Fomite contamination is a major route of pathogen and pathogenic bacterial transmission between humans and a major concern for housekeeping and custodial staff.
The Role of Fomites in the Transmission of Pathogenic Bacteria and Pathogens
Fomites--commonly touched inanimate objects--are primary vehicles for the transmission of viral and bacterial infection.
Fomites are contaminated in several ways, including:
- Being touched by people who have not washed their hands.
- Toilet plumes.
- Droplets from people coughing and sneezing, and even;
- Air-blown hand dryers.
According to VeryWell Health;
There are many ways that fomites can end up on surfaces where they will pose a risk to others.
Sneezing and coughing can disperse pathogens directly onto surfaces.
Flushing a toilet may aerosolize them and lead to their presence on other surfaces.
Even hand driers can spread bacteria around a room. However, the most important way that surfaces get infected is from hands.
People who don't wash their hands after sneezing or coughing.
People who don't wash their hands after going to the bathroom.
People who don't wash their hands after touching other, potentially contaminated surfaces.
These can all lead to fomite transmission to surfaces and then to others.
Microbial-types found on fomites range widely but routinely host pathogenic bacteria, such as:
- E. coli.
- Klebsiella, and;
According to a recent study conducted at Gombe State University in Nigeria that examined door handles throughout the complex;
A total of one hundred and fifteen (115) colonies were isolated in this study based on cultural, morphological and biochemical characteristics.
Frequency distribution of the isolates showed that Staphylococcus aureus were 26(22.0%), Staphylococcus epidermidis 14(12.6%), Escherichia coli 21(18%), Klebsiella spp. 15(13%), Proteus mirabilis 15(13%) and Salmonelle spp. 13(11%), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa 11(9.6%).
The level of contamination varies depending on the traffic exposure and the environment.
Additional studies have found viable influenza strains resident on fomites that could easily be transmitted to facility occupants.
Uncertainty analysis found that despite the relatively fast inactivation of influenza virus on hands and surfaces, contact transmission remains a viable transmission route, in part due to the vast volumetric majority (99.99%) of cough excretions being so large that they settle from the air rapidly.
Intervention Methods to Address Fomite Contamination
Intervention methods involving:
- Handwashing campaigns.
- Targeted disinfection services, and;
- Increased cleaning frequencies;
Have been shown in clinical studies to reduce the detectable levels of pathogenic bacteria and viral pathogens on fomites in public facilities, thereby reducing the transmission of illness and infection.
Understanding the types of germs and bacteria your facility is combatting will help your organization decide which type of disinfectant and cleaning products are appropriate for use.
In many cases, hospital-grade disinfectants and commercial-grade cleaning products are recommended for use by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists several less toxic products that make claims against common pathogens and pathogenic bacteria.
It is critical to observe these products' dwell time in respect to the virus or bacteria being combatted.
Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that viral re-contamination can occur almost immediately after disinfection if a person with contaminated hands touches it or if an infected person coughs or sneezes on it.
Many facilities have turned to day porter services specifically designed to wipe down commonly touched surfaces after occupant use to address this.
One significant drawback to this approach is the potential, and likely unnecessary, overuse of hazardous disinfectant products.
Realizing this, many facilities managers and house cleaning teams have reverted to increased cleaning frequencies with soap-based detergents and microfiber application tools to remove, and sometimes kill, many of the most common germs and bacteria routinely found on the facility fomites.
By all accounts, fomite contamination and its function as a vehicle for pathogenic bacteria and pathogen transmission are a major route of transmission for disease and infection.
The issue can be safely addressed through a combination of increased cleaning frequencies, handwashing campaigns, and targeted disinfection protocols completed by trained personnel.
Outsourcing your facility's cleaning requirements is a proven method for cost-effectively onboarding valuable services without the challenges faced by managing in-house teams.
If you would like more information regarding the effectiveness of high-performance infection prevention and control measures, or if you would like to schedule a free, no-obligation onsite assessment of your facility's custodial needs, contact us today for a free quote!
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