By Margaret Kamba
There have been concerns raised about availing protective clothing for the frontline essential workers during this Corona Virus COVID19 pandemic in order to reduce the risk of transmission and deaths. The provision of face masks, gloves and the personal protective equipment PPEs has resulted in the mass production of these materials and the importation of such.
The virus is real and has proven beyond reasonable doubt that any slight mistake, an entire generation can be wiped off the face of the earth. Abroad, countries are struggling to handle the cases and despite the existence of great medical expertise and equipment, the deaths and infections increase daily.
What is exacerbating the problem is that this virus cannot be seen unless it is tested or exhibits some kind of symptoms and without the protective apparel, it is easy to spread it. Regardless the weather conditions or how uncomfortable it makes you feel, the protective clothing may actually save your life.
The virus is believed to have a fat layer which easily sticks on surfaces. The one to two metre social distancing is recommended because experts say this allows for the particles to drop before reaching the next person however another school of thought says the particles hang in the air for a certain period causing risk to the next person.
The recommendations to use any kind of soap and wash hands is believed to have the capacity to remove the fatty layer and the running water drops the virus to the ground.
Sunlight is also believed to play a huge role in killing the virus. Health experts recommend that after washing contaminated clothes, hanging them to dry in sunlight does the trick.
Elbow and peddle taps are also one way of avoiding spreading the virus in toilets, offices and many other places.
Proper training of personnel using medical equipment such as thermometers is necessary to avoid wrong readings. Different thermometers come with different manuals with some requiring an up to 600m reading while others have 0,5cm reading from the person.
At this time we require to look closely at this protective clothing, its efficiency and subsequent disposal and whatever else that is related to it so that its misuse does not add fuel to the fire.
The mask protection efficiency for instance differs depending on the type of mask. The N95 mask’s efficiency to virus, bacteria, dust and pollen is as follows: 95 percent and 100 percent for the rest. The surgical mask has 95 percent for the virus, 80 percent for the rest. The FFP1 mask works just as the surgical mask. The active carbon mask’s efficiency is 10 percent for the virus, and 50 percent for the rest. The cloth mask works 5 percent for the virus and 50 percent for the rest and the sponge mask is not at all efficient on the virus and has a 5 percent efficiency on the rest.
The proper use of gloves is another issue with concerns ranging from the fact that the person wearing gloves protects self and spreads the disease to others if they touch a contaminated surface. Other concerns raised are on how long the gloves should be worn.
The sanitizer is another way to keep people safe but this is if it comes with the World Health Organisations WHO guidelines on it. The recommended sanitizer requires at least 60 percent alcohol content. It is unfortunate that fly by night business people are currently producing sanitizers putting lower alcohol content which is the critical ingredient in that recipe.
Disposal of gloves and face masks has been an issue and will be a cause for concern if not properly handled. This medical waste is a special type of waste which should not be mixed with domestic waste. Colour coding helps identify medical waste.
The colour-coded bags show that black is for domestic waste such as papers, kaylites, drink bottles and so on, red bags for infectious materials such as bandages soiled with blood, dressing materials and so on and the yellow is for highly infectious materials which are used when there is an outbreak of diseases.
The best way to handle medical waste is incineration and you find that the cost of investment in this type of equipment might be high at the beginning but it is far less than the cost borne from the effects of the waste if not handled properly.
Parirenyatwa Hospital has an incinerator which was installed in 1972 and has been handling 85 percent domestic waste and 15 percent clinical or infectious waste although with a capacity of handling 500kg per day.
Some waste is considered multi-hazardous, such as tissue samples preserved in formalin.
The Healthcare Environmental Resource Centre states that disposing of medical waste presents several unique problems, among which are the risk of infection, the harbouring of particularly dangerous or communicable infectious agents and the delivery of infectious agents directly into the bloodstream, among others.
It recommends that medical waste be treated before disposal to reduce the risk of disease outbreaks.
Latest systems of dealing with medical waste include steam autoclaves, microwave systems, dry heat and hot air systems, plasma arc and use of chemical agents such as chlorine compounds (including hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide), ozone, alkali and other disinfectants such as peracetic acid and glutaraldehyde, typically used for small batches.
It is necessary that during this pandemic, people exercise extreme caution so that the country wins the battle against COVID19. Health recommendations have been to stay home and be safe, to practice proper personal hygiene and these must be adhered to.