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Cleaning to prevent spread of Ebola

18 August 2014

The ISSA, the global trade association for the cleaning industry, provides guidance and advice on how to prevent the spread of Ebola through effective cleaning.

The Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe illness with a case fatality rate of 90%. Ebola outbreaks can devastate families and communities, but the infection can be controlled through the effective use of recommended protective measures in clinics, hospitals, community gatherings and at home. 

In fact, while some facility decision makers may view cleaning as an expense incurred to increase a building’s appearance, it is at times of potential outbreak when they can see the true value of cleaning as an investment in public health protection.

About Ebola
It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases and is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids, such as saliva or urine, and tissues of infected people and animals. The incubation period, from exposure to when signs or symptoms appear, ranges from 2 to 21 days (most commonly 8-10 days).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) provides detailed information on its website, www.who.int/ebola where you can find advice regarding the importance of hand hygiene, the wearing of protective equipment (PPE), and effective disposal of soiled and infected items and "sharps".

The WHO recommends basic hand hygiene steps for individuals who might come in contact with populations at a higher risk of contracting Ebola. This includes using an alcohol-based hand rub and/or soap and running water plus good hand drying systems and, in particular, single-use towels. It is also vital to ensure the correct use of surface cleaning and sanitising chemicals.

Cleaning to reduce risk
Cleaning personnel in high-risk areas such as airports or health care facilities should consider any bodily fluids as infectious and dispose of them according to local health care requirements for handling bio hazardous materials (WHO disposal recommendations). Additional steps to consider if cleaning in a potentially infected area include:

  • Wear impermeable disposable gloves while cleaning the passenger cabin and lavatories.
  • Wipe down lavatory surfaces and frequently touched surfaces in high-traffic areas, such as hand rails, door knobs, elevator buttons with registered cleaner/disinfectant that has been approved for use on the surfaces being cleaned.
  • Special cleaning of upholstery or carpets is not indicated unless they are obviously soiled with blood or body fluids.
  • Special vacuuming equipment or procedures are not necessary.
  • Do not use compressed air, which might spread infectious material through the air.
  • If a surface is obviously soiled with blood or body fluids, it should be removed and discarded by the methods used for bio hazardous material.
  • Throw used gloves away according to recommended infection control precautions when cleaning is done or if they become soiled or damaged during cleaning.
  • Clean hands with soap and water (or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap is not available) immediately after gloves are removed.

All viruses require bio matter on which to survive. Therefore, to reduce the likelihood that a virus would survive on a surface, cleaning procedures must remove as much bio matter at possible. In addition to using the proper cleaner/disinfectant, cleaning must be done frequently enough to reduce the risk of a virus remaining on the surface too long, increasing the risk of someone coming in contact with it. 

ISSA, the leading trade association for the cleaning industry worldwide, has identified that many facilities do not clean as frequently as needed to adequately reduce public health risk, however, there are no industry standards, due to the high degree of variability from one facility to another. Therefore, each facility needs to individually determine their cleaning frequencies based on factors such as number of occupants or amount of traffic, surfaces, age of the building, geographic factors, weather factors, availability of cleaning personnel and budget constraints.


Who can help
ISSA member companies, whether cleaning companies, manufacturers or distributors, can help in offering sound advice to facility executives about proper cleaning frequencies, use of chemicals, and effective personal hygiene systems to reduce the risk of infection as much as possible. ISSA members in your region can be found at issa.com/directory.