Risk analyses – handling linen containing 2019-nCoV VIRUS, known as CORONAVIRUS – WOPCOM Blog

Many international laundry owners would like and should be prepared on answering questions that they will get form staff as well as from their customers. The report ends with literature

Objective: To answer most questions that could be asked related to virus disinfection and risk assessment.

Method: Describe the backgrounds of the outbreak and mechanism of how the virus the virus is spread – in order to be able to appreciate the basis of the risk assessment for commercial laundries.

Introduction and backgrounds: Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illness ranging from the common cold –  to more severe diseases like SARS or MERS.  The new Corona virus – now known as 2019nCoV – is a new species that hasn’t been identified before in human beings. Corona viruses are transmitted between animals and people.  SARS has been transmitted from civet cats to humans, and MERS from dromedary camels to humans. Common signs of infection are : fever, cough and shortness of breath. In severe cases then infection can cause pneumonia, kidney failure and even death.

How does infection take place ?

The virus spreads from person to person by exposure to large respiratory droplets [from sneezing !] , by direct contact and airborne dispersal. The infection itself takes place in the respiratory tract.

Important to know: Viruses don’t have a mechanism to copy their RNA strain. And this is why they need our human cell to reproduce themselves.  A virus has keys on its surface that will dock onto the surface of human cells and release the RNA into them.  Cells that are present in our lungs have the “docking stations” [known as Ace2 receptors] and so it is that lung cells start to be infiltrated by the virus RNA material and these lung cells are no longer doing what they should be doing – making sure we can breathe.

The second photo illustrates that a newly made virion leaves the host cell and starts to look for more cells to break into.

What makes this particular new virus so dangerous is that the infected persons only start showing symptoms of being ill after as much as two weeks. But in the mean time they are already spreading the virus without notice.

All of the above illustrates that the virus needs a host cell in order to survive. 

Q1:  Is there any risk that infection takes place via fabric washing ?

The risk of getting infected in the linen transport chain + wash process is limited. Provided the laundry staff takes the standard hygienic precautions. See also below.

Q2:  What makes that the risk is very limited ?

As described earlier – viruses need a host cell to be able to “live”.

The life cycle of the Corona virus outside a host cell is very short and estimated to be less than 20 minutes.

This makes the chance of infection via linen extremely small since the transport time of the soiled linen will mostly take longer than 20 minutes.

Exception to this rule: Linen soiled with faeces might be infectious for up to 24 hours. Based on earlier experience with SARS Corona virus. 2)

Q3: Is this new virus killed /deactivated  in the wash processes that the laundry industry applies [In the theoretical event that such a virus is present in the soiled fabric] ?

Disinfection can be assured when such a wash process applied is in line with internationally approved standards.

  • Thermal disinfection – following time temperature rules
  • Chemo Thermal disinfection – applying approved / rubber stamped disinfection products and wash process
  • See also the hygiene chapters in CINET e-learning.

Note: The name of the new Corona virus – also known as Wuhan virus will be changed.  The  IDTV International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses will redefine this name in the second week of February 2020.


More WOPCOM Articles? Register now and receive One month free access on WOPCOM platform! By using the coupon code LAUNCH at the registration form, you can have free access for 1 month in the platform which contains over 600 articles on best practices in PTC.