How ambulances keep germs from hitching a ride

How ambulances keep germs from hitching a ride

Anytime there’s an emergency involving a potential injury, you can be sure an ambulance won’t be far from the scene. Whether a truck, van, boat or helicopter, these rescue vehicles serve as the first line of contact for people whose lives are in the balance. But there’s more to these transports than stabilizing an individual and getting to a hospital as quickly as possible – as if that weren’t enough, emergency medical staff must also be careful not to allow bacteria to threaten infection or disease.

Unfortunately, the conditions aboard ambulances are often perfect for insidious viruses to develop and spread. It’s a confined space, there are high-touch surfaces, it travels across significant distances, they may carry patients who already have a disease or, if not, are prime targets for infection through open wounds and weakened immune systems. Ambulances – and their operators – provide excellent service to those in need and an integral part of this is keeping ambulances free of unwanted bacteria.

An ambulance should never contain harmful bacteria.
An ambulance should never contain harmful bacteria.

Unprepared ambulances pose risk for workers and patients
Local healthcare officials are responsible for making sure ambulances are completely disinfected before and after being sent into the field. When that doesn’t happen, the risk for infection increases. Sometimes, even ambulances that have been prepared are still harboring bacteria.

A 2015 study published in the Emergency Medical Journal titled “Prevalence of nosocomial pathogens in German ambulances: the SEKURE study,” German researchers discovered Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus in 18 samples from 11 of 150 ambulances tested that were identified as “ready for service.” The surfaces most infected were ones that would be in direct contact with staff and patients. Though a small percentage overall, any identification of MRSA on ambulances is cause for concern. Patients with open wounds are particularly vulnerable to bacteria like MRSA, which can be fatal in some cases.

“Sometimes, even ambulances that have been prepared are still open to bacteria.”

Not only are such findings alarming for their safety ramifications, they can also cost hospitals in citations and fines. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found an Ohio emergency medical transport company neglected necessary precautions for its staff. Those included failing to launder PPE at no cost, failing to require gloves and face masks while handling infectious materials and failing to train workers on the hazards of exposure, among others. In total OSHA found 14 health violations that cost the company $235,000 in fines.

These instances are a reminder that disinfection remains a vital role in not just hospitals themselves but their ambulatory services.

New disinfection techniques stand to improve medical transport safety
Traditional hospital-grade disinfection methods can be effective to a certain degree, but cannot always be relied upon for fast, effective and comprehensive results in a variety of spaces. The sensitive equipment and confined space within an ambulance can also create hurdles for dependable disinfection. SteraMist™ BIT™ is an ideal solution because it makes whole room disinfection easier by reaching surfaces other disinfectants can’t. It’s as simple as removing all visible biological contaminates (dirt, debris, sweat, blood, vomit, etc.); opening all interior drawers, cabinets, compartments, and enclosures; and applying SteraMist™ to all surfaces (including seats, dashboard, doors, handles, and equipment). The SteraMist™ BIT™ solution converts to Activated Ionized Hydrogen Peroxide, rich in Reactive Oxygen Species, to kill bacteria*, rather than harsh chemicals that damage equipment and create nauseating fumes. This makes it an ideal daily use formula.

The Surface Unit, a handheld point-and-spray system goes above, beyond, under and around disinfecting sprays and wipes. Download the full SteraMist disinfection protocol for ambulances. 

*See label for specific pathogens