How to dispose of medical waste during the coronavirus pandemic

The outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic threatening the whole population has raised the issue of thorough medical waste disposal around the world. In the new pandemic reality, humanity is faced with another problem. Every day tens of thousands of tests for COVID-19 are carried out around the world, samples are taken from people infected with coronavirus. The reagents and materials that have come into contact with virus particles pose a huge epidemiological hazard. If mishandled, they can accelerate the spread of an epidemic. How do medical waste disposal services handle this problem?

World health organization classifies used tests for COVID-19, as well as other waste after medical manipulations with coronavirus infection, medical waste class B. This is an extremely hazardous waste that can lead to an epidemic and it must be strictly regulated.

According to sanitary and epidemiological requirements, Class B medical waste includes:

  1. materials that have been in contact with patients with infectious diseases and can lead to an epidemic;
  2. waste from laboratories, pharmaceutical and immunobiological industries that deal with microorganisms of 1-2 pathogenicity groups;
  3. waste from TB hospitals contaminated with sputum of patients, waste from microbiological laboratories working with tuberculosis pathogens.

Medical waste disposal services deal with this waste especially carefully following certain rules.

To test for COVID-19, a sample of biological fluid from the nasopharynx or sputum from the patient’s respiratory tract is used. Laboratory reagents have a high chance of coming into contact with virus particles.

According to the generally accepted classification, SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus belongs to pathogenicity group II. This means that it fully complies with the criteria for Class B medical waste with an increased epidemiological hazard. Therefore, special requirements are put forward for the disposal of medical waste after laboratory tests in case of suspected coronavirus.

How to properly collect waste after testing for coronavirus

In order to collect the samples,  sealed bags or puncture-proof containers with special markings are used. Used tests must not be manually modified, cut or crushed in any other way. It is forbidden to transfer them from one container to another. It is necessary to work with them only in gloves and overalls and personal protective equipment.

Soft packaging is fixed on special trolleys or containers. After filling the container by ¾, it is tied or tightened with tie tags, and the containers are closed with lids. Medical waste disposal services  mustn’t transport such waste in open containers.

On the container indicate “Waste. Class B”, name of the organization, subdivision, date and name of the person responsible for the collection. Closed disposable containers in special containers are moved to a temporary storage room. The distance to the heating devices must be at least 1 meter.

Disposal requirements for COVID-19 tests which medical waste disposal services must follow:

  • It is not allowed to export tests which are not disinfected from the territory of a healthcare facility or laboratory.
  • As with all Class B waste, used COVID-19 tests are physically decontaminated. To do this, medical waste disposal services must have special equipment.
  • Chemical disinfection is also allowed, provided that the disinfectant is licensed.
  • Class B decontaminated waste, including tests for COVID-19, can be disposed of by medical waste disposal services at landfills only after grinding, sintering or pressing.

Used tests are stored until removal in special rooms separately from waste of other classes. In small organizations, utility rooms are used for this purpose, and if the storage time exceeds 24 hours, special equipment is used.

Proper disposal of potentially hazardous class B medical waste is a significant contribution to the fight against an infection that has already caused a worldwide epidemic. Quarantine and other measures will lose their relevance if sanitary and epidemiological rules are not observed at the stage of collecting samples and disposing of waste.

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