Q&A on infection prevention and control for health care workers caring for patients with suspected or confirmed 2019-nCoV


1.How can you clean soiled bedding, towels and linens from patients with COVID-19?

All individuals dealing with soiled bedding, towels and clothes from patients with COVID-19 should:

Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, which includes heavy duty gloves, mask, eye protection (face shield/goggles), long-sleeved gown, apron (if gown is not fluid resistant), boots or closed shoes before touching any soiled linen.

Never carry soiled linen against body; place soiled linen in a clearly labelled, leak-proof container (e.g. bag, bucket)

If there is any solid excrement on the linen, such as feces or vomit, scrape it off carefully with a flat, firm object and put it in the commode or designated toilet/latrine before putting linen in the designated container. If the latrine is not in the same room as the patient, place soiled excrement in covered bucket to dispose of in the toilet or latrine;

Wash and disinfect linen: washing by machine with warm water (60-90°C) and laundry detergent is recommended for cleaning and disinfection of linens. If machine washing is not possible, linen can be soaked in hot water and soap in a large drum, using a stick to stir, avoiding splashing. If hot water not available, soak linen in 0.05% chlorine for approximately 30 minutes.  Finally, rinse with clean water and let linen dry fully in the sunlight.

2.What personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used by healthcare workers (HCW) performing nasopharyngeal (NP) or oropharyngeal (OP) swabs on patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?

Health care workers collecting NP and OP swab specimens from suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients should be well-trained on the procedure and should wear a clean, non-sterile, long-sleeve gown, a medical mask, eye protection (i.e., googles or face shield), and gloves. Procedure should be conducted in a separate/isolation room, and during NP specimen collection health care workers should request the patients to cover their mouth with a medical mask or tissue. Although collection of NP and OP swabs have the potential to induce fits of coughing from the patient undergoing the procedure, there is no currently available evidence that cough generated via NP/OP specimen collection leads to increased risk of COVID-19 transmission via aerosols.

3.Should blood centers routinely screen blood products for COVID-19 virus?

No, although RNA fragments of SARS-CoV-2 were detected in blood of symptomatic COVID-19 patients, this does not mean that the virus is viable/infectious. In general, respiratory viruses are not known to be transmitted by blood transfusion. Blood centers should have routine blood donor screening measures in place to prevent individuals with respiratory symptoms or fever from donating blood.  As precautionary measures, blood centers might encourage self-deferral of those with travel history to an COVID-19 affected country in the previous 14 days, or of those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.

4.Are boots, impermeable aprons, or coverall suits required as routine personal protective equipment (PE) for healthcare workers (HCW) caring for patients with suspected or confirmed 2019-nCoV infection?

No. Current WHO guidance for HCW caring for suspected or confirmed 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease patients recommends the use of contact and droplet precautions, in addition to standard precautions which should always be used by all HCW for all patients. In terms of PPE, contact and droplet precautions include wearing disposable gloves to protect hands, and clean, non-sterile, long-sleeve gown to protect clothes from contamination, medical masks to protect nose and mouth, and eye protection (e.g., goggles, face shield), before entering the room where suspected or confirmed 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease patients are admitted. Respirators (e.g. N95) are only required for aerosol generating procedures.

5.Can disposable medical face masks be sterilized and reused?

No. Disposable medical face masks are intended for a single use only. After use they should be removed using appropriate techniques (i.e. do no touch the front, remove by pulling the elastic ear straps or laces from behind) and disposed of immediately in an infectious waste bin with a lid, followed by hand hygiene.