I am not going to lie. I am thrilled to be talking about something other than COVID-19. What I am not thrilled about is how an outbreak occurred as a result of using an expired disinfectant.
Several thousand people in northwest China have tested positive for a bacterial disease that has been traced to a leak at a biopharmaceutical company. The facility produces Brucella vaccines. Brucellosis is a zoonotic disease found in livestock and spread to humans via close contact with infectious secretions, drinking unpasteurized milk or eating undercooked meat. Thankfully, person to person transmission is rare. In humans, the disease is known as Malta fever or Mediterranean fever and causes headaches, muscle pain, fever, and fatigue. Unfortunately, some of the symptoms like arthritis or swelling of organs can become chronic.
According to reports, the facility used expired disinfectants and the bacteria was not completely eradicated. Contaminated waste gas formed aerosols that contained the bacteria, which subsequently leaked into the air. Over 3,200 people have contracted the disease with another 1,400 testing preliminarily positive. The facility has since lost its licenses and veterinary drug product approvals.
Over the years, we have talked about the importance of contact time to ensure disinfection occurs and certainly that has been a focus of late due to the pandemic. We have talked about the importance of proper dilution and maintaining automated dilution systems as we know if disinfectants are not diluted properly that can lead to compatibility issues, occupational health and safety issues and of course efficacy issues. Shelf life is another important topic and consideration when using disinfectants. If the product you are using has expired the outcome can be exactly what happened in China and unfortunately, has been the reason for more outbreaks than anyone wishes to admit.
As we continue our fight against COVID-19, remember that there are more infectious diseases floating around and we need to continue to be vigilant and ensure our cleaning and disinfection practices are on point, including reading labels to confirm the product has not expired and properly labelling secondary bottles with expiry dates after products have been diluted.