Originally published by Infection Control Today. For more information on SARS-CoV-2, click here.

With cases of COVID-19 now confirmed in the United States, the question inevitably being asked by industry professionals is “What disinfectants can I use against this virus?” 

Fortunately, regulatory and public health agencies in the U.S. provide clear guidance on what products may be used in outbreaks of emerging pathogens. 

In the U.S., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides emerging viral pathogen guidance on the criteria disinfectants need to meet to be considered effective against an emerging pathogen.  

The efficacy criteria are based on the ease with which the three types of viruses — enveloped, large non-enveloped and small non-enveloped viruses — are inactivated by disinfectants. The general idea of the EPA’s policy is that in order for a disinfectant to be considered effective against an emerging pathogen, it must demonstrate efficacy — that is, have an EPA-approved claim – against viruses that are harder to kill than the emerging pathogen. 

SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 outbreak, is an enveloped virus and therefore the easiest to kill of the three types of viruses. This means the efficacy criteria for a disinfectant is as follows: 

  • A disinfectant must be EPA-approved as a hospital/healthcare or broad spectrum disinfectant
  • The disinfectant must carry an EPA-approved claim for at least one small or one large non-enveloped virus 
  • Lastly, the EPA-approved master label must contain emerging pathogen “terms of registration” language describing what emerging pathogen claims the manufacturer can make. Typically, this takes the form of language such as:

Emerging Viral Pathogen Claims

Allowable and subject to the terms described in Agency guidance dated August 19, 2016, “Guidance to Registrants: Process for Making Claims Against Emerging Viral Pathogens not on EPA-Registered Disinfectant Labels

This product qualifies for emerging pathogen claims against:

  • Enveloped viruses
  • Large non-enveloped viruses
  • Small non-enveloped viruses

If the disinfectant satisfies all three criteria, the manufacturer can communicate this information via technical literature distributed exclusively to healthcare facilities, physicians, nurses and public health officials, “1-800” consumer information services, social media sites and company websites, using specific permitted language. The required language must be written in one of the following formats: 

[Product name] has demonstrated effectiveness against viruses similar to [name of emerging virus] on hard, [porous and/or nonporous surfaces]. Therefore, [product name] can be used against [name of emerging virus] when used in accordance with the directions for use against [name of supporting virus(es)] on [hard, porous/nonporous surfaces]. Refer to the [CDC or OIE] website at [pathogen-specific website address] for additional information.

[Name of illness/outbreak] is caused by [name of emerging virus]. [Product name] kills similar viruses and therefore can be used against [name of supporting virus(es)] on [hard, porous/non-porous surfaces]. Refer to the [CDC or OIE] website at [website address] for additional information.

For example, for the current COVID-19 outbreak, a statement using the first example of permitted language for a disinfectant with a claim against Rhinovirus (a small, non-enveloped virus) would read:

Disinfectant X has demonstrated effectiveness against viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2 (formerly 2019-nCoV) on hard, nonporous surfaces. Therefore, Disinfectant X can be used against SARS-CoV-2 (formerly 2019-nCoV) when used in accordance with the directions for use against Rhinovirus on hard, nonporous surfaces. Refer to the CDC or OIE website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html for additional information.

So now that you know the requirements, what steps can you take to find an effective disinfectant? It’s always best to contact the manufacturer or check its website for disinfectants the manufacturer has determined to have EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims. Many manufacturers have issued guidance including lists of eligible products. While looking at manufacturer websites, it is important to look at the specific language used. Claims should not read as “kills SARS-CoV-2” or “effective against SARS-CoV-2,” as this new pathogen is not yet available for EPA testing. Given the new name of SARS-CoV-2 was confirmed on February 12, 2020, some manufacturers may still be using the previous name for the virus, 2019-nCoV. 

With the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak continuing, and with COVID-19 cases in the U.S. increasing, albeit slowly, it’s critical that the right information on disinfection selection is provided to healthcare, cleaning and janitorial industry professionals. By following trusted guidance from national regulatory and public health agencies, facilities can help ensure they are best prepared for this as well as any future outbreaks of viral pathogens.  

For the latest information on COVID-19 and variants, visit our CloroxPro COVID-19 Hub.