Don’t bring the virus home from work with you!
With the Covid-19 virus still present in our communities, albeit less than they were at the peak of the outbreak, there is still a chance that those treating the sick in healthcare facilities, GP clinics or elsewhere on the ‘front line’ of medical care, public health, sanitation and welfare might not only put themselves at risk but also their family, friends and loved ones by inadvertently bringing the virus back with them when they return home from work.
All such front-line staff have a great deal to contend with at the moment, and with enhanced risk of viral contagion and infection comes enhanced responsibilities and more rigorous infection control protocols at work. Quite rightly, their minds are focused on these protocols to protect themselves and the people in their care from cross-infection. However, they must also remain mindful not to put their families and friends at risk too, particularly those in the highest risk categories such as elderly parents, grandparents or family members that are shielding due to underlying health issues.
Fortunately, all healthcare professionals and clinical staff are already familiar with the aetiology and epidemiology of infectious diseases, especially hospital-acquired infections and how to avoid spreading them. Therefore, there are well known tried and tested protocols to ensure the risks of carrying pathogenic organisms home from the workplace are mitigated. However, now that the risks of cross-infection have spread well beyond the boundaries of healthcare facilities to a much broader environment, it is now imperative to share the methods successfully adopted by doctors, nurses and clinical technicians to avoid carrying diseases home with them to a much wider audience.
Change clothing and footwear prior to leaving the workplace
Before leaving work, it is recommended to change out of all outer workwear garments and footwear. All potentially contaminated clothing should be placed into a disposable bag or a laundry bag that can be washed with the clothes themselves. More recently, soluble laundry bags have been developed for just this purpose. Footwear that is worn only at work should be removed and left behind.
Perform hand-hygiene on exiting the workplace
After several months of living with Covid-19, everyone has become accustomed to proper handwashing and hand sanitising techniques, these hand-hygiene practices need to be followed diligently immediately upon exiting the workplace and returning home.
On arriving home, sanitise and disinfect everything brought from work
Immediately upon arriving home, remove items that have been in the workplace from pockets, handbags or backpacks and thoroughly sanitise them with an appropriate disinfectant solution and then wipe dry with a paper towel. Quickly dispose of all potentially contaminated wipes or paper towels into a sealed waste bag for hygienic disposal.
Thoroughly launder all work clothes and uniforms
Always avoid shaking out your soiled laundry within the home, instead deposit work clothes directly into the washing machine and wash them separately from any other laundry. A higher temperature setting should be used preferably over 60 degrees for over 30 minutes to ensure that all pathogenic microorganisms are safely destroyed by the heat. If possible, an appropriate amount of laundry bleach (sodium hypochlorite) should be added to the wash. On completion of the wash, dry on the hottest tumble drier setting. For obvious reasons, durable cotton-based work-wear fabrics should be chosen in order that they can regularly withstand this robust laundry regime.
Sanitise and disinfect all high-touch surfaces
Once the laundry has been put on, perform thorough hand-hygiene again and then proceed to also clean, sanitise and disinfect all high-touch surfaces you have come into contact with since returning home from work. This should include door handles, light switches, mobile phones, the washing machine controls, kitchen and bathroom fixtures and fittings etc. On completion of this task, perform hand-hygiene yet again!
Shower thoroughly using an antimicrobial bodywash
Finally, a well-deserved hot shower using an appropriate antimicrobial soap or body wash is essential to kill and safely wash away any pathogenic organisms that may have travelled home with you.