Hygiene and disinfection, habits that must remain with or without a pandemic

At this point, talking about the changes the pandemic has brought sounds trite. From the move to the digital world to changes in consumer habits, few things exist under the sun that have not been touched by Covid-19. However, one of the areas that has undergone the most changes has been that of cleaning and disinfecting objects, surfaces and environments where we live.

And it is that, if we think before the pandemic, many of our disinfection habits were not as important as they are now. From forgetting to wash their hands to limiting themselves to disinfecting on specific occasions, the pandemic has also meant a leap towards better cleaning and disinfection habits. This context has created a much more robust hygiene awareness, but with the future challenge of making this change survive the pandemic. 

Not everything is Covid-19

Although the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus has brought to the fore the importance of good hygiene habits, the truth is that Covid-19 is far from being the only actor. The flu or influenza, so common in the country's rainy months, is responsible for between 290.000 and 615.00 deaths annually, according to figures from the World Health Organization. 

In the same way, a reality in hospitals and clinics is having to deal with nosocomial diseases, that is, infections that are acquired after a visit to the hospital. “Disinfection is not really a current issue. It is a topic from many years ago. On the subject of [infections] there are bacteria that are pathogenic, as now for example the case of nosocomial diseases in hospitals, which are highly resistant to all disinfectants and even antibiotics. This is years ", explains the bacteriologist Luz Stella Villalba, director of the Laboratory of Health and Environmental Control SCA.

Effective disinfection and cleaning strategies are one of the most important tools to combat this type of disease. This not only applies to hospitals, but also to all of us, with or without a pandemic. In turn, these strategies can help reduce not only mortality numbers, but also the social and economic consequences. 

Indeed, a modest investment in an effective cleaning regimen provides a valuable return in terms of improved human health, higher quality of the indoor environment, reduced economic losses and increased productivity.

Appointment: ISSA

It is not uncommon to hear that many people, just as they have not been infected with Covid-19, have not had flu infections either. In fact, flu cases recorded their lowest numbers between 2020 and 2021, thanks in large part to the new disinfection habits that the pandemic has brought. Good hygiene habits are essential, no matter what type of bacteria we seek to eradicate.    

A Colombian initiative

In this context of the pandemic, an interdisciplinary group from different areas of knowledge came together to create a better option for hygiene. Sanidad y Control Ambiental SCA was born precisely at a time when society needs more and better solutions to be able to prevent the spread not only of Covid-19, but also of other types of pathogens that have been living among us for decades.

"Our work allows us to be allies in a judicious and professional disinfection when guaranteeing healthy spaces in the framework not only of this pandemic that we are experiencing, but also other agents that are microbial and pathogenic "says Villalba. He also emphasizes that a large part of the company's vision is to raise awareness about effective disinfection, especially seeing how the health crisis has led to the proliferation of poor disinfection practices.

This Colombian venture has focused on finding an important intersection between digitization and disinfection. Using their phones or a web application on the computer, users are able to remotely control the devices that are used for disinfecting. This further reduces the risk of coming into contact with dangerous microorganisms.   

An important point is that SCA has endeavored to create not only devices that can cover everything from buses to libraries, but also all the integration in the cloud and the chemicals that are used for disinfection. In the same way, cleaning cycles and the recording of data in the environment, such as humidity, temperature and particulate matter, can be programmed.  

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How to best disinfect?

Even with the business vision, one of SCA's vital missions is to be able to help not only overcome this pandemic, but also support the economic reactivation and go far beyond the mere fight against Covid-19. This begins, however, with raising awareness on the issue of disinfection, as not all methods are the same and in many cases you may be falling into bad practices. 

According to Villalba, the excessive use of fogging - the mixture of liquid and gas at high pressure for airborne transmission - or hot vapors has become a common practice, but in reality they cannot be applied to everything. In many cases, fogging methods are not being effective or active disinfecting agents are being neutralized. 

“Being very objective and positive in the context of what is happening, it has allowed us to see that we are very vulnerable. Indeed, the issue of cleaning and disinfection must be done, technically and responsibly ”.

Luz Stella Villalba, director of the SCA Environmental Control and Health Laboratory.

First of all, it is important to know that all disinfection agents have effective times. That is, they must remain on a surface for a specified time before it can be considered truly sterile. This time varies from 30 seconds to a few minutes depending on the disinfectant. For this reason it is important to read the instructions for use of the products we use. 

In addition to this, it is also important to know what type of disinfectants are used. In many cases, a poor choice can cause skin irritations and the elimination of beneficial bacteria that inhabit it. On the other hand, the improper use of these agents may be generating resistance in microorganisms.

“If we start to use disinfectant agents indiscriminately that do not have effective disinfection times tested in the laboratory, then we are also generating microorganisms that will be resistant over time to all disinfectants. You have to be very judicious in that sense ", explains Luz Stella Villalba, from Health and Environmental Control. 

These guidelines are as valid today as they will be in the future. Cleaning and disinfection recommendations have come to become one of the protocols that should be as relevant later as it is now in the midst of a pandemic. "What we want is to be allies in disinfection but not only here at this time, but also in the long term because the virus is here to stay."  

Image: Tetiana SHYSHKINA en Unsplash

Sebastian Romero Torres
Sebastian Romero Torres
Philosopher by training and inveterate geek. Lover of video games, technology, music and space.

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