Within the hospital: Which surfaces may be contaminated with SARS-CoV-2?

corona virus virucidal disinfection infection prevention prophylaxis hospital doctors practice

During the peak phase of the coronavirus epidemic in China, scientists in a 3,300-bed hospital in Wuhan investigated the surfaces and objects on which the novel SARS-CoV-2 can be found. Researchers took surface swabs in different risk zones and evaluated the distribution of the contamination in percentage terms. The investigations took place at a time when extensive disinfection measures had already been installed and the personnel were also already aware of the risk of transmission.

Inside a hospital, where is the greatest risk of contact infection with SARS-CoV-2? On which surfaces does the coronavirus accumulate? Chinese researchers have investigated these questions with a study in a hospital in Wuhan. Their results: On average, 13.6 percent of 626 samples taken across the hospital proved to be positive. As expected, the highest contamination rates were found in the high-risk areas that had been specially established for the care of COVID-19 patients: a 31.9 percent contamination rate in the COVID-19 intensive care unit, 28.1 percent rate in the obstetrics ward with COVID-19 patients and a 19.6 percent rate in the COVID-19 isolation ward. However, in the general patient waiting zone, 16.7 percent of all swabs collected were still positive. In the clinical laboratory, the figure was 11.5 percent.

Specific surfaces: This is where SARS-CoV-2 accumulates

When examining specific surfaces, the pathogen was found on 20 percent of the control buttons tested on commonly used patient printers (self-service devices from which patients can print out examination or test results). 16.8 percent of work surfaces and 16 percent of door handles also showed positive results. Walls, on the other hand, accounted for only 5.6 percent.

The researchers found very different rates of contamination on hand disinfectant dispensers, used gloves and face shields: While 20.3 percent of the tested dispensers had contamination with SARS-CoV-2, and 15.4 percent of the gloves, face shield contamination was comparatively low at 1.7 percent.

Surface disinfection helps to contain chains of infection

The results show that multiple surfaces and objects represent a reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 and can thus contribute to transmission. The disinfection of high-touch-surfaces alongside careful hand hygiene are important measures to contain infection chains.

Further information

Link to original study:

Environmental contamination of SARS-CoV-2 in healthcare premises, Ye G., Lin H., Chen S. et al., Journal of Infection

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