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, April 21, 2017

Do you have a Preventative Maintenance Plan?

If you have a car and live in an area where snow is a winter fact, you likely have winter tires; and with spring arriving, you’ve likely been to your mechanic to have your winter tires swapped out for your summer tires.  You may also have timed the tire change with a LOF (Lube-Oil-Filter) and maybe changed out your windshield wipers.  We understand that when we drive a car we need to do more than just fill it up with gas.  Many of us are also probably pretty good at our own preventative maintenance plan for our health and well-being with annual physicals, eye checkups, working out, eating and sleeping right and if you are like me, your preventative maintenance plan also includes hair appointments, manicures and pedicures!

I would hazard a guess that most of us recognize that virtually any piece of equipment we use, in order to be effective at our jobs, also needs preventative maintenance.  We know that with patient care equipment or other medical equipment this is an important aspect of protecting the lives of our patients.  How many of you consider the dilution systems we use to dilute concentrated surface disinfectants or the associated test strips used to validate the dilution (assuming your facility uses test strips)?  The unfortunate truth is that while we now acknowledge that compliance in cleaning and achieving the contact time as indicated on the label in order to ensure disinfection occurs are important, we do not stop to think of other factors that may impact the effectiveness of our chosen disinfectant.

The one area that we often overlook is the preventative maintenance required to ensure the dilution systems that we rely on to properly dilute the disinfectants are working properly.  Over the course of my career in Healthcare, it never ceases to amaze me that many facilities still fail to consider this.  While I will not name facilities I can say that I have been in more than my fair share of facilities helping brainstorm why a disinfectant seems to be failing to support the infection control program.  When I ask when the last time the dilution system was serviced and / or validation had been done to ensure it was diluting properly I often get blank stares….  

The importance of preventative maintenance on dilution systems is not just to ensure that the product dilutes at the correct concentration to kill the pathogens we’re concerned with, but to also ensure that it is diluting correctly so that the product is safe to handle.  Case in point is a call recently received from a facility who realized the product they were using seemed foamier than normal and a few concerns with skin irritation had been noted.  When looking at the dilution system they found there was no tip on the syphoning tube meaning more product than needed was being used.  When asked about the use of test strips the answer was that the strips were not changing colour.  When asked about the expiry date on the test strips it was determined they have long since expired…

The long and short is that disinfectants must be used in the dilution specified on the product label as indicated by the manufacturer.  The importance of this is not just for optimal decontamination, but also for optimal occupational health and safety of the workers using the disinfectants and the patients who may come in contact with the disinfectant.  I hope you’ll go check to find out what your preventative maintenance plan for your dilution systems is – and while you’re at it be sure to check and confirm the test strips have not expired!

Bugging Off!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Volcanic Soil vs Hantavirus

Do you ever get really excited about something, only to have the rug pulled out from under you?  That happened to me this week.  In scanning through my e-newsletters and outbreak summaries I came across an article “Ugandan outbreak of elephantiasis linked to walking barefoot in volcanic soil”.  As geeky as I know I’m going to sound, without reading the article I was giddy and I had already come up with how I would start the blog by tying in the fact that I HATE sand.  I know it’s rather ironic having just gone on vacation to a beach resort, but I really do HATE sand and assume the same would be said of volcanic soil.  It gets everywhere and I particularly HATE walking in sand – the feel on the bottom of my feet, the feel when it gets between my toes….  Ask my husband, me walking on sand is akin to a cat outdoors walking in snow.  You know that pick foot up and shake before you put it down again?  That’s me. 

Then I read the article and learned that the elephantiasis was not being caused by an infectious organism.  It was actually caused from walking on the volcanic soil itself which has sharp mineral crystals that penetrate the soles of feet and cause inflammation and pain…  There was no tie in with disinfection of hands, surfaces or devices which is the intent of Talk Clean To Me….  The rug had been pulled out from under me.

And then this morning, I came across an article stating that the first person for 2017 in New Mexico has died from Hantavirus.  While no death from an infectious agent is funny, I had to chuckle a bit as several years ago I involuntarily acquired a “bestie” who called concerned about finding a mouse nest in his boat when he went to launch it in the spring.  The conversation was memorable because it did not just end with one call, but over a couple of years each spring I would get a call to confirm how to deal with the newest mouse nest he found to ensure he did not get hantavirus….

Hantaviruses are a group of viruses, carried by rodents, particularly wild rodents such as deer mice, white-footed mice and several species of rats.  Hantaviruses found in North, South and Central America, can cause severe respiratory (lung) disease in humans.  They are transmitted to rodents and humans alike, via both direct contact through bites and via aerosolization of dust contaminated with rodent droppings, urine or saliva.  While human infection concerns exist in environments where rodents may be, pets and livestock do not have any concerns with becoming infected with hantavirus.  That said, if you happen to have a pet mouse or rat, you do want to keep them away from wild rodents to avoid transmission.

If you’re doing any form of spring cleaning – particularly in a cottage or boat that may have been closed up for the winter, a few key tips to avoid infection include: wearing rubber gloves when cleaning areas where rodents may have been, allow the area to air out before entering, wet surfaces with a disinfectant and avoid sweeping or other activities that raise a lot of dust.  If you’re concerned with raising dust, then wear a face mask to protect yourself.

Happy spring cleaning!

Bugging Off!


Friday, April 7, 2017

Who’s wasted?

Many of you have likely heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”.  Nothing could be truer than the picture that inspired this week’s blog.  Today we celebrated a milestone birthday for a man some of us would call a mentor and many of us would call a friend.  As soon as I took the picture at lunch I knew it was going to be a muse for this week’s blog.  Do I go with the obvious and talk about the perils of getting older and dealing with a weakened immune system?  It would work for a topic as influenza and several other respiratory viruses are still widely circulating.  Do I go with the “ick factor” as everyone around our table winced and wondered about the chance of our colleague getting lice from a hat that has not likely ever been cleaned and/or disinfected?

I could, but as you know in recent years I have become more involved with infection control within the animal health industry.  I grew up on a farm so livestock and wildlife have always been a part of my life.  It was like the stars aligned.  When I got back to my desk the first email I saw was one from the US Animal Health Association with an article on investigating ELK carcasses for disease.  EUREKA!  The last several months several of my news feeds have been buzzing over Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

Now do you get the title?  Wasting Disease…..you should be ashamed if you thought otherwise….

Whether you’re in human health or animal human markets, we have all heard of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE’s) caused by prions.  Mad Cow Disease (or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) may be the one that many people recognize due to the epidemic in the late 1980’s in the UK and subsequent tie to cases of humans diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease

Chronic wasting disease like BSE or CJD is a progressive, fatal, degenerative disease of the brain ungulates (elk, mule, deer, and white-tailed deer).  Similar to all TSE’s, it can be years before an animal shows symptoms.  Eventually, the “wasted” animals will exhibit loss of condition, excessive salivation, trouble swallowing, difficulty judging distance and changes in behavior.  The exact mechanism of transmission is unclear, but we do know that CWD can spread from animal to animal and females can pass the disease to their offspring.  There is no evidence that CWD can affect other animals, but to be on the safe side, the WHO advises against allowing any meat source possibly infected by prions into the human food system.

Regardless of what wasting disease we may come across, the long and the short of it is that infection prevention is an important aspect of our lives to keep both humans and animals healthy!  If your birthday is coming up, be sure to celebrate, but think twice before you put a “moose” hat on!

Bugging Off!


Friday, March 31, 2017

#FF Spring Cleaning for the Brain

As I hope you’ve gleaned by now, I love education.  Whether it’s speaking at conferences or sitting in sessions at conferences (as I am now), I can never get enough - and I know that I’m not alone.  Today I’m sitting through 3 sessions on Biosecurity and Infection Control at the American Animal Hospital Association.  It’s amazing the difference in thought between human and animal health when it comes to the use of disinfectants.  The opening ceremonies had several speakers using the portable mics that go over their ears – you know the ones that are close to the mouth.  The only thing I could think of was whether or not they were  disinfected between speakers.  As I learned from a couple of veterinarians who dropped by the booth after I tweeted the picture and question, the thought never crossed their mind.

As I do each quarter, I wanted to share the Webber Training Teleclasses coming up for the next three months.  As noted in past blogs, the Teleclass Education by Webber Training is an international lecture series on topics related to infection prevention and control. The objective is to bring the best possible education to the widest possible audience with the fewest possible barriers when trying to access it.  Here's the list of teleclasses for the second quarter of 2017.

Date Title of Teleclass
April 6th Technologic Innovations to Prevent Catheter-Related Bloodstream Infections Prof. Mark Rupp, USA
April 12th Practical Steps to Develop and Sustain an Effective National Hand Hygiene Programme and its Impact on Antimicrobial Resistance Prof. Lindsay Grayson, Australia
April 25th Do’s and Dont’s for Hospital Cleaning Dr. Stephanie Dancer, Scotland
April 27th Cost Analysis of Universal Screening vs. Risk Factor-Based Screening for MRSA Dr. Virginia Roth, Canada
May 5th Special Lecture for 5 May Prof. Didier Pittet, Switzerland
May 18th The Airborne Spread of Infectious Agents: Survival and Decontamination of Human Pathogens in Indoor Air Prof. Syed Sattar, Canada
May 30th The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Methods for Bedpan Management Gertie van Knippenberg-Gordebeke, The Netherlands
June 1st Using Unofficial Sources to Monitor Outbreaks of Emerging Infectious Diseases: Lessons from ProMED Prof. Lawrence Madoff, USA
June 7th The Impact of Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infection Prof. Brett Mitchell, Australia
June 8th Establishing a National IPC Program on a Shoe String Budget Prof. Shaheen Mehtar, Africa
June 20th Making Sense of Alphabet Soup Dr. Andrew Simor, Canada

For more information on Webber Training, including a full list of the upcoming Infection Prevention and Control Teleclasses, please visit www.webbertraining.com.  If you’re a Twitter follower you can also be part of the conversation during the sessions by following #WebberTraining.

I hope many of you will take the opportunity to listen to these teleclasses and share them with your colleagues! 

Bugging Off!


Friday, March 24, 2017

Post vacation woes…

I’m not going to gloat.  I’m tanned.  I’m refreshed.  I devoured three books – only 1 of which is worth remembering and/or recommending (The Bite of Mango).  The weather is above freezing, even if it is raining today.  All in all, it was a great week’s vacation. 
When I wasn’t reading I will admit, I was people watching and minding my infection prevention practices!  It truly is amazing the number of people who have no understanding of how easy it can be to pick up “bugs” while travelling.  The following are a few of my favorite pictures depicting a few infection control risks I found!
  1. Shared towels….  Okay, fine they are laundered and yes I used them BUT if you recall a Gerba study found that 93% of the “clean” cloths contained viable microorganisms EVEN AFTER LAUNDERING! 
  2. Cream on tables….  Here’s one I learned the hard ways years ago on a trip.  Do NOT use cream or milk that has been sitting on a table unless you are looking for a quick weight loss program!  If you do not believe me check out “Real Raw Milk Facts” as an example of outbreaks associated with raw/unpasteurized versus pasteurized milk and milk products.  In tropical climates, bacteria can grow quickly!  Skip the milk and keep the calories for consumption of other beverages or snacks! 
  3. Bare feet….  I could not believe the number of people walking around without shoes – even in the “He – She” (aka restrooms).  Athlete’s footplantar warts you name it!  I kept my shoes on to avoid bringing home anything that would ruin my beautifully pedicured feet! 
  4. Water…  You always need to be sure when you can or cannot drink the water.  For us, tap water was a no-go and we kept to bottled water except when at the resort restaurants.  However, after watching the video of us getting “slimed” and watching the resort staff squeegee the green water away I have to admit I wondered if they were recycling the green water.  I never asked.  I do not want to know.  I do not seem to have any long term ill effects from the experience!

Is anyone as geeky as me when on vacation? If you have any pictures or stories I would love to see and/or hear them!

Bugging Off!


Friday, March 17, 2017

What’s your E. coli transmission rate?

I write this blog on the eve of my vacation.  Tomorrow, regardless of the fact that I have to get up at an unreasonable hour, I will be sitting in a warm tropical climate by mid-afternoon.  This is particularly inviting, since this week has been cold, windy and snowy (-8 to -12 0C / 10 to 17 0F - not including wind chill - and about 10 inches of snow the last couple of days).  I am DONE with winter.

In preparation for my trip, I have taken my Dukoral to protect myself against heat-labile producing enterotoxigenic E. coli (I will say, had I realized that sodium hydrogen carbonate powder was part of the vaccine, I may have passed).  I have also packed enough hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to ensure I am completely covered and have no fear of touching the TV remote in my hotel room!  So as I finish the last of my packing and was scrolling through my e-newsletter, I came across a study by researchers at the University of Geneva titled “Assessing the Likelihood of Hand-to-Hand Cross-Transmission of Bacteria: An Experimental Study” that looked at how much E. coli needed to be present on a person’s hands in order to be potentially transmitted to another person, I knew I had to read it.

According to the researchers, only 1 Log10 of viable E. coli cells need to present for transmission.  The study used healthcare worker pairs (e.g. a “transmitter” and a host) and increased the amount of E. coli present on the “transmitters” hands.  The “transmitter” then held the hand of the “host” for 1 minute.  In the end, the study found that hand-to-hand transmission of E. coli was 8.22 times more likely when the viable bacterial count on the “transmitter” hand was >1 Log10.  If the viable cell concentration increased to 4 Log10, the Odds Ratio increased to 212.6 times!  GROSS!

In doing a bit of “Googling”, the Minnesota State Department of Health has a poster that states there are 1500 bacteria on each square centimeter of your hand. Knowing that 1 Log10 is just a fancy way of saying “approx. 10 bacteria”, then in theory, at any given time it is possible for a person to have enough E. coli on their hands to lead to transmission.   Further, according to a 2013 study by Michigan State University, researchers found men were much more likely to just rinse their hands than women after using the restroom.   Other research on hand hygiene suggests just 37% of men and 61% of women wash their hands (with soap) after using the restroom.

What does this mean to me?  Well, it means that while I “should” be protected from enterotoxigenic E. coli after drinking that nasty Dukoral concoction, there could still be enough pathogenic bacteria on the hands of the housekeeping, wait staff and/or cooks to sink a small ship (aka my vacation).  I can’t control everyone, but you can bet I am going to try in earnest to only use female waitresses while on vacation – not because women rule, but at least I have a higher chance that she will have washed her hands after using the restroom, and so “should” have fewer “poop-related” bugs on her hands!

Bugging Off!


Friday, March 10, 2017

#FF March Madness

If you’re “lucky” like me, today is a PD (Professional Development) Day at school and next week is March break.  While we are thankfully going on vacation, we are not leaving until next Thursday - meaning I have 4 days to figure out what to do with my son (aka I’ve been scrambling).  I have to admit, this scrambling has caused some chaos in my life leading to the inability to choose a blog topic this week.  It’s not that I don’t have a topic, the problem is that I have a number of topics and just can’t decide on which one I want to blog on!  Rather than pick a single topic I thought I’d embrace my March Madness and share the articles and topics that have tickled my fancy this week!

1.      High Pathogenic Avian Influenza found in Tennessee Farm – if you recall the outbreak of Avian Influenza in 2015, you may know that it caused the destruction of 49.5 million chickens and turkeys.  Some believe it was the largest animal health emergency in the US, so when a farm in Tennessee was found to have a positive test you can imagine how quickly people jumped to action.  The CDC has stated the H7N9 strain found on the farm poses a low risk for humans.  The farm is under quarantine as are 6 other farms in a 30-mile radius.  From various articles I have read so far this week the other farms are clear, but this certainly highlights the fact that influenza can hit at anytime and anywhere.  Whether we’re a producer of chickens, turkeys or ducks or a healthcare worker, we need to be vigilant during “flu” season.

2.      The Medical Minute: Is it a bad cold or RSV? – if you’re a parent, you may have experienced that moment of panic when you’re trying to determine if the “cold” your child has is turning or has turned into something worse.  Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a nasty virus that can turn a runny nose and cough into a child who is having trouble breathing.  According to the article I was reading from PennState Health, an infected person can be contagious for up to 20 days after infection, meaning we can easily pass it on to our young children who are far more susceptible to this virus than we are. We can also easily pass it onto the elderly for which RSV causes >14,000 deaths per year.  Oh, and by the way, we are also still in prime RSV season!

3.      Flu can cause worse symptoms in people with asthma – being an asthmatic, this is a topic near and dear to me, particularly since I know firsthand what happens when the flu turns to pneumonia…..   A study published by researchers at the University of Southampton assessed lung samples from asthmatics and healthy volunteers. The researchers investigated whether immune system differences could explain why asthmatics are more likely to end up in hospital if they get flu.  According to the results, samples from healthy people showed a strong immune system-triggering reaction to the flu virus versus samples from asthma patients where the reaction was much weaker. Further studies need to be conducted to determine whether the difference in immune response is due to the asthma itself, or the medications used by participating asthmatics to control their condition, but I hope you agree this is a pretty cool study!

While on the surface (pun intended) you may be wondering why I found these articles or studies so interesting as they do not directly talk to the need for cleaning and disinfection which in essence is the basis for the Talk Clean To Me blog.  The reason is because both RSV and Influenza, regardless of whether it’s a strain that infects humans or animal, are transmitted via surfaces and fomites.  When it comes to Avian Influenza, the need for strict infection control and biosecurity measures is paramount to limit the spread of disease and minimize the number of birds that need to be culled if even a single confirmed infection shows up on a farm.
Similarly, as these articles highlight, the fact that transmission of these viruses can occur with relative ease from healthy individuals (a.k.a. someone who will “get over” an infection with relative ease) to more susceptible individuals (the young, the old, or the asthmatics).  The importance of hand hygiene and disinfection of the environment needs to be top of mind.  Spring may just be around the corner and yes, the clocks turn back this weekend, robins have been showing up and in my back yard I have buds on the trees, but we’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to RSV or Influenza infections.  We need to be vigilant, and these articles keep us grounded and highlight why we need to be vigilant.

Bugging Off!