Biosecurity comes in many forms. Our team at Lotus Biosecurity has broken down the many potential biosecurity measures into three vital categories that can help you determine what will be most useful for your space and your people.
For the purpose of this article, the virus we are generally referring to is COVID-19, but viral pathogens are often transmitted and destroyed in similar ways. It’s safe to assume that biosecurity measures that can effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19 may be applied to other viruses as well, including influenza, the common cold and more.
Preventative Biosecurity Measures
If you envision mitigating the risk of virus transmission as a battle, then the front line is at your business’s front door. This is where the preventative biosecurity measures operate. The idea is to prevent any person carrying the virus, whether infected or unknowingly transporting it on their clothes or shoes, into the facility without first being disinfected. This can be done in a multitude of ways, beginning with a health screening that determines whether a person is feeling unwell, or has been potentially exposed to the virus and not allowing them into the facility. As a follow up to this, temperature checks are a critical measure to make sure a person who is infected does not enter the facility.
These measures will help to deter symptomatic people, but unfortunately are not as effective at preventing those who may be asymptomatic or those unknowingly carrying the virus on outerwear. A study in NIH showed that shoe soles are a potential vector for pathogen transmission, which can be combated with products such as UVC footwear sanitizing stations. Furthermore, if the virus can live on the soles of our shoes, it is likely that it can live on our jackets as well. Companies have been releasing products such as UVC disinfecting lockers, that can be used to sanitize these outerwear garments and ensure that they are pathogen-free after running for a short cycle.
Passive Disinfecting Biosecurity Measures
While a critical layer of biosecurity, preventative measures are not perfect. Once an infected person enters your space, due to the airborne nature of the virus, the air could be infected in certain areas for the time the infected person is there, and for hours beyond. In order to mitigate the risk of transmission inside the facility, there are many passive disinfecting biosecurity measures that can clean the air and (sometimes) surfaces of your space constantly and consistently. This is the most diverse category of measures and includes increasing ventilation rates in the space, either by opening doors and windows to the extent allowable for occupant safety and comfort or by adjusting outside air dampers on the HVAC equipment that serves the space. This also includes enhanced filtration or UVC (or other technology) air purification modifications to the HVAC systems, or portable air cleaners for more localized control of indoor air quality (IAQ).
To address the high-contact / high-touch surfaces throughout the space, the two most recommended biosecurity strategies would be elimination or engineering control. Elimination, in this case, would be swapping manual fixtures, such as the faucets and toilets in restrooms, with automatic ones, where engineering control would be placing an anti-microbial coating on a frequently used door handle. Elimination is more effective, but it is typically a more costly upgrade. For example, installing an automatic front door will ensure that the handle is touched far less frequently than if it were a manual door, however wrapping the handles in an anti-microbial coating may offer a less expensive option that can still deliver the required results.
Active Disinfecting Biosecurity Measures
While passive disinfecting biosecurity measures are effective over time, in all indoor spaces active disinfecting measures are critical. These measures revolve around physical cleaning of the space, such as cleaning crews utilizing FDA approved products and good old fashioned elbow grease. This is a critical measure in the fight against virus transmission but is not comprehensive. As previously stated, the virus can be airborne with the particulates staying suspended in the air for hours, therefore just cleaning the surfaces, while critical, is not sufficient. The air can also be actively disinfected with products that have come onto the market in recent years such as UVC light disinfecting towers that need to be set into an area and turned on for a short cycle, or to a lesser extent with electrostatic sprayers. For the sprayers, you need to ensure that all safety measures are followed, and you are only using approved cleaning agents, as you do not want to be spraying chemicals often in a space that can then be ingested. Professional training or for-hire services to deploy these high-tech biosecurity measures are highly recommended.
Biosecurity - in any and all forms - is going to be increasingly important for businesses of all sizes. Whether you are looking to retain staff or attract customers to your space, biosecurity can help provide a level of security and trust in the establishment. By understanding the three categories, and what would be most effective in your space, any business can deploy worthwhile biosecurity measures that both protect its people and its bottom line.