Welcome to Professional and Technical Services (PTS) – experts in chemical disinfection for infection prevention. Our goal is to educate and provide you the latest resources related to cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces, medical devices and hands. As specialists in disinfectant chemistries, microbiology, environmental cleaning and disinfection, facility assessments and policy and procedure creation we are dedicated to helping any person or facility who uses chemical disinfectants.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Pig Health – A Balancing Act



Pigs are among the most intelligent animals.  Pigs are (or can be) cute. But did you know that pigs can also be an integral part of our health?  They provide nourishment (if you’re like me, you think pigs are delicious) and have the potential to save our lives, but they also have the potential of harming us.  From the “saving our lives” perspective, researchers have been trying for decades to make animal-to-human transplants work, a process known as xenotransplantation.  There are thousands of people on organ transplant waiting lists as there are not nearly enough donors, and having such a breakthrough would save lives.  In an article I came across, a research team has used CRISPR (a new gene editing technology) to create pig embryos designed to keep human immune systems from rejecting them with the hopes to move forward with animal trials in the near future.  Such a breakthrough would be enormous.

Conversely, a second article I read this week on pigs that was published in the journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy uncovered the fact that Carbapenem resistance has been found on at least one swine production facility in the US.  The researchers collected 1500 fecal samples and tested the pig’s environment four times over a 5-month period.  The gene that allows for Carbapenem resistance was found in several of the samples taken.  According to the researchers, none of the pigs on the farm were sick, but there could be a potential for human handlers to be colonized which could lead to person to person transmission.

2017 will mark the beginning of more stringent use of antibiotics in the farmed animal market. We are all responsible for the judicious use of antibiotics so that these lifesaving tools remain effective for treating people and animals.  As part of this antimicrobial stewardship initiative, changes are coming to how antibiotics are allowed to be used in the farmed animal market.  From a human perspective, CRE (Carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae) are considered nightmare bacteria.  Half of the patients infected with CRE in their bloodstream have died as a result of it. One reason why CRE bacteria are so scary is that they can transfer their resistance to other bacteria within the same family. While currently almost all CRE infections occur in people receiving significant medical care in hospitals, long-term acute care facilities, and nursing homes, the fact that we have found CRE on at least one farm poses a concern for possible transmission and/or colonization outside of our healthcare facilities. This could leave us in a dire situation if even the strongest antibiotics we have in our treatment arsenal do not work in treating infections which could leave patients with potentially untreatable infections.

Before we start to panic, consider the positive. We are aware.  We can now make positive changes.  We know that CRE is spread from person to person through contact with an infected or colonised person.  This generally occurs directly from the hands of another person or indirectly from environmental surfaces or medical equipment that have become contaminated.  We know CRE is not spread through the air or by coughing or sneezing.  CRE is a vegetative bacteria.  While it carries antibiotic resistance, this does not make it more resistant to disinfectants.  As the environment is a key area of concern with respect to transmission, being vigilant and increasing or improving our cleaning and disinfection practices be it at a farm, in animal transport trailers, slaughter houses, food packaging facilities, hospitals, long term care facilities or our homes will help control this “nightmare bacteria”.  
This is a perfect example of the One Health initiative - Animals, People and the Environment.  We are all connected.  Pointing fingers or laying blame will not help.  We need to all work together towards the common goal of a world where people, animals and the environment can be happy and healthy.
Bugging Off!
Nicole


Friday, December 2, 2016

Geeking out with a new Bug!

I love working in the science field.  I love to learn, ask questions and try and understand the mysteries of living organisms – human or animal.  I love the thrill of discovery, innovation and feeling like a pioneer in fields that interest me (infection prevention and biosecurity).  Science has taught me how little I know and how truly fascinating the world is.  I get paid to think hard and irritate the non-scientists I work with by insistently asking questions and starting many sentences with “Ya-but….”  It’s an awesome gig.  I’ve embraced my geekiness, but admit there are times when my geekiness can get embarrassing.

Why do I love infection prevention and biosecurity so much?  I get to play in both the human and animal health markets.  There are always new “bugs” popping up.  I am always tasked with figuring out the best way to clean and disinfect so that a facility can stop the transmission and save the lives of their patients. Every time I learn about a new bug, I get to learn and work to figure out how cleaning and disinfection can help.   As you can imagine, reading an article about a new strain of Streptococcus totally grabbed my attention!  According to the articles I’ve read, between February and November of this year, there have been 28 confirmed cases, 4 of which died.  Ten of the people were found in the Fairbanks area and 18 in Anchorage. The most recent cased in Anchorage have occurred in homeless men with a history of alcohol abuse.

There are 220 different strains of Group A Strep (also known as GAS) which can cause a wide range of infections including strep throat and wound infections, to toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis.  People who are generally more susceptible include the elderly, the very young and those with underlying health conditions.  There is also data that suggests that some racial demographic groups are also at higher risks.  While Alaska averages 60 to 90 GAS infections each year, this outbreak is associated with a newly identified strain.  One that has never been seen before.  The strain was identified in July and of interest the cases have been mostly middle-aged Alaska Native men, many of who have stayed in homeless shelters.

Residents of homeless shelters may represent a population at increased risk of GAS carriage and infection due to the fact that they may have various health conditions, such as lung disease and alcohol abuse which make them more prone to infections.  Group A Strep can easily spread to other people.  It lives in the nose and throat of individuals and is spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges of an infected individual or with infected skin lesions. The risk of spread is greatest when an individual is ill, such as when people have strep throat or an infected wound. When someone who is infected coughs or sneezes, the bacteria travels in small respiratory droplets.  You can then get sick if these respiratory droplets are breathed in or a surface that has the droplets on it is touched followed by touching your mouth or nose.  You can also become ill if you drink from the same glass or eat from the same plate as a sick person.  Crowded conditions within a busy homeless shelter can therefore be the perfect environment for spreading disease.

Do you see why science is so awesome?  I certainly would never want to minimize the deaths that have occurred from this outbreak, but finding a new strain – Streptococcus anchorage – you have to admit is pretty cool.

Bugging Off!

Nicole

Friday, November 25, 2016

Lazy? Naïve? Complacent?

Do you ever sit back and wonder how the human race has managed to survive and evolve?  I’ll admit, there are days that I do.  When we first launched the Talk Clean to Me blog back in 2011, I wrote a blog titled “To Clean or Not to Clean…” that opened with examples of self-cleaning products.  I’m embarrassed to say I now own a self-cleaning kitty litter, but happy to say after 5 years, my self-cleaning pool vacuum (aka my husband James) is still working fine!  The focus of the self-cleaning blog was the fact that cleaning is important.  Cleaning is necessary as it removes dirt that can harbour pathogens.  It can save lives and while we can develop self-cleaning devices, we cannot get away from having to physically remove the dirt ourselves.

In October I wrote a blog “The quest for the silver bullet” which again talked about our obsession with developing surfaces that will kill pathogens.  As I concluded in that blog, it’s not that I’m against innovation, but what I am against is the use of Silver Bullets like doorknobs, handrails, or what have you made out of antimicrobial agents when we have not addressed the fact that hand hygiene rates continue to be dismal or we continue to understaff housekeeping departments.

Hence the title of this week’s blog.  I’m not sure if we’ve just become a society built on entitlement and laziness that think we’re too good to clean up after ourselves, or if we are simply naïve because of the constant bombardment of new technologies,  or if we are just unaware of the potential dangers that come with  blindly believing in  the success of these self-cleaning surfaces.   

A recent letter to the editor in ICHE talks to just this.  Titled “Antimicrobial Curtains: Are They as Clean as You Think?, this letter discusses an investigation to determine the degree of contamination of antimicrobial curtains that had been implemented at their facility.  The long and the short is that 95% of the curtains they sampled showed bacterial growth and included both Gram-negative and Gram-positive organisms!  While there are published studies that support the fact that there is a reduction of pathogens on pre-treated textiles, there are studies that show that these surfaces can and do become contaminated with pathogenic organisms.  If we blindly believe that they only need to be changed when visibly soiled, we are forgetting the fact that we cannot see pathogens with our naked eye and could be ignoring a very real fomite that could be the reservoir for contaminating the hands of healthcare workers.   Can they help to reduce the load?  Yes.  Should we wait until they look dirty to us to change?  Probably not.  If we’re truly looking to protect our patients we probably should change the curtains upon terminal cleaning regardless of how clean they look!

Bugging Off!


Nicole 

Friday, November 18, 2016

You can help fight antibiotic resistance!

I bet many of you think your actions do not impact the plight of antibiotic resistance.  Answer honestly – how many of you have been prescribed antibiotics for an infection like strep throat only to stop taking them after a few days because you felt better?  If you answered yes, you my dear reader, are helping to create antibiotic resistance.

This week is antibiotic awareness week.   Around the world, healthcare workers, dentists, veterinarians, farmers, policy makers and we, the consumer, are talking about ways to help reduce this threat.  In case you did not know, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health and food security.  It’s easy to think that “it’s not going to affect me”, but the truth is antibiotic resistance knows no boundaries; age, country, economic status, and health status mean nothing to an antibiotic resistant bacteria.  If you don’t believe me, check out the IDSA website and read the stories of those who have been impacted by an antibiotic resistant infection.  Some like 9 yr old Brock Wade were lucky and survived.  Others like 21yr Ricky Lannetti, a healthy football player, were not and the lives of their families were impacted forever.

Aside from not finishing our antibiotic treatments, some of the other causes of antibiotic resistance include:

  1. Over-prescribing antibiotics.  Infections like a cold or flu, while nasty to deal with are caused by viruses.  Viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics.  If you have a cold, don’t beg your doctor for or go from walk-in clinic to walk-in clinic in search of antibiotics.
  2. Over-use of antibiotics in livestock and fish farming.  The good news is starting in 2017, Veterinary Feed Directives are being implemented that allow antibiotics to be used only to treat disease and not aid in the growth of animals.
  3. Poor infection control in hospitals and clinics.
  4. Lack of hygiene and poor sanitation.  The truth is most antibiotic resistant bacteria are among the easiest organisms to kill with the proper use of disinfectants.  Ensuring we wash our hands, tend to wounds or scrapes and clean our homes thoroughly and frequently will help reduce the risk of transmission.
  5. Lack of new antibiotics being developed. 

If you’re interested in learning more about some of the specific antibiotic resistant organisms, cleaning protocols and other tips to fight off antibiotic resistance organisms, check out our most recent educational campaign – No ESKAPE!

Bugging Off!


Nicole

Friday, November 11, 2016

Pigs are for eating not petting!

Attending fall fairs is a rite of passage – at least for those of us who grew up in the country.  When I was showing horses, I literally went from fair to fair on weekends competing.  Those of us with horses that could “ignore” the unusual sights and sounds did well.  Those with skittish horses…..well……not so much.  I was one of the lucky ones.  The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair was one of my favorite events and to this day I still love spending a day (or two) walking around looking at the vendors, the farmers who have brought their best animals to be judged and of course, the horses! Especially the show jumpers! 

The best part of being around animals is of course petting them.  Growing up on a farm, as far as I’m concerned, any animal can be a pet; cows, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, you name it.  Give me enough time with them and they’ll be “pets”.  For those who grew up in cities and did not have the opportunity to be around farm animals, fall fairs are an amazing opportunity to interact with them.  However, we need to ensure that everyone understands the potential risk of interacting with them.  They can carry pathogens that make us sick making hand washing so vital.

As we’re winding down to the end of the fair season, it was with great interest that I came across the CDC’s notification that they have found 4 variant virus infections linked to pigs.    According to the study, the CDC has confirmed that 18 people (16 of which were children) from Michigan and Ohio were found to have been infected with a flu virus (Influenza A H3N2) which is associated with pigs.   All 18 patients reported exposure in some form to pigs at agricultural fairs.  There were no deaths associated with the cluster and there was no evidence suggesting the virus transmitted from person to person.  While they did not find proof that there was person-to-person transmission what they did find is that some of the viruses found were reassortant, meaning both human and swine genetic material was found.  The fact that there were genes of human origin indicates that the virus could be in a position to become more likely to spread from person to person.

All is not lost however, fall fairs are safe.  We just need to be smart.  If you’re planning on attending a fall fair, remember that animals can carry pathogens that make us sick.  The single most important thing we can do is wash our hands after petting the animals and certainly before eating!  We also need to avoid putting our hands on our faces or in our mouths.  My rule is every time is see a hand sanitizer station, I use it!

I don’t have time to attend The Royal this year, but there are still 3 days left – so if you’re in the Toronto, Ontario area and have never been, I highly recommend it!

Bugging Off!

Nicole


Friday, November 4, 2016

What’s your home hygiene grade?

Being in the infection prevention business, many people may think that means I obsess over the cleanliness of our home.  While I may not “obsess”, I will admit I do “nag” when it comes to hand hygiene.  I’m pretty sure by the age of 4, my son was conducting hand hygiene audits of his preschool classmates, and I do fondly recall having one of those proud mommy moments when my son realized that someone had not washed their hands after using the restroom.  Admittedly there was a bit of “public shaming” involved – you know the kind that only a child can get away with?  A child yelling out in a public restroom “Mommy – that woman did not wash her hands!  GROSS!”   It was a moment of equal parts mortification and delight; mortification of the “public shaming” and delight over realizing my nagging really was getting through!    

Most of us know that children, particularly young children, have immature immune systems that improve and strengthen with age.  But are you aware of the number of child deaths that occur each year from infectious diseases?  I didn’t.  I did however, get an alert of a new report, "Small Steps for Big Change", that was just released by the Global Hygiene Council (GHC)  that investigates the alarming burden of preventable infectious diseases in children worldwide. 

According to the report, more than 3 million children under the age of 5 die from infectious diseases each year.  Of that 3 million, almost a million die from pneumonia, and more than 700,000 children under the age of 5, die as a result of diarrhea.  The report also indicates that the general public are pretty cavalier when it comes to improving our cleaning and disinfection practices in our homes.  In fact, 52% of families do not increase surface disinfection at home during the cold and flu season.  Further, 31% of reported foodborne outbreaks occur in at home – something to think about with the US Thanksgiving Holiday fast approaching!

In an attempt to try and improve both our personal and home hygiene practises, the Global Hygiene Council has developed a 5-step plan that includes; improve worldwide hygiene, hand hygiene, kitchen hygiene, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and just plain improvement personal hygiene in general.  The study concludes that families, communities and healthcare professionals need to acknowledge that improved hygiene is effectively a first line of defence in preventing the spread of infection.  If we adopt better hygiene practices we could have a dramatic impact on improving the lives of young children around the world.
While I strive to set a high standard for hand hygiene, I do not obsess over disinfecting each and every surface in our home.  Heck, I can’t even pretend that I always step up cleaning of the high touch surfaces in our home when one or more of us have a cold or flu….  Like many, I try my best.  I hope that by revealing the staggering number of childhood deaths, we as a community, can work to improve everyone’s understanding of the importance of hygiene.  I hope, however, we don’t get into “public shaming” of people when their hygiene is not the same as ours – not everyone has the same easy access as many of us to clean water and cleaning products.  I do think (hope) that by drawing attention to the relatively simple 5 steps that can be instituted to improve hygiene, we will save many of those 3 million children.

Bugging Off!

Nicole  

Friday, October 28, 2016

Staying Healthy on Halloween

I love Halloween.  I love pumpkin carving.  I love decorating the lawn.   I love seeing all the kids dressed up. But most of all, I LOVE eating Halloween candy.  I actually consider myself lucky when it comes to this time of year.  My husband cannot eat products with dairy in them (aka chocolate) and my son generally ignores his Halloween loot by the 2nd day.  That leaves lots of yummy treats for me!

I do not, however, like the post-Halloween cold or flu that inevitably creeps up on us so how am I going to help my family and pets stay healthy?
    
  1. Keep our hands clean!  Thankfully I think we’ve talked our son into a costume choice where he’ll be wearing gloves.  Depending on the weather, we can have upwards of 100 kids come by our house.  Doorknobs and doorbells go from high-touch to super-touch surfaces on Halloween.  Wearing gloves can help keep a few germs off our hands and if we need to eat a few treats along the way, I’ll be sure to pack some hand sanitizer.
  2. Keep the treat bowl as private property!  Don’t let trick or treaters pick their treats.  Hand the treats out yourself.  It will help minimize gluttony often seen by the older boys with larger hands while making sure the little ghouls and goblins don’t leave their germs behind when they leave!  But…don’t fall to into the pit of eating a treat every time you hand one out.  We’re adults – we know that too much candy will cause a tummy ache!
  3. Decline the homemade Apple Cider (even if it’s “adult” cider…)! Who doesn’t like apple cider, especially warm apple cider?  If the weather forecast holds true (while the rain and snow look to be holding off), the weather is going to be a titch chilly.  A mug of warm cider to sip while you walk between houses may be just the ticket!  But if it hasn’t been pasteurized you run the risk of ingesting Cryptosporidium, Salmonella, E. coli or Listeria monocytogenes.  Unless you’re looking to rapidly loose the weight you gain from eating the candy I would recommend staying away from the offer of homemade apple cider.
  4. Keep your chocolate from going to the dogs! I have a cat.  He’s black and his name is Shadow so we don’t need to dress him up for Halloween, but many people do dress up their dogs while they walk from house to house trick or treating.  Remember that chocolate can be deadly to dogs and cats.  If you didn’t know, the darker the chocolate the deadlier it is!  When your kids come home and dump their loot bag to see what they got be sure to keep your pets safely away!
  5. Beware of the Halloween Mask! Let’s be honest, you never know who and how many kids or adults may have tried on the mask you bought for your costume…  I bet that’s something you’ve never thought of!  Gross isn’t it?  To me it’s right up there with watching flight attendants do the safety introduction and putting the oxygen mask on….gag!  While perhaps a small risk, it’s really not that hard to play it safe by cleaning and disinfecting the mask before it’s worn.  It is fall after all when cold and flu viruses begin to run rampant!
I’m sad to say that I will actually be travelling at a conference this Halloween so I’ll miss the festivities, but I hope you’ll keep these 5 tips in mind and keep healthy on Halloween!

Bugging Off!


Nicole