Drug and Alcohol Testing Precautions Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic
Numerous articles can be found about public precautions amid the coronavirus outbreak, but I have only been able to find a few articles addressing clinician precautions. The clinician-focused articles I have found thus far address specific precautions when administrating healthcare or dental services to a patient suspected of having the virus or someone who tests positive.
Being in the drug and alcohol testing industry, my mind immediately goes to the professionals specializing in performing drug and alcohol testing and the associated risks faced daily. And while I am not a physician, here are some reminders we hope will curb some of those risks.
To date, cross-infection from Breath Alcohol Testing instruments has not been reported. However, precautions are necessary to reduce the likelihood that it may occur:
- Always use a new, clean mouthpiece on each testing subject.
- Use a mouthpiece that has a check-valve that prevents the subject from sucking air back through the mouthpiece.
- As part of the DOT testing protocol, instead of having the subject reach for and select a mouthpiece, simply have them point to select a mouthpiece.
- Never allow the subject to touch the breathalyzer.
When a subject blows into an Alco-Sensor IV device, breath flow is directed through the instrument and leaves through an exit port on the side of the device. In this scenario most aerosolized material emanating from the subject’s breath will land on the mouthpiece and near the subject’s mouth. The removal and disposal of the mouthpiece eliminates the vast majority of deposited material. However, some aerosolized material may travel and deposit within the device. As shown by a study (Hierbert T, Miles J & Okeson G C; Contaminated aerosol recovery from pulmonary function testing equipment), cross-infection from the breathalyzer is less likely if a 5 minute delay between tests is practiced. Intoximeters’ brief, which can be downloaded below, describes in greater detail the aerosolized material and cross-contamination mitigation practices.
It’s probably safe to assume that testing professionals already wash their hands before and after administering a drug or alcohol test. An added suggestion would be to wash your face as well, largely due to the subject’s expiration of breath into the air as part of a breath alcohol test.
Professionals performing urine drug testing typically wear disposable gloves. Because breath alcohol testing is administered in close proximity to the subject and the subject’s breath is directed into the device before escaping into the air, we suggest professionals performing breath alcohol testing also wear clean, disposable gloves. We also suggest washing your hands after the disposal of used gloves. If the items are readily available, protective eyewear and masks will also minimize risk of exposure to infectious airborne microbes and infectious microbes.
Several industries allow for passive alcohol testing on their employees. Passive alcohol testing is when multiple subjects are asked to blow into to a single cup which is attached to the breathalyzer in order to get a pass/fail reading. If you are an alcohol testing professional that performs passive alcohol testing, consider suspending passive testing practices for a while, and instead administer direct testing on subjects using a new, clean mouthpiece. If passive testing cannot be suspended, use a new cup on each subject and wear protective clothing. Download the Intoximeter brief below for more passive testing safety precautions.
Post Testing Precautions
Upon test completion, we suggest using sanitizing wipes to sanitize chairs, door knobs, the testing surface, including the shared pen used for signing the CCF or ATF. If you spray the air using Lysol or an air disinfectant, make sure you cover the breathalyzer device or put it away in a cabinet before spraying the air. Your facility should have a plan in place for cleaning and disinfecting your testing location and testing devices. Likewise, the manufacturer of your breathalyzer should have standards for proper cleaning and disinfecting of your breath alcohol testing device. Intoximeters has created a brief, which can be downloaded and printed. This document outlines proper cleaning and disinfecting instructions for all Alco-Sensor devices.
We don’t claim to have all the answers when it comes to precautions amid a global pandemic and we are all certainly navigating unchartered waters. Our thoughts are for your safety and are hopeful these recommendations help mitigate the risks. Intoximeters’ brief provides better understanding of the proper cleaning and disinfecting of your device, as well as other precaution considerations to better protect you, your staff and your testing subjects.