Since the beginning of 2020, surface hygiene has become a huge topic for long-term care facilities in the context of infection control. A virus that can put some people in intensive care while causing asymptomatic infection in others has highlighted vulnerabilities in the way we combat the spread of infection, both in communities and in healthcare environments.
As a result, hygiene protocols have been dramatically ramped up in long-term care facilities all over the world. Surfaces everywhere have been sprayed, wiped, scrubbed, fogged and vaporized to within an inch of their lives in a bid to stop the spread of this intractable virus. Considering the investment of time and money this has necessitated, it’s little wonder facilities are looking for ways to simplify their hygiene processes without compromising on infection control.
More and more, we’re seeing products being specified into long-term care buildings that aim to reduce the burden on staff by making it easier and faster to decontaminate surfaces – and in the case of antimicrobial products, to reduce the frequency of cleaning where possible.
Here at Belroc, we’re seeing antimicrobial technology used in our CleanScreen privacy dividers and also in a new range of ‘SureContact’ handrails infused with antimicrobial agents.
So what exactly is an antimicrobial surface? How is it made and how can it help with infection control?
An antimicrobial is a material or substance that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. There are many naturally-occurring antimicrobials including some metals, acids, and plant compounds as well as man-made ones that are used in everything from medicines to cleaning products.
As an example, copper is a naturally antimicrobial element that is proven to kill 99.999% of disease-causing bacteria within two hours. But copper isn’t a great material for making things because it’s too soft and oxidises over time. So scientists have looked at ways to take the properties of antimicrobials like copper and zinc, and incorporate them into other materials, like plastic and vinyl. These are versatile and strong enough to be used for the manufacture of items that are prone to surface contamination – like hand rails, work surfaces, privacy dividers, curtain fabrics and equipment.
What’s the advantage?
One of the biggest advantages of antimicrobial materials is that they can prevent the accumulation of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens before it even begins. In many cases, humans find themselves playing catch up to organisms already present in long-term care environments, which means that any small oversight or delay in the cleaning schedule can quickly result in a build-up that may put health at risk.
Antimicrobials are also incredibly useful for frequently handled surfaces because they offer a baseline level of protection in between cleanings. Surfaces like handrails may be touched many times an hour by many different people, and it’s simply not practical to sanitize them every time they’re touched. Antimicrobial handrails actively kill and inhibit the growth of microorganisms all the time, reducing the risk of onward viral or bacterial transmission via their surfaces.
What products are available?
Belroc’s antimicrobial handrails are infused with zinc pyrithione. During the manufacturing process, this compound technology is anchored into the material substrate at a molecular level rather than applied to the surface, so it will never wear off. The active ingredient electrically depolarizes the microbe’s membrane and inactivates it. This physical mode of action does not promote microbe cell mutation and does not leach into the surrounding environment.
Meanwhile our CleanScreen modular privacy divider is also infused with an antimicrobial additive that inhibits the survival of microorganisms on the surface. CleanScreen is an innovative, solid surface privacy divider that’s an ideal alternative to textile curtains and screens and helps care home to preserve patient privacy and dignity without compromising on hygiene. While conventional curtains can harbour germs, CleanScreen actively destroys them – and where curtains are awkward and time-consuming to launder, CleanScreen can be wiped down in minutes using any clinical disinfectant. For long-term care, this is an ideal solution for Covid-secure practices including vaccination, social distancing in communal living areas, and family visits as well as routine procedures like dressing and toileting.
To find out more about antimicrobial handrails and other products that could put your next long-term care build streets head on infection control, get in touch with Owen Lawrenson by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.