Ask the Editors
Does environmental surface infection control consider all surfaces as equal, and must they be treated the same between patient appointments?
Environmental surfaces are classified as non-critical items,which means there is a relatively low risk of disease transmission from most contaminated surfaces. There are two categories of environmental surfaces: clinical contact surfaces and housekeeping surfaces. These require different infection control practices based on the potential for direct patient contact, degree and frequency of hand contact, and potential contamination of the surface with body substances or pathogens. Clinical contact surfaces are defined as surfaces that act as reservoirs for microbial contaminants with the potential to transmit infection, because they can be directly contaminated from patient materials either by direct spray or spatter or by (gloved) hand or instrument contact. Examples include light handles, switches, dental chairside computers, telephones, and countertops. These surfaces should be covered with disposable single-use barriers to prevent contamination, or cleaned and disinfected with a a low-to-intermediate (e.g. tuberculocidal) level disinfectant. In contrast, housekeeping surfaces, such as floors, walls, and sinks, have limited risk of disease transmission because they are not involved in direct delivery of patient care. They can be cleaned only and do not routinely require disinfection.