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 15, 2017

Are men the fairer sex?

Today I just had to tap out and admit I needed a day at home to rest.  I’ve been fighting a cold for over a week.  It started to hit me Sunday, when I had a 2 day committee meeting….with a group of Infection Preventionists (Sorry if I made anyone sick!).  ‘Tis the season for colds and flus – it is what it is and actually I’m pretty happy that I made it almost to Christmas before catching something. 

This morning, while relaxing, I caught up on some reading and low and behold I came across a study that made me chuckle.  The timing of course with being sick couldn’t have been better!  I came across an article “The science behind man-flu” by Dr. Kyle Sue from the University of Alberta that explored whether men are wimps or just immunologically inferior.  OMG!  Who hasn’t mocked their spouse, partner, brother, father, friend or co-worker for being a baby when sick! 

Across the ages, women have often been called the fairer sex.  It’s a stereotype that is hard to escape.  In trying to understand this association, scientists have shown that we automatically link lighter or fairer colours with female names and qualities, and darker shades with more masculine attributes.   How then is it that when it comes to getting sick, women handle it better than men?  According to the Oxford Dictionary, “man-flu” is defined as "a cold or similar minor ailment as experienced by a man who is regarded as exaggerating the severity of the symptoms."  Sue conducted a literature review to determine if men really experience worse symptoms then women and whether this difference has any evolutionary basis.  One study Sue referenced isolated cells from 63 healthy people and infected the cells with a common virus. The researchers found the cells from women had a stronger immune response than those from men.  Some of the other interesting tidbits included the fact that men had a higher risk of hospital admission with the flu, men had higher rates of flu-associated deaths compared to women, women are more responsive to vaccination than men and while perhaps one of the least scientific supported evidence, a survey found that men suffering from a flu reported taking more time off from work than women.

The things that make you go hmmm…..  I guess it’s true that estrogen does have its advantages from time to time! Too bad it let me down this week, but it gives me the opportunity to drink a hot-toddy before bed!

Bugging Off!


Friday, December 8, 2017

Street cleaning causes infections?

I think I can say with some confidence that it is very rare that cleaning can lead to infections.  I am aware of a study from many moons ago where a facility found that surfaces cleaned by a particular cleaner were dirtier after cleaning took place.  The reason? In order to be more efficient, the housekeeper would set up their cart the night before, and to minimize waste, topped up rather than getting fresh disinfectant solution.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to travel to some extent, and visit a number of different countries.  Along my travels I have noticed that some areas are dirtier than others.  I have also noted that some areas of the world go so far as to clean their streets each night to keep the dirt at bay – I happen to know that Bourbon Street in New Orleans is frequently cleaned…..but dirt is not really the issue there.  In general, I would say that street cleaning is a good thing.  It keeps dirt at bay, but it also removes food scraps that could become a food source for insects or rodents. For obvious reasons, cleaning gives a pretty good impression to those who may be new to a given city.  It never occurred to me that street cleaning could be an infection hazard.

I now fear that street cleaning trucks may become categorized in the same league as hand dryers for me thanks to a study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases by researchers from Spain.  The study investigated a case of Legionnaires’ disease that had been confirmed at a street cleaning company that reported a similar case 4 years prior.  The long and the short of it is that researchers felt that the infections were caused by contaminated water tanks used by the trucks during street cleaning concluding that Legionella was being aerosolized through the high-pressure hoses used to clean the streets.

This isn’t the first blog on Legionella.  In my Bugs, NOT Robbers Close Police Station and Summer cough due to cold…or Legionnaires’ disease, I reviewed 2 other outbreaks associated with Legionella.  In fact, Legionella is associated with a number of interesting outbreaks including water or liquid associated with windshield washer fluid, dishwashers, hospital hot water systems, cooling towers, asphalt paving machines and even water births…   According to relatively recent statistics, the CDC reports that Legionnaires’ disease has quadrupled in incidents between 2000 and 2014.

Legionella loves water, so it’s not necessarily surprising that it would be found in the street cleaning trucks.  During the investigation the researchers found that the water from the street cleaning trucks was disposed of each night and refilled the next day with either untreated ground water or drinking water. The tanks were disinfected once/year for 2hrs with a chlorine-based solution.  However, the foam linings in the tanks were never replaced and did not dry out overnight creating a perfect reservoir for Legionella to flourish.  As a result of the investigation, street workers are now required to wear masks during tasks that could lead to potential exposure. The internal foam pieces were removed from the trucks and stricter water treatment measures were put in place.

In the end, cleaning and disinfection is important to minimize the chance that Legionella can take hold and cause chaos.  The upside of studies such as this is that it shows you just never know where the next reservoir for Legionella or any pathogen for that matter may be found.  It’s easy to let our guard down during quiet times….but that always seems to be when the next opportunistic infectious agent crops up and wreaks havoc!  Cleaning saves lives and I guess as this study shows, effective cleaning and disinfection protocols are needed everywhere!

Bugging Off!


Friday, December 1, 2017

What’s in your sink, tap or bottles?

Prior to entering the infection prevention world, I worked for almost a decade in a laboratory where we tested water, soil, waste water, air, and food, among other things.  My focus and expertise were in the Environmental Division where we dealt with contaminated sites (water and soil testing), drinking water analysis, etc.  My least favorite project was measuring, weighing, filleting and dissecting >200 fish in order to test for dioxin and other chemicals of concern.  It was stinky and after the first night, the 2 college students who were supposed to help never came back….

Having lived and worked through one of the worst outbreaks associated with drinking water and understanding the need to ensure we have quality water to drink, I am always curious when I come across an article that impacts drinking water, particularly if bottled water is included, as bottled water does not have the same level of testing requirements as tap water (at in Ontario, Canada).  So it was interesting when I read a recent article by researchers out of Thailand looking at Stenotrophomonas maltophilia isolates from environmental samples.

S. maltophilia is an emerging global multidrug-resistant opportunistic bacterial pathogen that is being found both in healthcare facilities and the community. Similar to many emerging pathogens, it is of particular concern for immunocompromised individuals as this pathogen is associated with a significant mortality.  S. maltophilia is an environmental bacterium found in aqueous habitats, including plants, animals, foods, and water sources that has the ability to cause infections in a range of organs and tissues but is most commonly associated with in respiratory tract infections. 

The researchers found that of the 360 samples taken, the majority of the environmental isolates were found in sink drains, drinking water and tap water.  Of particular interest was the frequency of positive samples found from bottled water, which the researchers speculate could have resulted due to poor management of hygiene during the production of the bottle water.  They also found positive samples from the machine filtered water which also highlights the importance of ensuring there is a preventative maintenance and monitoring program in place for on-site filtered water production.

My interest for this was of course the contamination in bottled water.  We’ve become accustomed to grabbing bottles of water and most incorrectly believe that bottled water is safer than tap water.  In some countries, without a doubt this could be true.  However, in other countries, very strict regulations are in place to ensure that municipal water is of the highest quality and safety.  The dirty truth is that bottled water manufacturers do not have to conduct much in the way of testing to ensure their product is as safe as the water coming out of our taps.

As with any study looking at the environment, it is both interesting and scary to learn about new emerging pathogens we need to be on the lookout for and of course the surfaces and areas we need to be particularly vigilant with.

Jae kan mai na,


PS – that’s see you later in Thai!  Thanks Nuch (aka Big Sis)! 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Prescribe Practice for Perfection

Retrieved from: https://upwardpackaging.com/
When you try something new, there’s no hiding that you’re usually very bad at it.  For many, the easiest way to eliminate that feeling of angst is to quit practicing and go do something else, so that’s what most of us do.  Take me for example, I love music.  In fact, going into school, my choice was science or music.  I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher so I chose science, but continued to take music as a minor and while I stopped playing the flute and sax, continued with piano whenever I could get my fingers on the ivory and singing.  Over the last 10 years, life has gotten in the way and these days aside from singing in the car, I’m not very musical.  I decided that perhaps I would take up a new instrument, guitar, because I have lots of family and friends that play, I would be able to sing and play and unlike a piano, and I can take a guitar virtually anywhere I want to.

I did not however, consider the angst I would feel for not being good at an instrument as soon as I picked it up.  Nor did I consider the fact that when I play piano or sing, even from memory, I visualize the notes I am playing or singing.  When I pick up the guitar, I can’t visualize the chords (yet) and that has been paralyzing….and more than just a bit humbling.  I know that practice makes perfect and I have resolved to start taking lessons, get out of my head and just try.

What does this have to do with infection control or the use of disinfectants?  Well, as I’ve talked about in past blogs, perfecting cleaning and disinfection practices can save lives.  More importantly however, practicing the safe use of disinfectants will save lives.  Did you know that more than 30 million workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals in their workplace?  In North America, because of the safety concerns we have programs like OSHA in place to protect workers.  Most of us would immediately think of the SDS as a need to ensure that information on the product is readily available.  While the SDS provides valuable information, many overlook the importance of Work Place labels.

Back in 2015, I wrote a blog “Mommy, this water tastes funny” where a son of a friend of mine drank bleach.  It had been decanted into a water bottle by cleaners while they were on vacation and left on the bathroom counter.  The bottle looked exactly like the bottles of water he had been drinking from for the last several days.  I also know of a story of a healthcare facility where spent hydraulic fluid had been put in an empty Enzymatic Instrument Cleaner bottle and put under the sink…the sink where instruments were reprocessed.  No one realized what was going on until surgeons started complaining of the fact that instruments were slippery to touch.  Just last week, one of my teammates took a call from a veterinary clinic who had taken a bottle of diluted disinfectant and used it in their dental water lines, mistaking it for a bottle of distilled water.  They performed several procedures with pets and were concerned of the side effects for potential ingestion of the disinfectant.

Luckily in all cases, no one died and no one was seriously injured, but none of these stories had to happen if we were practicing safe chemical use.  Safe chemical use is not just about reading the SDS or wearing the correct PPE.  Most importantly, safe chemical use means that the bottles the chemicals are stored in are correctly and adequately labelled so that it’s not just you that knows what the bottle contains.  While the following is verbatim from “Mommy, this water tastes funny”, I feel based on this week’s call it is worthy of repeating what a workplace label must include and you can see, it’s not so much that it’s a daunting task:

1. Product identifier (product name)
2. Information for the safe handling of the product
3. Statement that the SDS is available
4May contain the WHMIS/GHS hazard symbols or other pictograms.

The long and the short is that we need to be safe.  We need to protect ourselves and we need to protect our employees.  Ensuring that every bottle of chemical you have in your facility is properly labelled with a work place label is a very important safety step! 

Bugging Off!


Friday, November 17, 2017

Ban the Bad Blowers!

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I like to get my geek on.  Thankfully I was alone in my office when I squealed in delight after reading a Letter to the Editor in the October Special Edition of the Journal of Hospital Infection.  The letter talked about a pilot study comparing the level of microbial contamination found in hospital washrooms when paper towel or hand dryers were used.

I HATE hand dryers.  While I try darn hard to be environmentally conscious and sit on our company’s Green Team, when it comes to drying my hands I have no qualms about the number of trees needed to be cut down to make paper towels.  Why? Because there is enough evidence to show that hand dryers impede hand hygiene and as this study shows when looking at microbial contamination washrooms (restrooms) with hand dryers had higher levels of microbial contamination than washrooms that used paper towel.

Some may be questioning my comment about hand dryers impeding hand hygiene, but back in 2012 guest author Prof. Todd from Michigan State University discussed a survey where researchers found that hand dryers, because they can only accommodate a person at a time and can take up to >1 minute to adequately dry hands, can lead to avoidance of their use, incomplete drying of the hands or worse, wiping clean hands on clothes…..  I will admit there has been more than one occasion where along my travels I have encountered either a line up to get to a hand dryer or gave up on getting my hands dried due to insufficient air flow and/or heat.

In this particular study, the researchers sampled 2 washrooms within one hospital over a period of 3 months.  Their sampling regime included air sampling, environmental sampling of 5 locations and collecting dust samples.  In reviewing the data, significant differences and trends were seen.  In the washroom that utilized paper towels lower microbial levels were found whereas in the washroom that employed the hand dryer the microbial contamination was higher, had a greater range of bacteria and in general the floor, the hand dryer and the dust samples were more heavily contaminated.

I knew there was a reason I had such a loathing for hand dryers….this study simply continues to build upon my bias towards the need to ban their use.  The fact that WHO advocates to dry hands thoroughly on a single use towel strengthens my resolve to avoid the use of hand dryers at all costs!

Bugging Off!

PS – I know more investigation is needed, but for me the proof is in the 
pudding - blowers are bad!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Under the weather...

This week I’ve been off site at an amazing Executive Leadership Program.  It’s been insightful, a little humbling and very eye opening.  It has also been a bit sickening…..and by that I mean 5 of the 12 people in our group came down with tummy issues and as we found out last night talking to another group at our facility, 7 of the 30 in their group came down with something as well.

That something...was definitely food-borne, we just can’t decide if it was the Asian coleslaw, the cod or the avocado salad….or maybe all 3!  Needless to say, I have managed to survive enough to complete my course, but all good intentions in writing my blog this week went down the drain (pun intended).

The upside I suppose, is this is a great reminder that where ever we go, bugs will be there!

Bugging Off!


Friday, November 3, 2017

Restrooms, You and the Flu!

There are times that my self-control amazes me.  Perhaps not when it comes to chocolate, candy, chips and dip or really good cheese, but upon occasion, like my ability to not work out is truly impressive.  The fact that we have hit November and this is the first blog of the fall to talk about Flu Season is a great example of my self-control.

You may be wondering why I think I’m so impressed with myself, well…..have you be following the Flu Season in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere?  Australia has had a particularly bad flu season with >93,000 lab confirmed cases as of August 18th which happens to be 2.5 times more infections than the previous year.  The deaths and hospitalizations associated with the flu have also almost doubled when comparing recorded numbers year over year.

So what does that mean for North America? Well, if we use Australia and Hong Kong as indicators, and we know they have grappled with one of the worst flu seasons on record, then it’s safe to say that we may follow suit.  One of the reasons is because H3N2 is one of the most predominant strains circulating and it happens to be the strain that wreaked havoc a couple of years ago when our vaccine was a mismatch…  So, with the arrival of November we can and should expect the flu to start showing up.  If we keep on track to when we typically see spikes, we can expect the first  hit sometime in December, about the time that kids return home from school. Then a second hit in late January into February when we start seeing the true colour of Jack Frost and his blustery frigid temperatures.

Which leads me to restrooms and the flu.  “Spring Cleaning” is a well-known phenomenon with its intention to get rid of the dirt and grime that accumulates over the winter after we lock ourselves inside to avoid the cold.  Perhaps we should develop a new phenomenon – Fall Extermination.  We know that germs can be anywhere and we know that germs start “accumulating” in the fall when Cold and Flu seasons hits so maybe if we look at implementing a few key prevention tips we can help reduce the risk of transmission:

  1. Schedule seasonal deep cleaning at the beginning, middle and end of cold and flu season to keep the germs at bay.
  2. Increase the number of hand sanitizers you have on hand and make sure your bathroom is well stocked with soap in order to facilitate hand hygiene.
  3. Have disinfectant wipes readily accessible and encourage employees to disinfect their work areas, telephones, keyboards, door handles etc.
  4. Can you move to hands free options?  The less we touch, the less our hands will pick up and the lower the chance we have to spread things to ourselves.
  5. Just because cold and flu season happens every year, doesn’t mean everyone remembers how to differentiate between the two and how to try and stop from getting sick.  EDUCATE!
  6. Encourage sick employees to head home and recover.  A sick employee is not a productive employee and they’ll just make others sick.
  7. Promote Flu shots; and if you can, hold a flu shot clinic.

As we enter flu season, I hope you implement a few of these things both at work and at home because there’s nothing worse than working with sick grouchy people only to have to head home to a husband with a man-cold……

Bugging Off!