Nursing home and aged care facility staff are preparing for perhaps their busiest time of the year. This is because the winter and early spring months are renowned for being the peak season for gastro-enteritis outbreaks.

Preventing Gastro-enteritis from entering a facility is almost impossible. Instead what is important is ensuring that efficient control measures are put in place immediately once a possible outbreak has been detected.

During a potential Gastro outbreak there is no such thing as a precaution too extreme. This especially applies to the healthcare and age care industries as the sick and elderly population are more vulnerability to infection.

Caused by small round structures viruses (SRSVs) Gastro-enteritis can quickly spread via the oral/faecal route, especially in confined communities such as nursing homes. In fact by the time an outbreak is detected attack rates may already be in excess of 50%.

Although the symptoms of Gastro are generally short lived it’s important to isolate the infected for at least 48 hours after symptoms have ceased. In times of need losing valuable infected staff members for a minimum of four days could be an issue.

During an outbreak potentially infected areas should be cleaned twice daily and more so for high contact items such as doors handles. Murray McDonald the Director of Duplex Cleaning Machines says “superheated dry steam such as the +130°C steam produced by Tecnovap steamers is the most efficient means for regular disinfection and could be the cleaning solution during staffing shortages”.

Murray also states that “steam is renowned worldwide as the most effective means of killing viral and bacterial organisms”. This is not just limited to Gastro outbreaks either as heat under pressure (steam) has also proven effective in destroying VRE, Salmonella, MRSA, E-Coli and Listeria.

In Australia hypochlorite is generally recommended for disinfecting, although a report by The Hospital Infection Society in the UK suggests “there is no direct evidence to support the use of particular agents for environmental disinfection as there is no viral cultural system available for SRSVs. The related feline calicivirus is inactivated by heat at 60°C and by hypochlorite at 1000 ppm, but not by ethanol”. Therefore steam cleaning products like those of Tecnovap Australia could also be considered for use in all levels of disinfection.

At present almost every gastro outbreak manual worldwide mentions that steam above 60°C should be utilised to disinfect carpets, drapes, mattresses and soft furnishings during a potential outbreak.

Despite this so many facilities simply do not posses the required steam cleaning equipment. This is of concern as the same report by The Hospital Infection Society found evidence that ‘SRSVs have been known to remain viable in carpets for at least 12 days and are not removed by vacuuming’.

Given the evidence the only problem with steam is that too great of an emphasis placed on the initial purchasing cost of the equipment. However what is not realised is that steam is more efficient than traditional chemical disinfectants as it’s only a one step process.

Murray McDonald of Duplex Cleaning Machines mentions “It still amazes me how super heated dry steam has been around for so many years but so many facilities continually ignore the facts. Not only is steam a safer cleaning method but it’s also faster.”

While it’s important to have an outbreak contingency plan, facilities need to take proactive measures to not only meet industry standards but they must aim to exceed them through continuous improvement.

Therefore if steam cleaning can help achieve ultimate hygiene and increase efficiency in containing outbreaks; surely utilising steam should be considered a necessity for all aged care facilities.

Products of Duplex Cleaning Machines provide benefits of steam cleaning.