More and more organisations are using lateral flow testing to protect their wider community and prevent the transmission of virus. It identifies infection in those people who are asymptomatic – which could be as many as one in three in the UK – but who could be passing on the infection to others. And, as with any testing programme, setting it up correctly is key to its success.
Why is it important?
Currently, lateral flow testing areas are being set up in a variety of locations including schools, offices and care homes. The government has issued guidance on mass asymptomatic testing in specialist settings with the aim being to prevent those individuals who are carrying the infection from unknowingly spreading it. This is all the more important in settings such as schools, where the close proximity between children or young people and staff, can be unavoidable and social distancing can be harder to observe.
The testing process
So, how does lateral flow testing work?
First, a swab is taken from the nose and/or mouth. It is then mixed with a buffer solution to release virus fragments on the swab. Some of this sample is dropped onto the lateral flow device. Any part of the solution containing virus fragments is drawn down onto an absorbent strip, which it then travels along. The solution binds to labelled antibodies when it reaches them. Non-viral particles are separated as they attach to a control band on the strip. A band of colour appears at the control zone to confirm a successful test. A band of colour appears at the test zone to provide a positive identification of the virus.
Though a potentially significant aid in COVID-19 detection, these tests work best where a higher level of virus is present. As they are not 100% effective, they should complement – not replace – existing safety measures like social distancing and face masks.
Managing waste generated from lateral flow testing
The waste generated by lateral flow tests has been classified as chemical by the Department of Health, which means it requires disposal by incineration. Therefore, it is essential that this waste is separated from other waste items to ensure it is disposed of correctly and safely. This should be considered from the point of waste generation through to immediate disposal, storage and collection for disposal. The waste must be kept secure at every stage during this journey.
To help our customers to meet Government guidelines, our two Initial businesses Initial Medical and Initial Washroom Hygiene offer clear waste bags for this waste stream. These differ from others bags used in the best practice waste segregation guidelines to minimise the risk of confusion or cross contamination. We can also provide internal waste containers and external wheelie bins, where required, as well as a trusted collection service. We remain one of only a small number of companies able to dispose of this type of waste currently, having worked hard to secure additional capacity at several energy from waste disposal and incineration plants across the UK.
Lateral flow testing helps to protect the essential workforce needed to maintain important services across the UK and is just one weapon in the fight against COVID-19. If you are setting up testing for your workforce, it’s vital to get it right for maximum benefits and protection for all. Initial Medical and Initial Washroom Hygiene is here to help if you have any questions or need any support.