How to Handle CONTAMINATED LINENS

August 1, 2005

How to Handle CONTAMINATED LINENS

Q: Whatkind of regular and multidrug-resistant pathogens do contaminated healthcarelinens tend to harbor?

A: Healthcare linens are known to harbora number of microorganisms. Most notably, there is an increased concern thatmethicillinresistant 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 potentialsource of cross-contamination.

Q: Why are contaminated healthcarelinens a perfect breeding ground for bacteria?

A: The environment in which linens areused in healthcare is often ideal for the proliferation and spread of bacteriaand viruses. Often the patient, in a weakened or compromised state, is lying ona sheet. That sheet under the patients body is warm, dark, and sometimesdamp. Most would agree that those conditions are considered idealfor bacteria and viruses to thrive.

Q: Why should contaminated healthcarelinens be handled carefully so as not to create airborne dispersal of pathogensand facilitate cross-contamination?

A: There is now a common understandingthat linens, once in use, are usually contaminated and could be harboringmicroorganisms such as MRSA and VRE. Further, the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention (CDC) cautions that healthcare professionals should handlecontaminated textiles and fabrics with a minimum agitation to avoidcontamination of air, surfaces, and persons. Even one of the leading nursingtextbooks, Fundamentals of Nursing,states, Soiled linen is never shaken in the air because shaking candisseminate secretions and excretions and the micro organisms they contain.This text also states, ...linens that have been soiled with excretions andsecretions harbor microorganisms ... can be transmitted to others.

Q: What is the proper way to removecontaminated healthcare linens from the patient room?

A: According to Fundamentalsof Nursing, when handling linens:

1. You should always wash your hands after handling a patientsbed linens.

2. You should hold soiled linen away from your uniform.

3. Soiled linen is never shaken in the air because shaking candisseminate 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 portablelinen hamper or tucked into a pillowcase and the end of the bed before it isgathered up for disposal in the linen hamper or linen chute.

Q: How is new technology advancing thefight against infectious agents that thrive in contaminated healthcare linens?

A: In the 1990s, a new class of chemicalswas patented for use as a chlorine-binding biocide. These chemicals are capableof permanently binding cellulose, such as cotton and rayon, while acting aschlorine reservoirs reversibly binding powerful chlorine molecules onto thesurface of the cellulose material.

Healthcare laundry protocols have long relied onchlorine-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 soonafter 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. andVanson HaloSource, teamed up to develop HaloShield healthcare fabrics, which aregrafted with the patented antimicrobial technology. HaloShield harnesses theantimicrobial properties of chlorine-based sanitizers used during a regular washcycle to kill infection- and odor-causing bacteria. The coating is actuallyrechargeable, meaning the antimicrobial properties of the chlorine are renewedeach time the sheet is laundered in an EPA-registered chlorine-based sanitizer.The HaloShield treatment maintains its ability to bind chlorine to the productthroughout its life cycle.

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