Carpets have come a long way. From ancient rugs made of sheep wool to the earliest known knotted rug - the Pazyryk - to the plush carpets that line our homes, schools and offices today.
They contribute to the aesthetic appeal of a room, keep our feet warm and offer comfort. And yet, they may cause just as much harm as good when it comes to our health.
In the 80s and 90s, researchers began to associate carpets with decreased air quality. Furthermore, they began to identify the negative impacts carpets have on asthma and allergies.
As time went by, carpet manufacturers countered these findings. They argued that modern carpeting no longer poses these risks. They attributed this to advanced production techniques.
And yet, recent studies show that carpets act as repositories for pollutants. These include allergens, dust particles and biological organisms.
Pollutants are, therefore, likely to get dispersed around the room when there's activity in the carpeted area.
A Purdue University study examined the biological material stirred up from carpets and made shocking findings. The video below sums up the study's outcomes.
To safeguard guests at your caravan park or Airbnb, you need to familiarise yourself with pathogens commonly found on carpets. Let's examine the top five pathogens one by one.
Salmonella is a bacteria with over 2000 known strains. Every year, tens of millions of infections are reported around the world.
Salmonella can survive the low pH in human intestines. It causes a form of gastroenteritis called salmonellosis.
Once infected, people experience symptoms such as:
- Stomach upset
- Blood in stool
- Throwing up
These manifest around 72 hours after infection.
We mostly associate salmonella with food contamination - and with good reason. However, salmonella can survive for long periods on surfaces we commonly use.
Scientists at Clemson University conducted a study on how salmonella sticks to food and surfaces. The findings suggest that you're just as likely to pick it up from your carpet as you are to get it from food.
Why? The bacteria can survive for even a month on wood, tile and carpet. Furthermore, the study indicates that salmonella does particularly well on carpets.
Salmonella can get onto carpets in your accommodation through:
- Bits of contaminated food landing on the carpeted surfaces.
- Pets carrying the bacteria.
- Poor handwashing after washroom use if a person's hands come into contact with the carpet.
Campylobacter bacteria are among the top four causes of diarrhoeal disease in the world according to the World Health Organization.
There are 17 known campylobacter species. Two of these account for most reported cases of campylobacter infection. These are C. coli and C. jejuni
Campylobacter is mainly spread through:
- Raw or undercooked food, particularly poultry.
- Contact with something touched by food containing the bacteria.
- Contaminated water either through drinking or recreational use.
Infection by campylobacter causes the following symptoms:
- Blood in stool
- Stomach cramping
In some cases, infected persons may not experience symptoms. For those with weakened immunity, however, campylobacter can lead to a serious infection of the bloodstream.
As is the case with salmonella, campylobacter can survive on surfaces. This means it can easily get transferred from the original source of contamination. It can then get picked up in the new area.
For instance, if contaminated food or water comes into contact with a carpet, there's a high risk of the bacteria spreading to the carpet.
Given that it can survive on surfaces for up to 24 hours, your guests are at risk of infection.
Carpets make for ideal breeding grounds for campylobacter. Though you may not easily tell, your carpets may contain moisture content. This moisture is necessary for the survival of bacteria.
Campylobacter bacteria are highly sensitive to loss of moisture. As such, they don't survive easily on dry surfaces. This explains why they thrive on hand towels and kitchen towels.
3. Dust Mites
Dust mites are microscopic organisms no larger than ¼ of a millimetre in length. They are naturally occurring. They may be present on mattresses, carpets, curtains, bedding and upholstery.
Dust mites are not parasites and neither do they bite. Instead, these pathogens feed on dead skin cells from our bodies.
Consider this. The average human sheds roughly 1.5 grams of dead skin cells. That's enough to feed as many as 1 million dust mites.
Dust mites cause allergies in two ways. First, they are an allergenic themselves. This means that contact with them causes an abnormally vigorous immune response. Second, the faecal matter they excrete is an allergen.
Continued exposure to dust mites can aggravate allergies and asthma. It can also lead to a condition called allergic rhinitis.
A mild case causes symptoms such as:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
A severe case of allergic rhinitis can result in:
- Sneezing incessantly
- Severe asthma
Other than the skin flakes they feed on, dust mites require moisture to live. Carpets often provide them with a conducive living environment. This is due to the presence of moisture trapped by carpet fibres.
Moisture may get trapped if:
- You clean your carpets but they don't dry completely.
- There's high humidity in the room.
It's important to look into the state of your accommodation bedding as well.
Covers, sheets, pillowcases and mattresses trap humidity when someone breathes or sweats. Dust mites can thus thrive in these areas as well. You should, therefore, clean all your linen and replace it after some time.
Consider purchasing dust control mats.
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus which spreads easily. Also referred to as the "winter vomiting bug", it causes acute gastroenteritis.
Infection from norovirus is serious. It causes over 600 million cases annually around the world. This makes it the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis.
The following are symptoms of acute gastroenteritis caused by norovirus:
- Muscle pain
- Stomach cramps or pain
- Watery stool
Signs and symptoms manifest within a 12 to 48 hour period. They may last for 1 to 3 days.
Norovirus is an issue of global concern. This is due to the fact that it affects both high- and low-income countries. Countries spend over $60 billion as a result of costs related to norovirus.
Just how hard it is to kill underscores the severity of this virus. Once it's on a surface it can survive for up to 14 days, increasing the risk of infection.
Its uncanny ability to survive enables it to live on just about any type of surface you can think of. Think countertops, doorknobs and…carpets.
For years, there have been numerous studies on how norovirus can thrive on hard surfaces. There wasn't much detail on its survival on surfaces such as carpets.
A 2017 study published in the Applied Environmental Microbiology changed this. It broadened the scope of knowledge on norovirus survival.
Findings from the study indicate that norovirus can last on carpets for 15 days.
There are two recommended ways to disinfect carpets of norovirus.
First is through the use of an approved antimicrobial agent. Second is by steam cleaning. This should be at 212°F (100°C) for one minute or 158°F (70°C) for five minutes.
For the latter, ensure your carpets can withstand the high temperature.
5. E. coli (Escherichia coli)
Escherichia coli bacteria are commonly found in human and animal intestines. They are also present in food and the environment.
E. coli is a broad and diverse family of bacteria. While many varieties are relatively harmless, some can cause serious infection.
E. coli can cause:
- Respiratory disease
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
We commonly associate these bacteria with raw/undercooked meat and raw milk. However, research shows that we can pick up E. coli from carpets. This can occur via inhalation, ingestion or transfer to the skin.
There are several risk factors related to E. coli including:
- Age. Older adults and younger children are at greater risk of illness caused by E. coli. They can also experience more severe complications as a result of infection.
- State of one's immune system. Some people are at higher risk of infection. This occurs in immune systems weakened by other conditions.
- Certain foods. Some foods can put you at higher risk of E. coli infection. These are cheese from raw milk, undercooked hamburgers and unpasteurized milk.
- Stomach acid levels. Certain medications that reduce stomach acid can cause exposure. This is because stomach acid offers some degree of protection against E. coli.
Bacteremia is the presence of bacteria in one's bloodstream. It can cause sepsis, a life-threatening immune response.
Step up Your Cleaning to Keep Guests Safe
With the above knowledge in mind, there's only one thing to do. Make rigorous cleaning an area of priority at your accommodation facility. That's not all. To eliminate these dangerous organisms, you need to disinfect your carpets.
Cleaning only removes visible dirt. Sanitising eliminates bacteria in 30 seconds. Disinfecting is more powerful than either. Disinfectants take 10 minutes to eradicate all microorganisms.
You can learn more about this by watching the following video:
Disinfectants are available where you purchase cleaning agents. Seek advice and guidelines on handling them properly and safely. Be sure to use gloves during the process.
The general process entails mixing the disinfectant with water. Pour the solution evenly all over the carpet. Use a brush to scrub all over, ensuring the solution goes deep into the fibres. Next, use plenty of clean water to rinse off all of the disinfectant. Lastly, allow the carpet to dry completely.
Cleaning and disinfection of carpets at your facility is best done on a regular basis. After all, your guests' well-being - and that of your establishment - relies on this.
Source: Curtis Adams