Some viruses are much harder to kill than SARS-CoV-2. This is why it’s important that facilities ensure their disinfectants have full virucidal efficacy. In this article, we explain why these viruses need our attention and what virucidal claims mean.
Over the last eighteen months, we have seen the world focus on SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19. Disinfectant use rapidly increased as people tried to stop surface-to-hand transmission of this virus. In addition to surface cleaning and disinfection, other interventions, such as face masks, physical distancing, improved ventilation, hand hygiene, and staying home when ill are commonly used to prevent transmission of respiratory illnesses. Recently the media started reporting on surges in some other viruses that need our attention.
The “common cold” is predominantly caused by different respiratory viruses. Rhinovirus, Enterovirus, Adenovirus, Norovirus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Influenza, Human Coronavirus, and Human Metapneumovirus are the more common viruses. Influenza A (flu) truly does not cause a ‘cold’, it tends to be a rapid onset, high fever kind of illness that hits hard. Influenza B does produce milder symptoms and may fall into a ‘cold’ category.
There is a lot of literature and advertisements related to the pandemic organism SARS-CoV-2. This virus can be present with no symptoms, cause mild cold-like symptoms, or lead to severe symptoms that can involve hospitalization and death. This high-intensity focus on SARS-CoV-2 prevention through disinfection is worrisome because some other respiratory viruses are not easy to kill and survive on surfaces quite well.
Viruses that are much harder to kill than SARS-CoV-2
Claims on disinfectants of a ‘15-second kill time for SARS-CoV-2’, or ’99.9% of cold and flu viruses’ are impressive to read, but it is important to understand whether these disinfectants are effective on harder to kill Norovirus, Enterovirus, Coxsackievirus, and Adenovirus. Some of these viruses, such as certain strains of Enterovirus, are being linked to acute flaccid myelitis in children who first had the cold-like symptoms. Enterovirus and Coxsackievirus can also cause hand, foot, and mouth disease in children.
As can be seen in the table (information was gathered from a variety of online sources), there are other cold viruses that are much harder to kill with disinfectants that cause significant illness in many populations: school children and long-term care being significantly more susceptible to severe illness from these viruses.
How to read a disinfectant label and virucidal claims
Viruses are commonly divided into two groups: enveloped and non-enveloped. Non-enveloped viruses are far more difficult to eradicate than enveloped viruses.
Look at your disinfectant label and look for the harder-to-kill viruses such as Poliovirus, Adenovirus, and Norovirus, they are the test organisms that must be tested.
Having those 3 harder-to-kill viruses indicates that the manufacturer took the time to do robust testing of their product and the product is fully virucidal. Having at least two of these hard-to-kill viruses (Norovirus and Adenovirus) also allows disinfectant manufacturers to make a Limited virucidal claim on the disinfectant against any enveloped viruses, Norovirus, and adenovirus.
Only disinfectants with full virucidal claims are capable of proving broad protection against the full range of pathogenic viruses likely to be found in a facility.
The European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) standard EN14476 defines viruses that are considered the most resistant strains and a pass against these strains is considered to cover the less resistant strains within the viral category, most notably the enveloped viruses. If a new virus emerges, the manufacturer can indicate efficacy based on the harder-to-kill viruses they have tested and the customer can use the product at the recommended contact time on the label for the test organisms.
This is not the time to have COVID tunnel vision with so many other viruses out there! End-users of disinfectants can be ‘cold washed by misleading advertising, based on kill claims for SARS-CoV-2 which is very easy to kill with disinfectants!
Regarding other seasonal viruses (human rhinoviruses, RSV, metapneumovirus), numerous data show that their frequency has collapsed with the implementation of physical measures to fight against covid. However, it would appear that the size of the drop in the number of infections involving these viruses has been variable depending on the viral species and that some of them have "re-emerged" with the lifting of certain measures. For example, while RSV infections have collapsed in many countries, rhinovirus infections have not (1,2,3).
Facilities should review their disinfectant label to ensure it is fully virucidal, ensuring it will kill stronger viruses that are likely to maintain their infectiousness on surfaces.
Diversey developed the Enhanced 2 in 1 Cleaning program, a program that allows any business to easily and sustainably achieve full virucidal protection.
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Watch this on-demand webinar facilitated by Dr. Claire Khosravi, Diversey European Infection Prevention Technical Expert.