This is part 2 of the series of universal precautions. See part 1—your disaster fashion guide—here.
Imagine there’s a long-term disaster. An infectious disease has erupted. It could be something as common as a stomach virus or as devastating as Ebola. When medical care is scarce, either could be deadly … and both involve the expulsion of infectious fluids, such as diarrhea (and, in Ebola’s case, blood).
Two members of your family got the disease. It’s up to you to care for them.
So you put on your “personal protective equipment” and get to work. But when you get a break from your caregiving responsibilities, there’s another step you need to take to better protect yourself from the disease. It’s part two of the “universal precautions.” (Part one was putting on that protective gear.) You need to disinfect your environment.
How to Clean Blood and Other Infectious Fluids
Disinfecting your surroundings means not just wiping up blood, vomit, and other fluids but cleaning them up in such a way that you kill all the contagious germs they’ve put into your environment.
Six steps to do this are presented here:
1. Dispose properly of supplies.
Have the needles, blades, or other sharp objects been contaminated? Immediately dispose of them in some sort of container thick enough that there’s no chance the needles and such will stick through it. Commercial containers can be purchased, but a large, thick plastic jar with a lid could do for improvement.
For anything else disposable, such as gowns, shoe covers, and bandages, immediately place in a plastic bag and tie, and burn if you can.
IMPORTANT: Precautions for disinfectant-solution
After you mix the disinfectant solution, label the bottle with the ingredients and a warning that it’s only to be used for cleaning. You can put the solution in a bottle of spray or just soak a rag and start cleaning, but use it in as much fresh air as possible. Wear gloves and take eye protection and a mask into consideration.
2. The area is disinfected.
To protect yourself from fluids and the cleaning solution, put on clean protective equipment.
If you have enough, wipe anything that is obviously dirty with soap and water.
Then use a 1:64 to 1:100 chlorine bleach solution to wipe down counters, walls, floors, and upholstery. That’s one part 5 percent chlorine bleach (the kind you use for laundry) mixed with 64 to 100 parts water.
Solution 1:64 = 1/4 cup + 1 gallon of water
Let the solution sit down before using it for 30 minutes. Every day, mix a fresh batch.
3. With a stronger solution, spot disinfect.
For areas where there’s direct evidence of vomit, diarrhea, blood, or other bodily fluids, use a 1:10 solution.
Solution 1:10 = 1 cup + 10 cups of water
Again, before using, let it sit for 30 minutes and mix fresh every day.
4. Dispose properly of supplies for cleaning.
Dispose of all cleaning solutions used away from possible sources of water and downhill. Dispose of materials used for cleaning as suggested in step one.
Cleaning Up Blood
These decontamination steps are useful not only with fluid-heavy infectious diseases but also when you’re caring for someone who’s injured and you don’t know whether they have a blood-borne disease such as HIV or hepatitis.
5. Decontaminate things you’ll reuse.
Soak in a 1:10 bleach solution for at least 20 minutes for bedding, clothing, or equipment you need to reuse. Then, as usual, wash the clothes separately.
6. Tools to sterilize.
Unless you have a medical autoclave for sterilizing, hopefully you’ll never have to reuse needles or blades, but in an absolutely dire situation, clean any obvious debris off—with a brush if you have one. Boil the instruments with a lid on the container for at least 20 minutes. Better yet, use a cooker for pressure.
These steps should be taken immediately anytime there’s been a possible contamination of any bodily fluid, whether you know the patient’s condition or not, and also on at least a daily basis in a room where a person with a possible contagious disease is staying.
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