Infectious Disease Sanitizing
To make sure that a contaminated area is safe for use, a variety of steps need to be taken. When the area has been cleaned, it is time to disinfect and sanitize. Proper sanitization is essential in the fight to contain the spread of infectious diseases.
What is Sanitization?
Sanitization is a method of disinfection which aims to reduce the population of pathogens in an area by 99.99%, thus making the area safe for humans. Sanitization is only effective on specific kinds of pathogen. Tougher viruses and spores need more extreme measures of disinfectant such as sterilization. Outside of biocontainment procedures, sanitization is also practiced in homes and businesses to reduce the risk of food contamination.
The Sanitization Process
Sanitization is only effective on clean surfaces. Cleaning removes material that is soiling the item in question and can begin to reduce pathogen numbers. Many chemicals can be used to sanitize a surface. Many households will use bleach. Common chemicals that the biohazard industry uses include:
sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate
calcium hypochlorite and sodium hypochlorite
organic chlorine (sodium dichloroisocyanurate)
Sanitization can be used both as a response to contamination — a way to make an affected area safe again — and a preventive measure. When it comes to infectious diseases, preventative measures are the best option when possible, and decontamination should be seen as a last resort. Common sanitization methods that people practice on a daily basis include hand washing, bleaching bathroom surfaces, and cleaning areas prior to food preparation.
Sometimes sanitization isn’t enough, and sterilization is needed. Oftentimes people confuse these terms as being one and the same, when in fact they’re two different methods for disinfection. If you’ve had a baby you’ve likely sterilized your child’s bottles at home, and on an industrial level, the principle is quite similar.
Sanitization vs. Sterilization
Sanitization significantly reduces the number of pathogens by up to 99.99%. Sterilization removes all microorganisms by killing and/or deactivating them. Sanitization’s largest weaknesses are viruses and spores which have a tough shell that the sanitizers can’t penetrate. Sterilization is able to deactivate both spores and viruses.
Where sanitization uses chemicals, sterilization uses chemicals, gasses, and high temperatures and pressures. The use of sterilization is primarily reserved for medical use, whereas sanitization has a much broader application including in the home and within the food industry.
In Infectious Disease Decontamination
Professional biohazard teams will often use a combination of sanitization and sterilization to ensure a space is safe for use. Before undertaking decontamination, an assessment is done. This assessment can help the team to figure out the best products and methods to use for the situation. In cases where bacteria has contaminated the area, they’ll likely rely on sanitization methods, whereas a space which has been exposed to a virus will commonly need sterilization. It is for reasons like this that a professional biohazard control agency should be used in cases of infectious disease outbreak.