How to Handle CONTAMINATED LINENS
Q: What kind of regular and multidrug-resistant pathogens do contaminated healthcare linens tend to harbor?
A: Healthcare linens are known to harbor a number of microorganisms. Most notably, there is an increased concern that methicillinresistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) can survive for days on linens. There is further concern that these contaminated linens then become a potential source of cross-contamination.
Q: Why are contaminated healthcare linens a perfect breeding ground for bacteria?
A: The environment in which linens are used in healthcare is often ideal for the proliferation and spread of bacteria and viruses. Often the patient, in a weakened or compromised state, is lying on a sheet. That sheet under the patients body is warm, dark, and sometimes damp. Most would agree that those conditions are considered ideal for bacteria and viruses to thrive.
Q: Why should contaminated healthcare linens be handled carefully so as not to create airborne dispersal of pathogens and facilitate cross-contamination?
A: There is now a common understanding that linens, once in use, are usually contaminated and could be harboring microorganisms such as MRSA and VRE. Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautions that healthcare professionals should handle contaminated textiles and fabrics with a minimum agitation to avoid contamination of air, surfaces, and persons. Even one of the leading nursing textbooks, Fundamentals of Nursing, states, Soiled linen is never shaken in the air because shaking can disseminate secretions and excretions and the micro organisms they contain. This text also states, ...linens that have been soiled with excretions and secretions harbor microorganisms ... can be transmitted to others.
Q: What is the proper way to remove contaminated healthcare linens from the patient room?
A: According to Fundamentals of Nursing, when handling linens:
1. You should always wash your hands after handling a patients bed linens.
2. You should hold soiled linen away from your uniform.
3. Soiled linen is never shaken in the air because shaking can disseminate the micro-organisms they contain.
4. Linen from one patients bed is never (even momentarily) placed on another patients bed.
5. Soiled linens should be placed directly into a portable linen hamper or tucked into a pillowcase and the end of the bed before it is gathered up for disposal in the linen hamper or linen chute.
Q: How is new technology advancing the fight against infectious agents that thrive in contaminated healthcare linens?
A: In the 1990s, a new class of chemicals was patented for use as a chlorine-binding biocide. These chemicals are capable of permanently binding cellulose, such as cotton and rayon, while acting as chlorine reservoirs reversibly binding powerful chlorine molecules onto the surface of the cellulose material.
Healthcare laundry protocols have long relied on chlorine-based sanitizers to kill bacteria in bed linens and other fabrics. While chlorine is known as one of the best antimicrobial agents in the world, its power has been limited because it evaporates from untreated fabric soon after laundering. But with this new patented technology in HaloShield® linens, the chlorine keeps killing bacteria right up until the next laundering.
In 2003, two U.S. companies, Medline Industries, Inc. and Vanson HaloSource, teamed up to develop HaloShield healthcare fabrics, which are grafted with the patented antimicrobial technology. HaloShield harnesses the antimicrobial properties of chlorine-based sanitizers used during a regular wash cycle to kill infection- and odor-causing bacteria. The coating is actually rechargeable, meaning the antimicrobial properties of the chlorine are renewed each time the sheet is laundered in an EPA-registered chlorine-based sanitizer. The HaloShield treatment maintains its ability to bind chlorine to the product throughout its life cycle.