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!


Friday, June 16, 2017

Cruise Control Can Kill

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!


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!


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!


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!


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!


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!


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

Friday, May 5, 2017

Not ready to back down

I knew the topic for this week’s Talk Clean To Me blog would be about Hand Hygiene, after all May 5th is World Hand Hygiene Day.  I had planned to share links to the hand hygiene videos that I found most entertaining – you know all those videos that facilities have been creating as an entertaining way to get people to realize just how important washing your hand is?  The intent behind these are of course to create a clear, compelling and hopefully memorable message that resonates with the viewer so that they will take action and become part of the Clean Hands Coalition.

It would be fun.  It would be cute. 

This morning I came in as I do each morning, a little earlier than most to have some quiet time and set myself up for the day.  As is my morning ritual, I scan the various news feeds and chat groups I follow, read a few articles, and check out what’s going on in the world.  This morning, an article popped up from a colleague.  It was a heartfelt article about how he almost lost his mom to a Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) infection.  It made me realize that fun and cute was not working.  Fun and cute, while well intended, was not getting a clear, compelling and memorable message across about the importance of hand hygiene.  It made me wonder if we’ve become numb to the stats that are spewed almost daily about HAIs.  It made me wonder if we have become too laissez-faire when it comes to hand hygiene and its impact on the health and welfare of those around us.  Those that our jobs directly impact and those that our actions can directly harm.

The definition of laissez-faire is the practice or doctrine of non-interference in the affairs of others, especially with reference to individual conduct or freedom of action.  How frequently do you tip toe around your colleagues?  How frequently have you seen firsthand someone not wash their hands before an aseptic technique?  How frequently have your witnessed someone wash their hands only to contaminate them by touching a surface before providing patient care?  I know I have.  I know that I have kept quiet because I was in the room observing how it was being cleaned but saw firsthand a nurse perform an aseptic technique after her gloves were on and after she had touched numerous surfaces.

I’m Canadian.  We’re known to be nice.  We’re known to be polite.  Perhaps it’s time to change.  Perhaps it’s time to drop our laissez-faire attitude and get right up in the face of those you see do something wrong. 

Thanks Rick for the heartfelt article.  Thanks for being the inspiration to look at things differently.  This may not be the most “clear, compelling and memorable” blog I’ve written, but you can be darn sure the next time I see someone not wash their hands and put a patient in risk, I’m going to call you out on it and if I offend you, then so be it!  To quote the lyrics of the Dixie Chicks “I’m not ready to be nice, I’m not ready to back down.

Bugging Off!


Friday, April 28, 2017

Is snot our newest Superhero?

I’m hoping there are a few of you who like to shock, awe, or gross out your family, friends and colleagues.  Juvenile perhaps, but is there anything better than watching people squirm when regaling a tale?  I take great pleasure in grossing people out by talking about something I find fascinating, knowing others likely don’t feel the same.  By noon today I had was able to hit on 3 different stories – screwworms in Key Deer, the topic for today’s blog and my Sunfish story (message me if you want to hear that one!).

I will admit talking about boogers, snot, mucous, and phlegm is gross.  Truthfully, it grosses me out, but yesterday I came to realize that snot may be our newest superhero friend in the fight against antibiotic resistance!  According to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology we may have found a new way of combating problematic pathogens.  If we think of this logically, mucous is everywhere in our body (mouth, eyes, lungs, nose, digestive tract, etc.) and microbes are also widely found within (e.g. digestive tract) and on our bodies (e.g. skin flora).  By understanding the functions of the slimy substance we refer to as snot or mucous, the researchers were out to determine how it works to protect us.  It’s not our next silver bullet for killing, but it seems to be excellent at taming pesky pathogens.

As the study describes, when looking at two different bacteria known to compete for dominance in human mouths, synthetic mucous impacted bacterial populations. They found that when the samples were grown outside of the synthetic mucous the bacteria known to cause cavities prevailed. However, when the samples were grown in the presence of the synthetic mucous the bacteria associated with good oral health prevailed.  From this, it would appear that mucous could be key to maintaining a healthy microbial diversity in other areas of our body.  Furthermore, work is being conducted around the world looking at how and if the synthetic mucous can in fact help control problematic pathogens both inside and outside of the body.

Perhaps the next time you see someone picking their nose and wiping it on a surface or hacking up phlegm and spitting it out, while still gross and generally unacceptable from a social perspective, you’ll wonder how quickly it tames whatever pathogenic bacteria are present.  The possibilities could be endless!  Will synthetic snot be our next antimicrobial surface coating? We’ve gotten over the ick factor of fecal transplantation for C. diff management…perhaps we’ll be popping phlegm pills in the future!

Either way, I think this is a fascinating topic and look forward to keeping up with where the research goes!

Bugging Off!


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!