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25-03-2021 | Oncology | News | Article

Strict infection protocols in hospitals minimize COVID-19 surface contamination

Hannah Kitt

medwireNews: Researchers report “negligible detection” of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in environmental samples taken from high-touch areas of a US tertiary cancer center following strict infection control protocols.

“The potential risks of nosocomial infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) have deterred patients with cancer from seeking timely care despite consensus guidelines,” explain the researchers in Cancer.

But the current findings “are reassuring and should reduce concerns for patients and health care providers about infection from environmental surfaces in outpatient and inpatient oncology spaces when strict mitigation strategies against SARS-CoV-2 transmission are instituted,” say Andrew Evens (Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, New Brunswick, USA) and study co-authors.

Trained healthcare personnel took 204 environmental samples from public and staff areas and medical equipment in two outpatient hematology/oncology clinics and two inpatient clinics, namely a leukemia and lymphoma chimeric antigen receptor T-cell unit and an active COVID-19 unit. Samples were collected after patient or staff use but before any scheduled cleaning and disinfection services.

Tested surfaces ranged from door handles and elevator buttons to computer equipment and vital signs monitors, and included surfaces in outpatient infusion centers where patients with recent COVID-19 infection were being treated.

The rate of positive COVID-19 infection was 0.5% across all surfaces tested between June 17 and 29, 2020, with only one sample testing positive for COVID-19 by polymerase chain reaction.

Notably, this was one of 36 samples taken from the inpatient unit for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases and was from the floor of a room housing an older patient who had COVID-19 pneumonia and multiple comorbidities.

This finding “reinforces the importance of physical separation of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2,” say Evens et al, who “speculate that the floor may have contained fomites composed of viral RNA.”

They continue: “Our finding is similar to a study from Singapore that screened surface and air samples from hospital rooms of COVID-19 patients for SARS-CoV-2 and found that the floor was most likely to be contaminated.”

The researchers highlight that the study results point to “the overall adequacy of current, detailed infection control policies in limiting environmental surface contamination with SARS-CoV-2,” which included telephone screening, telemedicine, nurse-led triage of patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, visitor restrictions, use of personal protective equipment, social distancing, and disinfection protocols.

They acknowledge limitations of the study, such as the lack of data on airborne transmission, inability to analyze the total surface area of a location, and no attempt to culture the virus from the positive sample.

“Continued studies are needed to monitor rates of virus transmission and the environmental factors involved in the propagation of the SARS-CoV-2 infection,” concludes the team.

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Ltd. © 2021 Springer Healthcare Ltd, part of the Springer Nature Group

25 March 2021: The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all healthcare professionals across the globe. Medicine Matters’ focus, in this difficult time, is the dissemination of the latest data to support you in your research and clinical practice, based on the scientific literature. We will update the information we provide on the site, as the data are published. However, please refer to your own professional and governmental guidelines for the latest guidance in your own country.

Cancer 2021; doi:10.1002/cncr.33453

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