The time for senior care facilities to consider new methods of disinfection is here. Actually, it has been here for nearly three years due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 and its variants. As with many other viruses, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has mutated to create altered versions of itself. In order to successfully mutate, a virus has to connect to host cells, reproduce inside, and then escape the host (typically through the respiratory system). The virus also needs to adapt to different kinds of cells (such as those in the lungs or the heart) and survive in the air in those tiny droplets projected by breathing or coughing. In this way, it spreads from person to person and can continue to mutate under the right circumstances.
Evolution of a Virus
Labeled as Variants of Concern (VOC), many of these mutated COVID-19 viruses have increased transmissibility, a higher severity, and show resistance to antibodies in those who’ve been vaccinated or who have already contracted and recovered from the illness. Unfortunately, one of the most recent variants being studied by scientists, referred to as Omicron BA.2, is proving to be highly infectious and is spreading rapidly. This means that the pandemic is far from over.
The number of variants seems to grow weekly, and since many countries have loosened their travel restrictions, these viruses are able to continue spreading, finding appealing hosts, and mutating even further. The CDC tracks variants as they are identified and provides a list of new mutations and their danger to public health.
Recommendations from the CDC and other sources encourage everyone to get the recommended vaccinations and boosters for stronger protection against the virus. They also recommend wearing a well-fitting mask in public places if you are feeling sick, or if you are around anyone who is sick. If you do feel ill, make sure that you’re tested as quickly as possible. If you are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or if you have been exposed to COVID-19, getting tested can help you limit your contact with others before spreading the virus to them.
There are additional steps that can be taken to help protect others. It didn’t take long to figure out that seniors were the highest percentage of victims of the COVID-19 outbreak. About 81% of deaths from the disease have been in people aged 65 and older. Risks are even higher for older people when they have additional health conditions such as COPD, moderate to severe asthma, pulmonary hypertension, or conditions that create a weakened immune system such as cancer or severe anemia.
Protecting our elderly population has moved to the forefront of the COVID-19 conversation. Increased awareness of the vulnerability of our senior care facilities has caused many facilities to take drastic action to protect their residents. Many facilities shut their doors and denied any outside visitors admission. They canceled outings and required all staff to be masked and gloved when interacting with residents. Facilities also turned to heavy use of chemical cleaners and disinfectants throughout their buildings.
Unfortunately, many older residents suffered from upper respiratory ailments, including asthma and sinusitis, which make older people more sensitive to chemical smells. Sensitive skin can also react badly to chemicals if accidental exposure occurs. The need for care center staff to serve as both caregivers and housekeepers leaves employees scurrying to meet both sets of needs for their elderly charges and opens the possibility of ineffective cleaning and potential injury to residents.
Safe, Autonomous Options
Amidst these concerns, care centers truly want to provide a safe and comfortable environment for their residents. Fortunately, a disinfection solution exists that ensures the safety of residents and staff without the risks posed by harsh chemicals. UV disinfection has been in use for more than 100 years and has proven to be a safe and effective addition to disinfection protocols.
In 1903, Dr. Niels Ryberg Finsen used UV-C light to treat diseases; specifically, lupus vulgaris. As a result of his findings and success, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine that year. In 1909, UV-C irradiation helped with water purification in France. In 1914, a town in Tennessee became the first to use UV-C water treatment in the U.S.
By the 1930s, doctors and clinics used UV-C light to treat patients in tuberculosis clinics. In 1956, a Johns Hopkins researcher and expert on lung physiology named Richard L. Riley and his mentor, William F. Wells theorized that tuberculosis spread not only through human-to-human contact but also through airborne transmission. Utilizing air-tight chambers connected to a tuberculosis ward at the Baltimore VA hospital, they created two test chambers. In one chamber, they exposed 150 guinea pigs to infected air from the TB ward. A second test group of 150 guinea pigs received the same exposure, but the air ducts connected to their chamber were irradiated with UV-C lamps.
The test was conducted over four years and provided significant results. In the first group, an average of three guinea pigs per month contracted TB, while none of the animals in the second group became infected. Though this particular experiment was developed to prove airborne transmission, it also provided efficacy for UV-C disinfection practices. These disinfection qualities of UV-C irradiation are the power source behind R-Zero’s UV disinfection devices.
How R-Zero UV-C Disinfection Benefits Senior Care Facilities
Upper room UV germicidal irradiation (UVGI) has long been used to aid ventilation as well as disinfection in a variety of indoor environments. A device like R-Zero’s Beam mounts near the ceiling where the UV light creates a disinfection zone. As air follows a regular flow through the room due to HVAC, fans, or open windows, the airborne particles move into the disinfection zone. The UVGI inactivates the DNA and RNA in the cell nuclei which renders the organism unable to replicate.
Upper room UVGI is best suited to areas indoors that represent higher risk such as locations with a higher concentration of people—hospital or doctor’s office waiting rooms, school nurse offices, or public clinics. Areas that also tend to be crowded, such as lobbies, shelters, or public venues where lines form, also pose a higher risk of encountering harmful microorganisms. Dining rooms, bathrooms, reception areas, or staff break rooms can also be a greater risk because of the concentration of people. Because of its placement near the ceiling, the UV-C light minimizes possible exposure to people or animals, so it can operate safely during times of human occupancy. This means the device can easily incorporate into daily routines.
When included with well-developed cleaning and disinfection protocols, Upper-Room UVGI provides additional assurances that airborne particles will be significantly reduced in both number and threat.
Contact us today to learn more about UV-C disinfection and learn how we can customize a plan for your center.
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