Why Senior Living Facilities Directors Are Creating Disinfection Plans That Incorporate Far-UVC Light
Far-UVC light doesn’t filter viruses; it destroys them, rendering them harmless.
As a senior living facilities director, you must grapple daily with infection control challenges that directors of other healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, may not: extended stays (about three years on average), the most vulnerable patients, lack of specialized infection control staff, limited equipment, and tight budgets.
It's been reported that 15% of nursing homes receive deficiency citations for infection control every year. Assuming you're interested in avoiding joining that group, what can you do to improve disinfection strategies throughout your entire facility? Let's review some ideas.
Clearing the Air: UVC vs. Far-UVC
A bundled facility disinfection plan should incorporate multiple infection prevention tools, including far-UVC disinfection, to ensure comprehensiveness and effectiveness. Far-UVC is a relatively new take on an old technology — germicidal ultraviolet irradiation with conventional UVC radiation.
The difference between conventional UVC and far-UVC is that far-UVC occupies the shortwave end of UVC in the electromagnetic spectrum (200 to 280 nm). The UVC wavelength typically produced by low-pressure mercury discharge lamps is 254 nanometers and is a mature technology widely used for many years to kill pathogens in water supplies and food, and for disinfecting unoccupied spaces overnight, such as operating rooms and subway cars.
Far-UVC light as generated by modern LED lamps is around 222 nm, a shorter wavelength that makes it uniquely safe for use around humans while still effectively inactivating viruses, spores, and bacteria. The very short wavelength of far-UVC is unable to penetrate dead skin layers and the tear layer of the eye, and both recent and ongoing studies with lab mice show no harm from prolonged exposure to levels sufficient to inactivate pathogens.
The spread of coronavirus has been under intense study during 2020, and we now know that aerosolized droplets can remain in the air for hours in indoor spaces. While adequate ventilation and proper airflow are the domain of a well-designed HVAC system, more is needed to ensure safety indoors.
How Important is Far-UVC Light Disinfection?
A new, more infectious strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 has accelerated the disease's worldwide spread. People infected with this strain, called 614G, have higher viral loads in their nose and throat and are far more contagious.
It is no overstatement to say that drastic measures must be taken to protect as many as possible from contact with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in this dark period before vaccines are widespread in the population. Especially at risk are the elderly, in whom COVID-19 is far more likely to result in death.
This means that in addition to the many well-thought-out protocols you already have in place for quarantining, social distancing, masking, cleaning, and disinfecting, you have the opportunity to increase safety further by disinfecting the air breathed by residents and staff.
If you are still not clear on the breakthrough that far-UVC represents, we recommend that you become acquainted with the work of Dr. David Brenner of Columbia University, who in this video lays out the latest research on far-UVC and describes work being done to deploy it in public spaces.
Choosing the Right Disinfection Equipment
Adding far-UVC technology to our HEPA-filtered products several years ago was a natural fit since our original dust containment cart was designed to reduce healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) from pathogens catching a ride on airborne dust. It didn't take long for HEPACART® founders to expand our mission from just dust containment to protecting patients from dust and isolated pathogens.
Free-floating airborne virus particles are so tiny they can get through HEPA filters, even though, by definition, HEPA filtration results in capturing at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, and bacteria at the hardest-to-trap size of 0.3 micrometers. That's pretty impressive, but its limitations stem from the fact that it's just mechanical filtration, like catching butterflies with a net. When a deadly virus (or other pathogens) is in the air, the only safe thing to do is inactivate the virus, and that's done with great efficiency by passing air through a device containing far-UVC lamps. In testing, it has been found repeatedly that the very short 222-nm waves are highly destructive to viral and bacterial cells. Here are two products that provide this kind of UV light disinfection.
A Stand-alone Room Air Purifier
Despite the best efforts of the most earnest HVAC system designers, there can be pockets of air in your facility with less-than-ideal circulation that potentially carry a dangerous viral load. Typically this includes anywhere sick residents are, including dining rooms, nurse offices, and of course, bedrooms.
The HEPAFORCE® GermBuster Room Air Purifier with UV-FORCE® is a compact unit on wheels that can be rolled to any area and turned on instantly. It will disinfect the air in a room of 3,200 cubic feet (20' x 20' x 8') six times per hour, bringing down the viral load to non-infectious levels faster than the first resident to call out “bingo.” This purifier works well in common areas and individual rooms throughout senior living facilities.
Airborne Disinfection Module Add-on
If you'd like to wreak the same kind of havoc on pathogens in a more wholesale manner, consider connecting the UV-FORCE® Airborne Disinfection Module to your HEPA-filtered negative air machine (fits any on the market, not just ours). Or, attach it to a HEPACART® AnteRoom to purify the air in a single room without involving a negative air machine.
The important thing is to get something in place now. The UV-FORCE® products described above may be just what you need in your facility. Air purification in senior living settings is a specialty of ours, but even if you don't go with our products, we urge you to add some air purification technology for the sake of everyone in your facility.
- Nursing home deficiency citations for safety (2011 study, National Library of Medicine)
- Study: New Mutation Sped Up Spread of Coronavirus (WebMD)
- Dr. David Brenner, COVID-19 Virtual Symposium: April 8, 2020 (Video)
- 4 Ways to Destroy Airborne Pathogens in Public Spaces
- 5 Reasons Why Facility Directors Choose HEPACART® Products
- Top 3 Causes of Respiratory Problems in Nursing Homes