How to Handle CONTAMINATED LINENS

August 1, 2005

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.