In dialogue with Infobae, the national director of Communicable Disease Control of the Ministry of Health, Juan Manuel Castelli, emphasized “The importance of this care towards the health of those who live with or assist the patient and also of the workers who collect household waste.”
Since the new coronavirus is on the planet, the questions do not stop. One of them is what is the possibility of contracting the virus through touching surfaces or clothing. Experts from all over the world say that it is unlikely, but not impossible, so it is advisable to take all the necessary precautions to minimize the risk.
“Although at the beginning of the pandemic an important place was given to the environment as a vehicle for the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, its potential contagion through inanimate surfaces, that is, objects, surfaces, bags, has now been relativized. , cartons, fabrics, representing less than 10% of potential sources of transmission ”, Guzzi explained. “In any case, it is a possible route of contagion that must be completely eliminated,” emphasized the specialist who is part of the SADI coronavirus communication team.
Step by Step
The recommendation guides prepared by the Health and Environment areas at the national level, the province of Buenos Aires and CABA propose at least four key actions when a positive case of COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed at home: suspend the separation of waste at home to avoid transporting the virus; minimize waste generation as far as possible, for example, avoiding the use of disposable materials; use a triple bag system for the collection of waste generated by the patient, and keep it for at least 72 hours at home before taking it out.
Why 72 hours? The guide of the Ministry of Health of the Nation says that “the evidence in relation to the viability of SARS-CoV-2 in the environment is very limited, but extrapolation of studies with other coronaviruses allows us to infer that, in most circumstances, the risk from the presence of the pathogen on the surface is likely to be significantly reduced after 72 hours ”.
Instead of waiting those three days, Castelli pointed out a more practical option: “Before closing the bag, spray the waste with sodium hypochlorite solution, i.e. bleach, and water (10 millimeters of bleach in a liter of water if the concentration of the product is 50 grams; if it is 25 grams, it is 20 ml in a liter of water) always prepared at the time of use, because after 24 hours it loses effectiveness ”.
The first step: all the waste generated by the patient must be disposed of in a bag placed in a basket for exclusive use in this case, with a lid and a pedal for opening it, located in the isolation room. This is the bag number 1. It might be considered unnecessary, but the warnings in the guides that none of this waste can be recycled do not hurt.
This bag must be filled only up to three quarters, tied with a double knot and placed inside a second bag, to which the label “CAUTION – DO NOT OPEN” and the closing date must be attached. Gloves, chinstraps and other cleaning items used by the person who cares for the affected person are also placed in this bag. You have to make sure that it is properly closed and that nothing it contains comes out.
Once bag number 2 is closed, it is added to bag number 3, that of common household waste, which will be kept out of the reach of children and pets. And it is recommended Take it out to the street close to the collection time so that it remains as short as possible on public roads.
In the case of buildings, The guides remind that the person in charge or person who removes the waste from the department must be provided with disposable gloves, as well as must have un cleaning kit in case of rupture of the bag.
In all these waste handling actions It is essential to wash your hands immediately after completing each step, with plenty of soap and water for at least 40 to 60 seconds, or to wash or discard the gloves that have been used. Waste baskets should also be cleaned with the bleach solution and water prepared the same day.
Clothes, cutlery and cell phones
Regarding the washing of the clothes used by the patient, it is advisable to avoid shaking the garments or carrying them in contact with the body. The recommended way is place it in a properly closed bag until washing, handle it with disposable or latex gloves (in this case wash them well) and wash it in a washing machine program that lasts at least 25 minutes. “You can wash the clothes of infected and non-infected people together, because after washing with laundry detergent there is no viral resistance, the soap inactivates the virus,” Gezzi pointed out.
Cutlery, glasses, plates and other utensils should be washed with hot soapy water. Frequently touched surfaces (bedside tables, bedroom furniture, etc.), bathroom and toilet surfaces should be cleaned daily with diluted bleach prepared the same day. In the case of surfaces that are not suitable for cleaning with water solutions with detergents or bleach, such as cell phones and computer keyboards, if suitable for cleaning with alcohol, use 70% alcoholic solution.
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