Vancouver Coastal Health says medical equipment such as blood pressure cuffs were identified as surfaces at risk of COVID-19 contamination in long-term care homes.
Vancouver Coastal Health swabbed 89 surfaces, including entrances, kitchens, staff communal areas, nursing stations and care areas at three long-term care homes.
Six of the 89 samples tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19.
In all three facilities, the virus was detected on standard reusable blood pressure cuffs, for a total of four contaminated blood pressure cuffs of nine that were tested.
The virus was also detected on the handle of a mobile linen cart and on the touch display of an electronic tablet used for electronic medication records.
VCH has now discontinued the shared blood pressure cuffs and other medical equipment and replaced it with either disposable cuffs or dedicated equipment that is not shared between patients.
While person-to-person transmission is believed to be the primary driver of outbreaks in long-term care facilities, the findings, published this month in the American Journal of Infection Control, suggest medical equipment is a potential route for transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The authors of the paper recommend enhanced environmental cleaning for all medical equipment or prohibiting communal use of the equipment.
“The findings of the study have informed our response to long-term care outbreaks and highlight the need to be vigilant against COVID-19,” said VCH Medical Health Officer, Dr. Michael Schwandt, the co-author of the article.
“Doing this type of research doesn’t just help us manage outbreaks now, it adds to the science on COVID-19 transmission so VCH and other health authorities have a better understanding of this new virus and so we can respond more effectively in the future.”