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.

Our expertise is utilized by Infection Preventionists, Public Health Experts, First Responders, Dentists, Physicians, Nurses, Veterinarians, Aestheticians, Environmental Services professionals and janitorial product distributors to develop more sustainable cleaning and disinfection practices in North America.

Our commitment to providing chemical disinfectant education is more than business, it is a passion.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Are you inked?

I’m not, which considering I am known to change the colour of my hair every five weeks and currently have purple highlights surprises people.  It’s not that I’m against tattoos, but that I have not yet found a symbol that speaks to me enough to get one done.   The other and probably more truthful reason is that I had an uncle contract Hep C after getting a tattoo.  From my teens, I knew from an infection prevention perspective that things can go very, very wrong if cleaning, disinfection and sterilization is not completed correctly, each and every time.

While not associated with improper cleaning and disinfection, there was a recent study published in the British Medical Journal Case Reports that reviewed the death of a “youngish” male who contracted flesh-eating bacteria in the area of a newly “inked” tattoo.  If it was not associated to cleaning and disinfection, then what was the cause?  Why, ignoring instructions for care of a newly “inked” tattoo and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico of course.  According to the study, the infection was caused by Vibrio vulnificus which is present in many marine environments.

According to the CDC, Vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the United States every year. Vibrio vulnificus is a Gram-negative bacillus that only affects humans and other primates. It is in the same family as bacteria that cause cholera and is found in warm coastal waters, and is present at higher levels between May and October, hence the reason why you should not swim with freshly tattooed skin or even cuts or scrapes!  Most people will contract an infection after eating raw seafood that contains the bacteria.  It’s particularly prevalent in oysters, but that never stops me from eating them!  As described in the study, infection can also occur when the bacteria enters the body through a break (cut or scrape or tattoo) in the skin, most likely by swimming in contaminated coastal water.

Does this really have anything to do with cleaning and disinfection?  Not really,  but every once and a while you need to take a detour, and since we’re moving into summertime which signifies swimming, consider it a public service announcement not to swim for at least 2 weeks after you have gotten a tattoo!  It may also serve as a reminder for me why I’ve not yet gotten a tattoo.  I love the water.  I love swimming, boating and paddle boarding.  I now know I’ll never get a tattoo in the summer!


Bugging Off!


Nicole

Friday, June 16, 2017

Cruise Control Can Kill

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Do you ever have those days where you just run on autopilot or cruise control?  I do.  It’s a joke in my house that if I have to something out of the ordinary that breaks my morning routine, I get all out of sorts.  I have also been known to step over a bag or item that I have placed in front of the door so I do not forget it.  Brilliant, I know. While forgetting a bag, your phone or laptop charger is not going to be the death of you, running on autopilot when using chemicals can. When our daily routine includes the use of cleaning and disinfecting products, we need to stay alert. This week, I was reminded of just how easy it can be to run on autopilot in dealing with a facility and it’s exactly these kind of situations that reinforce my reasons behind the Talk Clean To Me blog. 

The “story” goes like this. 

Inquirer:    Hello! We have been using your product for quite some time and love it, but recently a few of our staff are experiencing rashes on their arms after use. We have never had this before and wanted to confirm there have been no changes to the product.

Responder: Thank you for reaching out to us. We would be happy to help you get to the bottom of what is going on. If you do not mind, I’m going to ask some questions to see what we can figure out.

Inquirer:     Go ahead!

Responder: Do you use the Ready-To-Use or Concentrate version of the product?

Inquirer:     We use the Ready-To-Use format. We just pour and go.

Responder: Is it possible that you may have purchased the Concentrate format this time?

Inquirer:      I don’t think so, but we did have a different person place the order.  Let me go grab the bottle.

Elevator type music begins playing while the Responder is on hold waiting for the Inquirer.

Inquirer:      I’ve got the bottle. It looks to be the same as what we always buy.

Responder:  Do you mind reading what is on the front panel of the bottle?

Inquirer:    Sure. It says “Product A, Concentrated Cleaner Disinfectant”.  OMG!  We have not been diluting the product before use.  Could this be the reason for the rashes?

Responder: Unfortunately, yes. Concentrate products are meant to be diluted before use. Using the product at full strength and not diluting could certainly result in skin irritation.

Inquirer:     OMG! I feel so dumb. None of us read the label. We just saw that it was the same product name and used it as we always have. 

Responder: You’re not alone. It unfortunately happens more frequently that you would think. I’m glad we were able to get to the bottom of this! The dilution instructions are found on the label.  Would you like me to go over those with you?

Inquirer:    No. I see them and they look easy enough to follow.  I better go dump out the product we have in our container and replace with properly diluted product before anyone else uses it!  Thanks for your help!

Responder: You’re most welcome. Don’t hesitate to call us again with any questions you may have. Good bye!

Inquirer:     Good bye!

Responder and Inquirer hang up the phone.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence.  I hope by sharing this very true story, you’ll read the label of the product you’re using in a little bit more detail and not just focus on the product name.  You never know when a product may have been switched.  In this case, the outcome was not serious, but you never know when using chemicals when a little mistake can lead to deadly consequences!


Bugging Off!

Nicole

Friday, June 9, 2017

Finding the perfect match

Source: www.markarmstrongillustration.com/
Going into university, my options were science or music.  I knew what I was like from the age of 11 to 16 (well heard from my mom that I was “difficult”, but I’m sure she exaggerated), so the thought of being a music teacher was a no go. However, after graduation while I may have hung up my flute, saxophone and piano, I joined a choral group.  So this week, when trying to determine how to wrap up our introduction for our newest Superhero in the world of cleaning and disinfection, I knew I needed to touch upon the properties of an ideal disinfectant and out of nowhere I started humming a song.

“Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, look through your book, and make me a perfect match”

The lyrics are from Fiddler on the Roof.  If you’re not familiar with the story, it centers on Tevye, who is the father of five daughters struggling to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon the family's lives. He must cope both with the strong-willed actions of his daughters, the three oldest who wish to marry for love, moving them further away from the customs of Tevye’s faith. 

You may be asking however, what does Fiddler on the Roof or a Matchmaker have to do with Infection Prevention?  Why everything!  What do we do?  We look for the best products – disinfectants, medical devices etc., to provide the highest degree of care for our patients.   We match-make every day!  I can’t say for certain that men make lists of what they look for in a partner, but I bet many of my female readers are nodding their heads thinking back in time.   Who hasn’t thought of what you are looking for in a partner?  The same holds true for choosing disinfectants.   We only have to look through the CDC guidelines or Drs Rutala and Weber’s article Selection of an Ideal Disinfectant to find recommended qualities to look for in a disinfectant.

I summarized the article in three different blogs shortly after it was published: I’ll take kill claims for $200, Slippery when wet – the importance of contact times and Over easy – why safety profiles and ease of use will improve disinfection so I am not going to rehash the article again.  However, if I were to summarize the article in its entirety, in as few words as possible, I would say the key take home points are for us to use our noggins.  We need to come to terms that the perfect disinfectant does not exist.  However, if we look for a balance between efficacy and safety, we can find products that will provide the level of kill that meets our needs from a daily infection prevention perspective while also meeting the health and safety needs and concerns of staff and patients.  

If we think back to last week’s blog, the weakest link, from a cleaning and disinfection perspective if our staff do not use the product as we had intended our infection prevention program has been compromised.  If we focus on selecting an ideal disinfectant, we will win the battle over the Microbe Militia!


Bugging Off!

Nicole


Friday, June 2, 2017

You are the weakest link – Goodbye!

Image Source: http://bizarro.com
I’m hoping at least a few of you will remember the TV game show – “The Weakest Link with host Anne Robinson”.The insults and verbal sparring that went on with some of the contestants and Ms. Robinson were truly epic to watch.  For quite some time after the show aired, “you are the weakest link” was used by people for all sorts of reasons.  If you enjoyed studying Darwin as I did, I often wonder why he did not trademark the phrase!  I’m sure many of us have thought (if not said it) to friends, family members or sports team mates even after a particularly bad game.  I was a show jumper – if the round went bad, as much as I wanted to blame my horse, the truth was I was in the “driver’s seat” so a bad round was generally a result of my bad judgment.

The concept of “the weakest link” is perfect for infection prevention programs, be it surface disinfection, hand hygiene or medical device reprocessing.  The success of these programs relies on people understanding and completing their job correctly each and every time.  Think about it – if you cut corners cleaning a patient room what happens?  We have the very real potential to miss pathogens that can be transmitted and lead to infection.  The same can happen with poor hand hygiene compliance and improper medical device reprocessing.  We all know it’s true and I only need to cite a few headlines that have hit the news due to an outbreak or reams of peer reviewed studies on the topic.

Back in 2011, I wrote a blog “Top 10 Disinfectant Offences” based on feedback from readers telling me about times they have seen disinfectants used incorrectly.  I hope you’ll go back and read the blog, but the “top” 3 were: The Instruction Ignorers, The Custodial Chemist and The Sink or Swim Squad.  I think (hope) the groups are pretty self-explanatory – people knowingly ignore instructions, they mix up their own concoctions to make things smell better, streak less, or what have you, or fail to have an effective training program to ensure that people are armed with the knowledge it takes to get the job done.

Why am I going on about the weakest link and Darwin’s theory of natural selection?  Well, as introduced last week, we are up against the Microbe Militia.  Errors in cleaning environmental surfaces, errors in cleaning our hands and errors in medical devices ensure there are opportunities for the Microbe Militia to take hold and wreak havoc by causing HAIs.  If you want to learn about other common mistakes in cleaning surfaces, hands or devices check out the Insights Blog.  Come join our Infection Prevention Army!


Bugging Off!


Nicole

Friday, May 26, 2017

Conference Conversions and Controversies

Can you believe that next week we’ll be heading into June?  I truly have no clue where the first 5 months of this year have gone.  For those of us in the North American Infection Prevention community, June signifies the highlight of our year – it’s conference time!  I’m fortunate enough to get the opportunity to attend both the APIC and IPAC-Canada conferences.  I will say though, that I’m not looking forward to my red eye back to Toronto from Portland and only being at home for less than 28 hrs before I head off to Charlottetown for the IPAC-Canada conference.  Regardless of how tired I will be, the line-up of speakers and topics looks amazing - and I’m not just saying that because I was lucky enough to be chosen to present at the APIC conference!

Education and networking is vitally important to our ability to keep up with the ever changing world of infection prevention.  Whether we’re concerned with learning more about the newest pathogens of concern such as Candida auris, looking for a faster and safer way to disinfect the surfaces in our environments, finding an automated way to monitor hand hygiene or figure out how to reprocess that new medical device that just showed up in your OR, there is always something to learn and always that pearl of wisdom or nugget of knowledge that you can take back to your team.  A good conference should also have some controversies.  I’m not talking about fisticuffs or hair pulling, but a good old fashion debate and difference of opinions.  Some of my favorite sessions I have attended over the years are ‘debates’ where the session pits two people against each other taking opposing sides of the argument.  The first such session I saw was at the IFIC conference in Malta back in 2003.  I’m not going to name the speakers but there was “Pro-Disinfection” and an “Anti-Disinfection” speaker, and WOW being only 6 months into my career in the world of infection prevention I was both star struck and mind boggled with the polar differences in opinion.

 I’m not sure now almost 14 years later, that the same debate could be had, as a lot has transpired with respect to our understanding of the importance and impact that environmental hygiene has on our infection prevention programs.  One thing that I can still say exists even after all of these years is the seemingly endless myths and misconceptions about disinfectants.  Looking back through my files, I found an article I wrote back in 2008 – Myths and Facts about Infection Prevention that I would like to say we’ve been able to bust the beliefs of many about who are responsible for infection prevention and how we can all benefit from understanding how pathogens are transmitted.  I’m sad to say that some of the myths about disinfectants still hold true.  In fact my “protégé” wrote a blog – The Infection Prevention Army Dispels Disinfection Myths - this week on myths we still routinely hear about and try to educate against.

If you check out the Insights Blog you might also be wondering who this Microbe Militia is!  You’ll have to stay tuned for the next 3 weeks as we slowly unveil our newest education campaign and if you’re at APIC or IPAC-Canada, you’ll get to see it firsthand!


Bugging Off!


Nicole

Friday, May 19, 2017

Will dinosaurs save our future?

I’m not sure why, but pretty much every kid in the world goes through a “dinosaur phase”.  The timing seems to be kid dependent in terms of age, but without fail, there is a time where they eat, sleep and breathe dinosaurs and it’s funny as heck when they start pronouncing some of the names – tyrannosaurus, triceratops, and parasaurolophus. You name it, they try to say it or worse, make you try to say it!   My son went through the phase and at 8, still waffles in his love of reading about, learning about and playing with dinosaurs.   He also likes to correct me when I say the name wrong….not to worry, as a good parent and lover of microbes, I shoot back trying to get him to say Trichophyton mentagrophytes or Acinetobacter baumannii.  Yep, I’m mature.

I may have geeked out a little when my worlds collided last week. I thought “Wow, dinosaurs and bacteria, how cool is that?”.  A new study published in Cell, looked at the evolutionary history of Enterococci.  These particularly pesky pathogens (a.k.a. VRE) have become the bane of our existence in hospitals, with their ability to become antibiotic resistant and survive in the environment for “eons”.   The researchers analyzed the genomes and behaviours of today’s enterococci and then “rewound” the clock by tracking through history back to the earliest existence of this group of bacteria.  As we now know, bacteria have been around virtually ‘forever’.  As animals started to emerge from sea to land, so too did bacteria.  As we know, there are bacteria humans need in order to lead healthy lives and there are also bacteria that can cause us significant distress.

The study allows us to better understand what type of environment bacteria can live in, what they need to survive and what mechanisms they can develop to ensure survival.   Having a clearer understanding of these requirements, could help us predict how bacteria will adapt to the use of antibiotics and antimicrobial agents, such as disinfectants or hand hygiene products. 

It’s interesting, we often talk about learning from our mistakes.  We’re quick to discount history or listen to our “elders”.  A quote from a recent article I read on millennials in Harvard Business Review states “We are a generation that is ruthlessly comparing ourselves with those around us and our role models at the same time. And if we are not doing something exceptional or don’t feel important and fulfilled for what we are doing, we have a hard time.”   Is this so different from all of us? We want to learn on our own, we want to prove our worth to others.  Perhaps we all need to stop trying to prove how good we are and spend more time looking back through history.  It’s not that we’ll be learning from our mistakes, it’s that we now have the ability to learn, to understand, to truly investigate and uncover what happened in the past.  Perhaps this is the way we will continue to survive in the future and win the battle over the bugs!  I joked last week in my “Wives’ Tale” blog that cow manure can treat athlete’s foot.  Perhaps studying history will teach us that we’re trying too hard to come up with new ways of fighting pathogens.  Maybe the answer is something far simpler….


Bugging Off!


Nicole 

Friday, May 12, 2017

A tribute to our mothers

This Sunday is Mother’s Day.  I’m sure many of you have plans of lavish family dinners.  I’m looking forward to a quiet weekend at our cottage watching the river flow.  I thought in tribute to our moms, I would have some fun reviewing “old wives’ tales” associated with infection prevention….well infection treatment to be exact.  If you’ve watched the movies or read the Hunger Games trilogy, you’ll recall that each year a female and male “tribute” were chosen or forced to participate in the annual games that were played until only 1 tribute remained standing. I chose to title the blog a “tribute” because as you’ll read below, if many of these were practiced on us, we’d likely not be here…..  

Wives’ Tale #1: If you go outside with wet hair, you'll catch a cold.
Cold weather, wet hair, and chills don't cause colds or the flu; viruses like rhinovirus, influenza etc. do. These viruses are spread more easily indoors, where there may be more contact with dry air and people with colds, which as we know is why we consider late fall and winter prime cold and flu season.  Dry air — indoors or out — can lower resistance to infection.  Having wet hair, while it may freeze and get crunchy, will not cause you to catch a cold.

Wives’ Tale #2: Cover your mouth with your hand when you cough to prevent spreading colds.
It is true we should cover our mouth and nose when we cough or sneeze, thereby trapping the viruses and preventing their spread.  However, if you use your hand, your virus laden hand becomes the perfect weapon for passing your cold on to someone else. You’ll also leave viruses on doorknobs, phones, countertops, elevator buttons and anything else you touch!  To prevent such icky transmissions, be sure to wash your hands frequently, and use a tissue or, if one isn't handy, cough and sneeze into your elbow. 

While the next three tales may be considered more “folk magic” then wives’ tales, in investigating preventions and cures, I came across an interesting site that definitely had me thanking my lucky stars I was born when I was!

Wives’ Tale #3: Sticking your hand in a bag will cure warts.
The theory was that if you had warts on your hand, you should stick the infected hand in a bag and tie it.  The first person to untie the bag will get your warts!   It’s no wonder that early healers were called witches and persecuted.  What kind of cure is one that infects someone else!  Although I suppose if the person who untied the bag was, say, an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend, irritating older or younger sibling and/or the person you despise the most, then if it worked you’d get to have the last chuckle!

Wives’ Tale #4: Cow dung cures all.
Okay, it doesn’t cure all, but according to the wives’ tale list I found on a self-care and home remedies site, stepping in warm cow dung cures athlete’s foot.  Growing up on a farm I can say I’ve stepped in my fair share of cow paddies – and yes one or two times I may have been bare foot, but I can say with all honesty it was not to try and cure an itchy foot!  While gross, there could be some merit as cow dung does have a pretty high ammonia content and ammonia is known to have antiseptic properties.  If I ever get athlete’s foot maybe I’ll give it a try!

Wives’ Tale #5: Cure a sore throat with a dirty sock.
According to this this tale, you need to take a sock that you've worn until it stinks and then tie it around your neck and keep it there until your throat heals.  This one is laughable, but if anyone would like to try, I would be happy to send one of my 8-year old son’s socks after he’s worn them for a day and played some hockey!  My guess on this one is that you’re so focused on trying not to wretch or vomit from the smell that you forget about the sore throat….

This last one is one that I can get behind.  It was one that my mom used on us and I still use to this day!

Wives’ Tale #6: Honey will sooth and treat a cough.
If you’ve never tried it, then the thought of using honey to treat a cough may sound like a hare-brained idea that came about one late night when you ran out of cough syrup and all the drug stores were closed.   Why not?  Honey has the same consistency as cough syrup, and hopefully the placebo effect will be strong enough to let everyone get back to sleep!  Whoever started this old wives’ tale was on to something, as studies have been conducted proving that honey is better than the drugs used in cough syrup at relieving cold and cough symptoms. Researchers think that the stickiness and viscosity of honey is what helps it alleviate coughs, while the natural antioxidants can help in the healing process.

Next week I promise to get back to topic more relevant to cleaning and disinfection but sometimes you need to depart from your scheduled program. Besides, perhaps you’ll feel inclined to create a Mother’s Day gift basket using some of the wives’ tales cures!  Wishing all of the mothers out there a very Happy Mother’s Day!

 
Bugging Off!

Nicole

PS – I would love to hear some of the wives’ tales you were told growing up!