To date, there is no evidence that any disease or virus may be transmitted by use of an alcohol breathalyser device if those devices are used correctly; that is, with single use disposable mouthpieces/straws that are stored and disposed of in a hygienic manner; and disinfected appropriately; that is, with Clinell Universal wipes. These have been shown to not alter the readings by NSW Police. Any traces of rubbing alcohol on units may alter readings.
Nevertheless, to reduce the risk that COVID-19 may be transmitted through the use of breathalysers, it is recommended to minimise the use of breathalysers during the pandemic; and to introduce a new, two-stage process for taking a breath test reading from clients.
Existing breathalyser devices can operate in two modes – passive, or active. Passive mode is when the client speaks closely to the device but does not contact it directly. A device operating in passive mode detects the presence or absence of alcohol, but not alcohol concentration. Active mode requires the client to blow into a disposable mouthpiece. Services may choose to use active mode only, or a combination of passive and active modes as required or available. The two modes for use are described in Section 3.
This document specifies the indications and process for the use of breathalysers by drug and alcohol staff until further notice. The process has been reviewed by the Centre for Alcohol and Other Drugs, NSW Health and the Clinical Excellence Commission.
These procedures have been adapted from the South East Sydney Local Health District Drug and Alcohol Services ‘Indications and process for using breathalysers during the COVID-19 Pandemic’ Interim Procedures. We gratefully acknowledge their original work.
Clinicians are expected to minimise the use of breathalysers as much as possible. Clinicians can and should use their clinical judgement and assessment skills to identify intoxication in many clinical encounters. Regardless of how a clinician determines that a client is intoxicated, clinicians will document consumption of alcohol and use of medications in the clinical notes.
In addition to meeting one of the limited indications for breathalyser use listed below, clinicians must receive approval for breathalyser use from a senior clinician.
Following use of the breathalyser, the device will be cleaned and disinfected using the Clinell Universal wipes and standard infection control process.
Centre for Alcohol and Other Drugs, NSW Ministry of Health.
Drug and Alcohol Services, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District.
Dr Nigel Lyons, Deputy Secretary, Health System Strategy and Planning, NSW MInistry of Health.
Infection Prevention and Control, Clinical Excellence Commission.
NSW drug and alcohol treatment services.