We have all spent the past year learning about the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has remained our top of mind threat for seemingly endless months. As of 8:05AM (PST) today, the latest data shows we have 33,591,670 confirmed cases in the United States, 180,098,221 confirmed cases worldwide. We have suffered 3,902,458 global deaths, with 603,187 in the United States alone. (John’s Hopkins University, 2021)
The world situation has improved drastically. In the U.S., 320,687,205 vaccine doses have been administered, and 151,252,034 people are now fully vaccinated. (John’s Hopkins University, 2021) Despite their controversies, vaccines have worked, and many epidemiologists acknowledge that we are in a state of growing herd immunity. There are new variants to worry about, but overall, so far, these variants have been shown to continue to be held in check by the current measures we have in place. Rates of significant infections and deaths have plummeted. New cases continue their declining trend, and it appears that a much more significant portion of the population than previously thought now has developed antibodies to Covid-19, likely because they had a minor or asymptomatic case.
Covid-19 will be with us now for years to come. It is one of the most significant infections of all of our lifetimes, yet it is not the only infectious disease we should worry about. Many studies over recent years have shown that many respiratory virus pathogens reside on frequently touched surfaces, like handrails, countertops, sinks, and other surfaces. In the 2018 paper, Deposition of respiratory virus pathogens on frequently touched surfaces at airports, Niina Ikonen et al. found that significant respiratory virus contamination was found on luggage trays, handrails, buttons on payment, and check-in terminals, desks, divider glass, and other surfaces. Rhinovirus, coronavirus, adenovirus, and influenza A were just some of the contaminants discovered. (Ikonen, et al., 2018)
While we are hyper-focused on viruses due to Covid-19, bacteria and fungi have been the historical source of significant disease. Fomite contamination, hands touching surfaces, is one of the significant sources for disease transmission. Eighty percent (80%) of infections are spread through hand contact with hand or other objects. (Al-Ghamdi, Abdelmalek, Ashshi, Faidah, & Jiman-Fatani, 2011) (Al-Ghamdi, Abdelmalek, Ashshi, Faidah, & Jiman-Fatani, 2011).
Orogu, Ehiwario, and Okobia, in 2018, found the microbial contamination of handrails of the pedestrian walkway could serve as a potential source for community-acquired infections. In a 12 sample study, they found significant pathogenic organisms were present on pedestrian handrails. These pathogens included: a total of five(5) Bacteria species that were isolated; Proteus mirabilis, Streptococcus, Enterococcus species, Corynebacterium species, and Enterobacter aerogenes and four (4) Fungi species; Candida Albicans, Mold species, Aspergillus flavus, and Penicillin species. These organisms can cause urinary tract infections, strep throat, meningitis, bacterial pneumonia, endocarditis, flesh-eating bacterial infections, diphtheria, and other diseases.
In 2005, Kelly A. Reynolds, Pamela M. Watt, Stephanie A. Boone, & Charles P. Gerba found blood, feces, mucus, saliva, urine, bacteria, fungi and viruses were present in 1061 environmental samples collected from shopping, daycare, office environments, personal items, gymnasiums, airports, movie theaters, shopping centers, restaurants and more. Diseases that can be caused by these contaminants include, HIV, Hepatitis B, colds, flu, Covid-19, tuberculosis, and many other significant diseases. (Reynolds, Watt, Boone, & Gerba, 2005)
Preventable infections are a significant economic problem. In a 2009 study of infections acquired in the controlled setting of a hospital, R. Douglas Scott II, an economist, found that 70 percent of the infections were preventable and, if prevented, would save the country between $25 billion to $31.5 billion. Remember, this is only in the controlled and typically well-cleaned setting of a hospital. What do you think this would be for the nation as a whole? (Scott II, 2009)
Much controversy has been recently made regarding the transmission mode of SARS-CoV-C. Initially, in the early stages of the Covid-19 infection last year, the mode of transmission was thought to be surface contamination. After about one month the main vector was determined to be via aerosol delivery via breath, cough and sneeze through the air. To a great extent the mode of surface contamination as a significant vector, was discounted in lieu of aerosol protections strategies and the surface contamination possibility fell by the wayside.
A more recent study in the Virology Journal, The Effect of temperature on persistence of SARS-CoV-2 on common surfaces, has dispelled the myth that Covid-19 transmission of surfaces is not a significant worry. In this study Riddell, Goldie, Hill, Eagles and Drew showed that viable corona virus can be isolated for up to 28 days from common surfaces such as glass, stainless steel, and both paper and polymer currency. Their findings show that These findings demonstrate SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious for significantly longer time periods than generally considered possible.
Covid-19 remains a significant surface contamination risk that those of us concerned with passenger and traveler safety need to contend with. Escalator handrails are a significant and persistent source of pathogenic contamination. To successfully decontaminate handrails, on escalators and otherwise, requires proper cleaning before decontamination. Due to the persistent nature of handrail contamination and transmission, handrails need to be cleaned and decontaminated on a regular basis. The frequency of cleaning and decontamination is most likely dictated by the surrounding environmental conditions and user traffic.
We need to thoroughly clean handrails before disinfection. Without effective cleaning the disinfection process effectiveness is significantly reduced. Surface contaminants like, mucus, grease, oils, dirt, and other fluids significantly impact UV-C, Ozone, and liquid disinfectants like hydrogen peroxide, ethanol, and quaternary ammonia’s effectiveness. To effectively provide the public with a cleaner, healthier, and safer environment, we have to use an efficient and effective process to treat handrails to assure the public that they are safe.
Unfortunately for us, almost all of the methods we use to disinfect and clean surfaces, also damage rubber and plastic. Most are oxidizers. Products containing bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and ammonia have been shown to damage rubber and plastic. This damage can seriously reduce the useful life of expensive escalator handrails. UV-C system and Ozone Generation systems, also degrade rubber and plastic. Therefore, it is essential that any cleaning system worth its salt, needs to provide a method to reverse this damage.
The Thomsen Way cleaning system is designed to effectively treat handrails so that they are thoroughly cleaned, sanitized, and conditioned. Our patented system provides travelers and users with a safe, healthy, and clean environment.
We provide the people that clean and sanitize these devices a quick, efficient, and inexpensive method to not only clean and sanitize, and condition, but also to test and report the results of the process to assure public safety.
We also provide the owners of escalators with a repeatable, verifiable process that increases not only the safety of the use of these conveyances like escalators and moving walkways, but also reduces maintenance, liability, service, and replacement costs while extending the useful life of the expensive assets.
Al-Ghamdi, A., Abdelmalek, S., Ashshi, A., Faidah, S., & Jiman-Fatani, A. (2011). Bacterial contamination of computer keyboard and mice. I Bio, 224-3208.
Ikonen, N., Savolainen-Kopra, C., Enstone, J. E., Kulmala, I., Pasanen, P., Salmeda, A., . . . Ruutu, P. (2018). Deposition of respiratory virus pathogens on Frequently Touched Surfaces and Airports. BMC Incectious Diseases.
John’s Hopkins University. (2021, June 25). John’s Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Retrieved from https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/
Reynolds, K. A., Watt, P. M., Boone, S. A., & Gerba, C. P. (2005). Occurrence of bacteria and biochemical markers on public. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 2258-234.
Scott II, R. D. (2009). The Direct Medical Costs of Healthcare-Associated Infections in U.S> Hospitals and the Benefits of Prevention. Washington DC: Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion National Center for Preparedness, Detection, and Control of Infectious Diseases Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.