Clean and Clear

As the care sector sets up for full recovery, Neil Emery, Commercial Director at Clover Christeyns, looks at the key issues surrounding infection control in today’s care homes and how to deal efficiently with pathogens.

Infection control is not a new area of concern for care homes, far from it. It is the basis on which they are able to operate a safe, functioning and welcoming facility to cater to the needs of residents whilst providing a protected environment for staff and visitors.

Clover Christeyns has been supporting care homes for many years via our trusted partners, using expertise in application and practical training to pass on our wealth of experience in chemical hygiene and disinfection. As the care industry continues to cope with the pandemic and the aſtermath of its implications across all communities, it’s crucial that infection control measures are consistently adhered to in all aspects of care home operation, every day.

Firstly, let’s take a closer look at the causes of infection. An infection occurs when another organism enters the body, these organisms exist as viruses and bacteria.

A virus is a microscopic parasite which can infect living organisms and cause disease. It can make copies of itself inside another organism's cells. Viruses infect all types of life forms from animals and plants to microorganisms.

Generally, viruses are much smaller than bacteria but that doesn't make them any less dangerous. Because viruses are not strictly alive, they can exist on surfaces for many weeks and this makes them difficult to control.

Within the virus class there are two types; non-enveloped and enveloped. Non-enveloped viruses such as norovirus, are composed of capsid protein and nucleic acid (DNA or RNA), termed the nucleocapsid, which make up the infectious unit, or virion, whereas enveloped viruses are composed of an envelope along with the nucleocapsid.

A viral envelope is the outermost layer of many types of viruses such as coronavirus or influenza, it protects the genetic material as it travels between host cells.

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The envelopes are typically derived from portions of the host cell membranes but include some viral glycoproteins. It is these glycoproteins on the surface of the envelope that identify and bind to receptor sites on the host's membrane, this fusing then leads to infection.

A non-enveloped virus can survive under harsh conditions, as they need to be made of sterner stuff, whereas enveloped viruses can lose infectivity if their envelope is impaired and they become more sensitive to environmental conditions.

Bacteria on the other hand are single celled microbes. The main difference between viruses and bacteria is that bacteria are free- living cells that can live inside or outside a body, while viruses are a non-living collection of molecules that need a host to survive.

Spores can be found in some but not all bacteria. Spores are tough to eradicate as they contain a mechanism that allows them to survive in a dormant state until conditions are right to grow. Clostridium difficile, for example, prevalent in care homes, is a spore-forming bacterium and as such is difficult to combat using traditional disinfectants.

Cases of infection caused by the bacteria Methylcillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) are also a concern in the care sector. MRSA infection can occur in any communal establishment and can have potentially disastrous consequences to health.

So how do we effectively control viruses and bacteria in the care home environment?

Regardless of industry, sector or type of facility the processes of cleaning and disinfection are a vital method for minimising the risks from illness by ensuring that surfaces are free from contaminants, bacteria or viruses.

Cleaning can be a manual or automated process but typically involves the use of a detergent, this prevents the bacteria and virus parasites from being shielded.

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