Knowledge to Have on Hand: Handling linen containing 2019-nCoV VIRUS, known as CORONAVIRUS

The coronavirus has been increasingly detected in Europe after China. The US experienced its first deaths and is predicted to have a large outbreak sometime in the coming month. This leads to the question of what preparations are necessary to prevent infections.  Our industry is particularly concerned with the protection of employees, in particular drivers and employees in the waste sorting, but also the certainty of sufficient textile disinfection.

What are the characteristics?

  • The virus can be transmitted from person to person by exposure to large respiratory drops (by sneezing!), By direct contact and by spreading in the air. The infection itself takes place in the respiratory tract.
  • The virus is extra dangerous because infected people only start showing symptoms of the disease after about two weeks. In the meantime, they spread the virus without being aware of it.
  • The life cycle of the Coronavirus outside a human host cell is very short: it is estimated to be less than 20 minutes. This makes the chance of infection via linen extremely small: the transport time of contaminated linen is usually more than 20 minutes.

An exception to the rule: linen that is contaminated with feces may remain infected for up to 24 hours. This statement is based on previous experiences with the SARS Corona virus.

What are the risks?

  • The risk of risk when transporting and washing linen is very small. The standard hygienic precautions are adequate.
  • The new virus is destroyed/deactivated in the washing process by:
    • Thermal disinfection – according to time/temperature rules;
    • Chemothermal disinfection – when applying disinfectant products approved by CTGB.

What to do with contaminated laundry?

  • With regard to the supply of contaminated laundry, the customer/care institution can or must follow its own protocols and supply them separately, marked and packaged separately.
  • If the foregoing does not happen, the care institution must, in any case, arrange for the separate delivery of linen/laundry contaminated with feces and used in an environment with persons infected by the COVID virus.
  • If washing is done at a low temperature, a disinfectant must be added to the washing process. Otherwise, a minimum temperature/time of 800 by 10 minutes or 700 by 25 minutes is applied.

What to do about staff protection?

  • All personnel must carefully observe the rules on good (hand) hygiene
    • Wash your hands regularly
    • Cough and sneeze in the inside of your elbow
    • Use paper tissues
  • Drivers must wear gloves when collecting laundry.
  • Personnel in the sorting (dirty laundry) must wear gloves and a mouth mask (type FFP3)

In the event that contaminated laundry is supplied separately, in separate and marked bags, additional measures are recommended like:

  • Personnel should wear protective clothing if there is a risk of direct contact with biological agents (for example in the event of splashing). Replace and launder protective clothing in the event of contamination (see above).

What to do with sick staff?

  • Employees who have a fever in combination with respiratory complaints (cough, shortness of breath) must contact the doctor and must stay at home;
  • Check whether local legislation and guidelines require reporting sick employees to local authorities/health care institutes. If so, report!
  • GP and the authorities/health care institutes can determine whether further investigation is required.

Protocols hospitals / care institutions

Hospitals/care institutions naturally have their own responsibilities with regard to protocols/guidelines regarding the use of linen, work clothing, and other textiles.

The advice is to coordinate well with the individual hospital/care institution, etc., in order to identify and resolve any points for attention.