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Infection control


Biorisk management and preparing for outbreaks


Dianna Steinbach, vice-president of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, and Dr. Stefan Wagener, scientific advisor for the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, explain how care homes can improve their infection control strategy


The Covid-19 outbreak has shone a light on the need for proper outbreak plans within care environments. Restrictions on visitors, isolating residents who may have Covid-19, and limiting internal interactions are what has been most prominently discussed.


However, a topic that has received less focus, but is equally as important, is proper cleaning and disinfecting to reduce risk not only to residents but also employees and others. Furthermore, once facilities reopen to visitors, there will be a need for heightened cleaning protocols to minimize the spread of the virus, which could threaten this at-risk population.


Every care facility will have a common infection prevention protocol but they are meant to reduce the risk of a resident catching something. That can leave gaps in protocols that can put employees at risk, as seen by the spikes in infection rates among health care workers in many countries during the pandemic. A new aspect of infectious disease- related safety for cleaning and disinfection named biorisk management can help care home managers strengthen their protocols and minimizing risk that occupants, or those entering from outside, will spread an infectious disease like Covid-19.


What is biorisk management? In simple terms, biorisk management is a comprehensive approach dealing with the risks associated with ‘biological materials’, e.g. infectious diseases. Originating in the laboratory setting, biorisk management initially looked at biosafety, biosecurity and bioethics. Now it also applies best practices from the health care setting, along with general infectious disease prevention strategies and risk assessments to develop proper, effective, and safe cleaning and disinfection processes and


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Dr. Stefan Wagener, scientific advisor for the Global Biorisk Advisory Council


procedures for infectious agents. Specifically, within the care environment, that approach will not only cover residents, but also include staff, visitors, and others.


In recent years, during the SARS, MERS and Ebola outbreaks, infection prevention professionals in locations that treated infected patients, worked hand-in-hand with biosafety professionals from the laboratory


environment to develop more comprehensive protocols for patient care and health care worker protection. The University of Nebraska Medical Center Biocontainment Unit, which provided care for Ebola patients in 2014, found cross-training infection control and biosafety professionals enhanced the safety and reduced risk beyond typical practices.


Dianna Steinbach, vice-president of ISSA


Among the environmental cleaning tasks, the collaborating professionals created more robust protocols for manual disinfecting, cleaning intervals and quality assurance. Areas that were important were that of proper cleaning and disinfecting techniques, proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and proper waste disposal.


An article published in vol 21 of Applied Biosafety, the journal of the American Biological Safety Association, following the 2014 Ebola outbreak stated: “Since such global infectious disease threats will inevitability occur into the future, now is the time to gain a better understanding of how these professions can work together, by identifying common competencies and highlighting differences. The codification of these similarities and differences can provide a roadmap to new professional development training initiatives for the enhancement of the biosafety profession.”1


Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) executive director Patricia Olinger founded her organization to do just that. GBAC started with a group of biosafety colleagues who created a variety of special pandemic and forensic protocols, similar to what Olinger created in her prior role as executive director of the Environmental, Health and Safety Office at Emory University in the USA. GBAC, now a division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, offers training and certification in areas of biorisk management, decontamination


www.thecarehomeenvironment.com • July 2020


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