BREAKING! Coronavirus News: Chinese Study Shows That Pillows Made From Microfibers Can Be Reservoirs For SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus
: A new study by Chinese researchers from Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, Xi'an Jiaotong University-Xi'an,has found that microfiber pillows are excellent reservoirs of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. What is alarming is that not are these type of pillows used extensively in home stings globally but more so in hotels, cinemas, trains, airplanes, ships and coaches.
The study findings which have been peer-reviewed have been published in the journal: Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
by Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147651320310162?via%3Dihub#
The study showed that breathing or drooling onto a pillow during sleep can transfer the SARS-CoV-2 coronaviruses onto the pillow. The coronavirus may not only stay on the pillow cover but can also enter the pillow stuffing, becoming a potential source of virus transmission.
Besides the normal transmissions of the virus via coughing, exhaling, talking or shouting through airborne methods, direct transmission ie when the droplets with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus lands on surfaces, such as counters, tabletops, or other frequently touched surfaces is another avenue as coming in contact with contaminated surfaces is also another route of virus transmission.
Typically, any surfaces frequently touched by people are disinfected regularly. This is especially critical in public places that are used by many people.
However with travel curbs easing in many parts of the world, sharing of items used during traveling could become a potential source of virus transmission, even after disinfecting the items.
Microfiber pillows are one commonly used item that is usually shared, especially during travel, in hotels and in cinemas. Most pillows are made of stuffing covered with fabric. The stuffing in about half the pillows used today in the US and China is microfibers.
The study suggests that respiratory pathogens can not only fall on the fabric covers but can also penetrate the outer cover and go into the microfiber stuffing. The SARS-CoV-2 virus can remain alive on fibers for several hours to several days under room temperature. Once the particles enter the microfiber stuffing, it is very difficult to disinfect the pillows using standard sanitizing methods.
How the coronavirus particles penetrate the fabric covers depends on the size of the particle and how densely the fabric is weaved.
An Illinois lab study in the U.S. showed that cotton fabrics with 80 threads per inch allowed 86% of NaCl aerosols 0.3–1 µm large, and polyester fibers allowed about 76% of the particles. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.0c03252
Current protocols for disinfecting aircraft, trains, buses, and hotels include cleaning surfaces, towels, and other items, do not indicate much being done to address the issue of properly sanitizing pillows.
A Chinese study on quarantine facilities showed that in the hotel rooms of two patients with COVID-19 before the onset of symptoms, the researchers found the pillows had a significant amount of the virus in just 24 hours. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/9/20-1435_article
As guidelines for screening travelers differ across the world, and it is becoming more challenging to identify asymptomatic travelers even with simply nasal swabs PCR testing, the spread of the coronavirus could exacerbate in various settings not just in travel but also in quarantine facilities.
It should be noted that when asymptomatic travelers shed virus on pillows, which can potentially penetrate the outer covers, reusing these pillows becomes risky and could cause transmission of the virus.
The study team warns that the risk is higher is trains where bedding is not changed en route, say the authors, for example, in couchette trains in China. Hence, if a traveler boards the train at intermediate stops, they may be exposed to used items, increasing their risk of being exposed to the virus.
However the risk may be slightly lower in airplane travel as there are no intermediate stops, and all the passengers and crew travel from one point to the final destination.
The present U.S. CDC guidelines do recommend that if a symptomatic traveler is identified during or immediately after a flight, items that cannot be cleaned should be appropriately disposed of. However, this does not protect against asymptomatic passengers who may have shed virus.
As there is no detailed data lacking on how long the virus is present in pillow stuffing and how long it could remain infectious and also the risk of transmission of the virus via pillows is also unknown.
Hence the best strategy, until the risk is known, is not to reuse pillows and dispose of them after a single-use. However, this will create additional problems of waste and pollution.
The study team however recommends another safety method. The used pillow could be sealed in a reusable plastic bag, like a Ziploc bag, which will prevent any particles from getting into the stuffing. A fabric cover could be used on top of the plastic. After each use, the plastic wrap could be removed, and a new cover could be used. The used plastic can be disinfected in hot water at 50–70 °C without any loss in integrity.
The researchers also warn that some pillow manufacturers advertise falsely that their microfibers pillows are antibacterial and anti-pathogens but these do not offer any protection against viruses especially the coronaviruses.
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