Hepatitis B is an infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is known as a "enveloped virus," meaning it has an outer wrapping, according to National Caner Institute. Infection occurs when the virus enters the bloodstream and reaches the liver. Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact with infected blood and saliva and through unprotected sex and breast milk. Hepatitis B can be killed by several types of disinfectants.
High-level disinfectants are typically used in a health-care setting. Hydrogen peroxide is a high-level disinfectant that is effective in destroying hepatitis B, but according to the BC Center for Disease Control, manufacturers of hydrogen peroxide warn that it requires contact for at least five minutes to be effective. Hydrogen peroxide together with peracetic acid have high disinfectant qualities. Manufacturers of this mixture have found that all microorganisms excluding bacterial spores, are destroyed within 20 minutes of contact with this solution. Peracetic acid is also effective at killing viruses such as hepatitis B on its own but is unstable, especially when diluted.
Gluteraldehydes are high-level disinfectants that kill viruses like hepatitis B. They can be highly toxic and should only be used by medical professionals to sterilise medical equipment. Ortho-phthalaldehyde (OPA) is similar to gluteraldehyde, but its odour is faint and not irritating to the nose or eyes.
Formaldehyde is a high-level disinfectant commonly used as a water-based solution called formalin (37% formaldehyde). This solution will kill hepatitis B virus along with several other viruses, fungi and spores. Typically, use of formaldehyde is also limited to medical settings.
Intermediate-level disinfectants kill vegetative bacteria, viruses and fungi. Ethyl and isopropyl alcohol are intermediate-level disinfectants effective in killing enveloped viruses like hepatitis B. The time needed to kill bacteria and viruses is difficult to achieve because alcohol evaporates quickly. The BC Center for Disease Control recommends immersing the item requiring disinfection into the alcohol.
Hypochlorites, like household bleach, are fast-acting intermediate-level disinfectants that are best used to disinfect surfaces, as they can burn skin and eyes. To gain the most effectiveness from hypochlorites, they must remain on surfaces for several minutes.
Another common intermediate-level disinfectant is iodine and iodophors. Iodine tinctures, which are dissolved in alcohol, have limited cleaning ability. They are effective in killing the hepatitis B virus but require a long contact time and several applications may be needed.
Low-level disinfectants kill vegetative (grown in rich, moist soil) bacteria, fungi and enveloped viruses. They are typically used to clean household surfaces. Phenol, an ingredient found in mouthwashes and hand soaps, is the active ingredient in household disinfectants like Lysol. Phenolic disinfectants are effective in killing the hepatitis B virus and are safe to use. Prolonged contact with skin can cause irritation.
Quaternary ammonium (QA) compounds are another type of low-level disinfectant but are ineffective as antiseptics on skin and tissue. QA disinfectants are often formulated as ammonium chloride and are effective in killing the hepatitis B virus. They are low in toxicity but can irritate skin after prolonged contact. These disinfectants can be used in home disinfecting of surfaces like floors, furniture and walls.
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