The European Union classifies the autoclave as a key tool in the fight against COVID-19
In the age of pandemic, one of the most important issues is the equipment for fighting COVID-19. As one of the key devices, the European Union has indicated - next to masks, overalls, protective goggles and medical face visor - an autoclave, a sterilization device. Why?
Means and equipment in the fight against COVID-19
The European Union indicates what means and devices are key tools in the fight against coronavirus. Only the use of these protection measures in conjunction with the applicable guidelines will limit the spread of coronavirus and effectively protect those most at risk. These include disposable gloves, goggles and safety glasses, disposable surgical masks, reusable masks, overalls, and autoclaves. We can divide the measures into personal protective equipment and agents with a wide range of applications. We will discuss them in turn.
Personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment that supports individual prevention are closest to everyone. They are indispensable nowadays for both shoppers and healthcare workers on the "front line" dealing with patients. Personal protective equipment includes disposable gloves, goggles and safety goggles, disposable and reusable masks, and coveralls.
1. Disposable gloves
Disposable gloves belong to personal protective equipment. On a daily basis, they are used, among others, by doctors, nurses and paramedics during work and by all persons who have or may come into contact with harmful microorganisms. There are many types of gloves on the market, for example latex, vinyl, nitrile, powdered and powder-free. During the current outbreak of coronavirus, it is recommended to wear them outside, during public transport or shopping.
In UK, many stores provides its customers with disposable gloves. Wearing them, remember that gloves are only apparent protection. Coronavirus is transmitted by a droplet route, not through the skin, and covering your hands will not protect you from falling ill. When using them, a few basic rules should be observed so that the gloves themselves are not a threat. It is important not to touch the face when wearing gloves. First of all, before applying them, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, doing this for at least 20 seconds. After removing the gloves from the box, putting on one of them, hold it by the place where your wrist should be. Remove the other glove with your bare hand. Even more important is the correct removal of gloves. One of them should be grasped at the level of the wrist and pulled off, turning the inner side on top. The removed glove should be held in the other hand and, using a sliding motion, put the fingers of a bare hand between the glove and the wrist. Remove the other glove by pulling it along the palm of your hand, then pull it over your gloved hand.
2. Goggles and safety glasses
Protective goggles and visors protect the eyes against injuries caused by splinters, dusts and various types of liquids. They are used, among others, by lab technicians, and in the current epidemic times also every day by healthcare professionals who may have contact with coronavirus patients. Why? Because it can enter the body through the eyes, e.g. by rubbing the eye with your hand. In China, at the beginning of the epidemic, doctors reported cases of illness probably due to not using safety goggles. Masks only protect the nose and mouth, which is why, in particular, people working in hospitals and other medical facilities should wear protective glasses and goggles whenever possible. According to the recommendations, they should be worn after putting on gloves and masks, together with any protective suit.
3. Surgical masks
Disposable surgical masks are the most popular masks available on the market. On a daily basis, they are used by healthcare professionals, among others, in operating theatres and by people exposed - due to the nature of their work - to dusts and other pollutants. They are intended for protection against microorganisms (drops or particles) with a diameter greater than 100 μm. Type II masks with more than 98 percent BFE filtration are most commonly used. As mentioned earlier, these are disposable masks that should be disposed of after use. Covering only the nose and mouth do not provide 100% protection against any microorganisms, they should be used as part of the entire protective suit. An improperly used surgical mask can be a source of infection in itself, which is why it is so important to put it on, wear and remove it correctly. Before putting the mask on, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and when putting it on, do not touch the front of the mask, only straps or elastics, do not touch it with your hands when wearing it, remove it without touching the front, and wash your hands thoroughly after throwing away.
4. Reusable anti-virus masks
There are many types of reusable anti-virus masks on the market that can be autoclaved after use. These include FFP2 or FFP3 masks, whose determination indicates the degree of filtration. For example, for the FFP3 mask it is almost 99%. Masks with N95 and N99 filters are also available, which retain up to 95% or 99% of viruses, bacteria and dust, respectively. These masks are much more expensive than disposable surgical masks, and at present difficult to access. Remember to regularly change the filter in such a mask, and you should also know that after sterilization its barrier decreases.
5. Safety uniform
Until now, it was used by health care only in exceptional cases, now it even employs various security services that may come into contact with coronavirus. In combination with other personal protective equipment, it provides a high level of protection. During an epidemic, it is an extremely needed product, and sometimes unfortunately a scarce product. Overalls made of various fabrics, for example polyethylene laminate, are available on the market. In an epidemiological emergency, a 4B suit will be sufficient. It protects against dust particles, aerosol or secretions containing SARS-COV-2 virus. According to the protocol, it should be worn after putting on the mask and before putting on a second pair of disposable gloves.
Measures with a wide reach
Measures with a wide reach complement the basic personal protective equipment. They help in combating harmful pathogens, among others from usable surfaces, but also from everyday objects. These include liquids and disinfectants as well as autoclaves.
1. Liquids and disinfectants
Liquids and disinfectants containing at least 60% alcohol in their composition are the basic means of protection against coronavirus. These solutions destabilize the lipid membranes of viruses. Disinfection is a process that destroys the vegetative forms of microorganisms. Frequent disinfection of everyday items such as telephones, payment cards, as well as hands, if it is not possible to wash them with soap and water, is nowadays crucial. Pathogens may be on surfaces with which the sick person has been in contact. In many Polish cities, even bus stops and streets are disinfected. Depending on various factors, coronavirus can be an active threat for up to several days. In hospitals and other medical facilities, as recommended, walls and floors should be disinfected several times a day (in this case, with chlorine) and the air should be disinfected using plasma sterilizers or ultraviolet lamps.
Autoclave is a device used to sterilize mainly reusable instruments. It is sterilized under pressure steam - this is the only way to ensure full safety and minimize the risk of infection. Sterilization is the process of destroying all forms of microorganisms, including spores. On a daily basis, it is used in hospitals, medical surgeries and in all places where tissue continuity breaks or may occur, e.g. in beauty salons, tattoo parlours. In the era of pandemics, autoclaves are also used to sterilize reusable masks, bandages, dressings and other equipment. Workplaces also use them, including those that have switched to the production of masks (masks must be sterilized before use). A sterile object, i.e. one that has undergone the sterilization process, is completely safe for the human body and free from over 99% of harmful pathogens. Common items such as forks, knives, spoons and other small tableware items, scissors, nail clippers, metal files, keys and coins can be sterilized. For disposable personal protective equipment, such as masks, they must be sterilized prior to disposal.
Autoclave is one of the key measures to combat COVID-19 - an interview with Kamil Sikorski, Business Development Director at Enbio
Why is sterilization such an important process in the fight against coronavirus?
Autoclave sterilization involves the destruction of all forms of harmful microorganisms, including spores. The device that has undergone the sterilization process is free from over 99% of pathogens. Disinfection is a process that destroys only vegetative forms of microorganisms. In order for the disinfection and subsequent sterilization process in the autoclave to be carried out correctly, it is necessary to remember about the sterilization string, which should be properly organized. It has its application in places such as hospitals, medical and dental offices, beauty salons and tattoo parlours.
What’s for is the autoclave used in hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic?
In hospitals, they are used daily to sterilize reusable instruments, e.g. used during surgical operations. In times of pandemics, reusable and disposable masks are also sterilised before disposal. This situation requires extreme precautions, so everything should be sterilised - from bandages, dressings to the standard sterilization of diagnostic and medical tools.
Enbio has donated over 100 sterilizers to Polish, German, Italian and Spanish hospitals, and 10% of every purchase made from Enbio’s online store will be donated to selected hospitals. For ENBIO as an autoclave manufacturer, issues related to health and human life have always been a priority. We constantly educate our clients by making them aware of the importance of effectively combating threats, both those that await us during a pandemic, as well as during a routine visit to the dentist, cosmetician, tattoo artist and even hairdresser. We do this, among others, by conducting training related to sterilization. In the current situation, it is obvious that our mission is to support hospitals and offer them equipment, which is one of the basic tools to fight coronavirus.
Is it true that hand-sewn masks should be sterilized before use?
Yes, sterilizing hand-sewn masks before use is essential. That is why many large companies that have decided to switch the production line from their regular production to the production of protective equipment, including masks, are now looking for autoclaves to be able to sterilize them immediately. The masks must be sterile before use, i.e. free from any germs.
Why has the EU also harmonized standards for other protection measures?
This is for a simple reason. In the event of such a dramatic battle that the world is now fighting coronavirus, it was necessary to react quickly and create as simple and uniform guidelines as possible so that the protective equipment and devices produced are completely safe and can reach hospitals and the patients as soon as possible. Unification of standards will be reflected in shortening supplies to hospitals and will reduce their costs. It should be remembered that the most important is health and life of health care professionals and all those who are in need. This is not the time for complicated procedures that could significantly extend the process of providing the necessary protection measures today.
As a manufacturer of sterilization equipment, you had to comply with certain norms and rules all the time. What rules and why?
Enbio autoclaves have all necessary certificates and approvals. Moreover, they are medical autoclaves with sterilization processes of the highest grade B - they have CE certificate, approving them as medical devices. They meet 100% of sanitary requirements and guarantee full effectiveness and safety of sterilization. Enbio Technology is a company with 25 years of experience in the field of biotechnology. Enbio sterilization equipment is equipment that must meet different criteria in different countries. Maintaining the most important safety standards during its production is a priority. Every day, it guarantees sterility in hospitals, aesthetic medicine clinics, dental and cosmetic surgeries, and now in the age of pandemics it will find its application in every place where there may be an epidemiological threat.
Will the current situation affect safety standards in the future?
At this stage, it is difficult to determine how much reality will change. It is certain that special attention should be paid to maintaining good hygiene, protective measures and general preventive measures against various types of threats - both viral and bacterial. Public awareness in this area is also growing, and in the current situation we also learn about other similar threats. Many industries, e.g. the hotel industry, are beginning to adapt to functioning in the post-viral era. It is very likely that in countries where regulations in beauty salons and hairdressers were less restrictive, there will be many changes and a great emphasis will be placed on microbiological safety, compliance with hygiene rules, including the creation of sterilization strings, the most important element of which is autoclave.
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- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities (2008), https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/disinfection-methods/chemical.html