Wednesday 20 August 2014

Ways to protect against Ebola

Ebola virus disease (EVD) has rarely been out of the headlines over recent weeks. This infectious disease has been causing panic across a number of African countries. Recently, Liberia declared a state of emergency and the outbreak has also hit Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Guinea. Meanwhile, a number of international aid workers have been infected and there are concerns that the disease could spread further.

Initially transmitted to people from wild animals such as forest antelope, chimpanzees and fruit bats, EVD spreads through the human population via person-to-person contact and it has a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent. People remain infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus, and this can be up to seven weeks after they recover.

Individuals are at risk of contracting EVD if they have direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes with the blood secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected individuals. Indirect contact with environments contaminated with these fluids can also lead to infection.

This means that, unless strict infection control precautions are in place, healthcare workers are in danger of falling ill with the disease if they treat patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola. There is not yet a licensed specific treatment or vaccine available.


EVD first appeared in humans in 1976, but the current outbreak has proved particularly problematic. Indeed, it is the deadliest to date and has caused the World Health Organisation to announce an international health emergency. Meanwhile, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres has described the outbreak as “unprecedented” in terms of the way the cases are scattered hundreds of kilometres apart across Guinea.

Reducing the risk of infection

Because there is not yet an effective treatment for the disease, it is particularly important for affected communities to take protective measures to reduce the risk of infection. Information plays a crucial role in the battle against EVD. People must understand the importance of avoiding close physical contact with infected patients, and this includes the burial of the dead.

In addition, strict rules must be observed in healthcare settings. For example, because the early symptoms of the disease may be non-specific, it is vital that personnel apply standard precautions with all patients, regardless of their initial diagnoses. These measures include basic hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment.

As well as these standard precautions, healthcare workers should adhere to more specific infection control measures to avoid exposure to bodily fluids, as well as to any environments that may be contaminated. For example, such personnel should wear face shields or medical masks and goggles. They should also wear a clean, non-sterile long-sleeved gown and gloves.

Meanwhile, samples taken from suspected human and animal EVD cases for diagnoses in laboratories should only be handled by trained staff and they should be processed in suitably equipped environments.

Of course, all environments that are exposed to suspected and confirmed EVD patients must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected on a continual basis. This is fundamental in the fight against the disease.

Strict hygiene control

Strict hygiene control measures can prove highly effective in preventing EVD cases, but in order to achieve the best results, people need all the relevant information and supplies.

The disease belongs to the virus family Filoviridae, which are filamentous enveloped viruses. These viruses can be rendered inactive by agents that target their lipid envelopes. This means that surface active biocides like the quaternary biocides found in Clinell Universal, as well as highly oxidative biocides such as the peracetic acid found in Clinell Sporicidal, can be effective in targeting EVD. It is now simple to access these infection control products. Firms such as Steroplast stock a selection of supplies, including Clinell Universal Wipes and Spray. These products can be used for the disinfection of surfaces, skin and equipment.

Such wipes and sprays are quick and easy to use and they can help to stop the spread of the disease. Other useful infection control products include surgical gloves, aprons, clinical waste bags and hand gels.

 Posted by Tim Sandle

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