Over the last two decades, two outbreaks from members of a little-known virus family arose and threatened to spread around the world. In 2003, the viral villain was SARS. In 2013, it was MERS. Though the names differed, they were both known scientifically as coronaviruses. They also had the ability to cause significant illness and death in people regardless of their location and immune function.
They were in essence potential pandemic viruses
As we begin the new decade, we are faced with another coronavirus threat known as 2019-nCoV. Originating in the city of Wuhan China, the virus has found its way across the world to dozens of countries and thousands of individuals. Much like SARS and MERS, the virus has caused significant illness in hundreds of people and led to numerous deaths. It has led to the closure of many cities in China and forced that country to take emergency measures such as quarantine to slow the global spread. While it has yet to prove whether it will eventually become a pandemic, the fear is present.
While these three viruses have made headlines around the world, there are other weaker coronaviruses that are just as contagious. They’re known as common cold coronaviruses and can be found almost anywhere in Canada and the United States.
Whether you want to prevent a pandemic or just keep your clients safe, you may wish to find ways to stop the spread of this family of viruses. However, this may be difficult as coronaviruses are primarily respiratory pathogens. The usual route of spread is through droplets we all emit when we cough, sputter, and sneeze. Depending on the stage of infection, those droplets, which are almost imperceptible to the human eye, can possess enough viruses to cause an infection in anyone who happens to be within a 6 foot (2 metre) distance. No matter how vigilant you may be in providing information on preventing respiratory transmission, it is impossible to ensure this will not happen.
But research has shown that this is not the only way that the viruses can spread. Thanks to a study in 2012 on influenza, which is also a respiratory pathogen, we are aware that contaminated surfaces play a significant role in virus spread.
How important are surfaces when it comes to viruses?
Research on SARS in hospitals has revealed that these viruses can survive on surfaces such as electronic devices and peripherals, bathroom doorknobs and taps, seats, handrails and elevator buttons.(1) In addition, another study conducted in an airport revealed coronaviruses could contaminate surfaces such as kiosks, ATMs, payment terminals, counters, and food serving areas.(2)
As to whether these surfaces pose a risk to health, research conducted in 2015(3) suggested that at higher concentrations, such as when a person is showing symptoms, the virus can survive for several days. The type of surface appears to have little impact on how long that survival lasts.
As a result of these studies, it’s clear that surfaces can enable the spread not just of the common cold coronaviruses but also the ones that can potentially lead to that pandemic threat. Knowing where these microscopic invaders hide is paramount to reducing spread. Figuring out which areas of a facility, whether in an airport, hospital, school, business, or shopping area, are at risk for contamination is paramount in achieving this goal and the OptisSolve Pathfinder technology is here to help.
The OptiSolve Pathfinder system provides real-time visual identification of organic contamination on any surface. Those biological fluids that contain viruses can be quickly identified and tagged for proper disinfection. This can lead to a reduction in the risk of transmission and increase the likelihood that clients, customers, and visitors will have an enjoyable experience without worry.
While OptiSolve Pathfinder can be useful for the identification of biological fluids on high touch surfaces, the portability, speed, and cost-effectiveness of the technology allows for the testing of all surfaces to ensure that no area is missed. While most of the time, imperfect cleaning may be acceptable, when it comes to viruses such as 2019-nCoV, there is little room for error.
Much like SARS and MERS, the 2019-nCoV will eventually burn out and disappear. However, as it stands, with cases appearing all over the world and a sense of panic forming in affected areas, including Canada, why not offer an environment that reduces the risk. Not to mention, even after this virus disappears, there will still be all those common cold and flu viruses that come every year and spread in the same way.