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, May 29, 2020

Will Hot Air Hamper Hair Appointments?


The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives in innumerable ways. Entire industries have been shut down while others have been able to transition to work from home.  Many of us are trying to balance working while adding a second job – teaching our kids.  The pandemic has opened our eyes to understanding how diseases are spread and how spoiled we are in our ability to access health and self-care providers like chiropractors, physiotherapists, aestheticians, and hairdressers.  People have been counting the time that has passed during our COVID-19 lock down in different ways. When we shut down in Ontario, it was right before a hair appointment. Next Friday will mark 15 weeks since I have had a cut and colour - I am beginning to get desperate.

As hair salons are opening back up in North America, questions are abounding in how best to set protocols to ensure the health and safety of both the stylist and client. One of the questions that has popped up is if hair dryers will contribute to the spread of COVID-19. While I hate to admit that there is anything that may slow down my salon from opening, on the surface the idea that hair dryers can spread COVID-19 has some merit.  While there is no concrete evidence that hair dryers can contribute to transmission of diseases, the fact that they spread air around means while unlikely, there is a possibility. Well, a possibility if someone coughs into the hair dryer so that the respiratory droplets can be spread around.

The following are some tips in how a hair salon can open up safely:
  1. Screen clients before appointments to make sure they do not have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
  2. Minimize the amount of people in the salon by having customers wait outside until they have been called in for their appointment.
  3. As clients to minimize what they bring into the salon.
  4. Have clients sanitize their hands upon arrival and wear masks.
  5. Use disinfectant wipes to disinfect chairs and surfaces between clients.

The long and the short, is while we are concerned with COVID-19, and rightly so, influenza, norovirus and other pathogens are around throughout the year. Influenza kills 1,000’s upon 1000’s of people each year.  Our diligence in looking after our health and the health of our clients needs to be thought of daily and not just because we have a global pandemic.

Bugging Off!

Nicole

Friday, May 22, 2020

COVID, Like Water, Flows Freely Along its Path


A wise man once said, “As water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it, a wise man should adapt himself to circumstances”.  I’m certainly not as wise as Confucius, but I do believe if we have learned one thing since early March when COVID-19 hit North America, it’s that you never know what to expect during a Pandemic. Like water carves its path down a riverbank, COVID-19 has been carving its path through out the world, leaving no clue as to which way it will turn next.


When COVID-19 arrived on the scene, as a respiratory virus we knew that direct contact with respiratory droplets and touching contaminated surfaces could be potential routes of transmission. Given that other respiratory infections can be spread via touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your face (mouth, nose, eyes), panic and anxiety set in as the public switched into high gear, hoarding cleaning and disinfectant products and creating all sorts of protocols on how to safely bring your groceries into the house. The concern with touching surfaces increased after a study was published highlighting the fact that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can live on surfaces for up to 3 days and on cardboard for up to 24 hours.


As a new virus, there is much we have to learn. However, according to the CDC, while COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people, transmission from contaminated surfaces or objects does not appear to be a main way the virus spreads. While the study referenced above confirmed the ability of the coronavirus to survive on surfaces, it does not support its ability to spread easily from contaminated surfaces to people. In short, studies looking at ability to survive have zero relevance to the transmissibility and impact on prolonging the epidemic.  Out of an abundance of caution, to ensure infection prevention principles were being put in place, frequently cleaning surfaces and washing hands became the norm whenever discussing COVID-19.


As we round another curve in our COVID-19 journey, the CDC are trying to let the public know that surfaces are not the primary area the public should be concerned with.  Our focus should be on social distancing, respiratory etiquette, and hand hygiene. Healthcare institutions will not reduce their focus on the environment as we know COVID-19 is not the only pathogen they are dealing with.  Their vigilance on surfaces needs to remain high at all times.


As we go into the weekend, if you are bracing yourself for your next trip to the grocery store, have piece of mind that your primary focus needs to be on social distancing and hand hygiene.  You can never wash your hands too much.  When I shop, I sanitize going into the store, leaving the store, after I put my groceries in to my car and when I get home. 


Bugging Off!


Nicole


Friday, May 15, 2020

Do Changes to the COVID-19 Protein Spikes Mean a Second Strain?


I’m a firm believer that there are two sides of the story, and that the truth generally lies somewhere in the middle.  If you had a sibling, you probably recall pointing fingers at each other and yelling “Mom! Kevin stole my cookie” (okay that was me) but tattling on your sibling is like a right of passage. When the tattling stops, that’s when things get interesting. My brother and I became partners in crime, and I am proud to admit, only once did we get caught not having our stories straight and that was early on in our partnership, so it was to be expected!

The same can be said about everything that is published, reported on, and shared via the social channels that so many of us have started getting our information from. Case in point is a new study that discusses the emergence of a more transmissible form of SARS-CoV-2.  While it is being shared, it has not yet undergone a peer review.  Regardless, as it is something new about COVID-19 that can be sensationalized, it has been hitting mainstream news.

The researchers shared that they have found that SARS-CoV-2 can mutate into a more contagious strain.  Not only does the mutation cause the virus to be more contagious, but is also might cause people who’ve already had COVID-19 suffer from a second bout of the disease.  Mutations and viruses are not new.  In fact, it is our concern with viral mutations that create a heightened sense of panic and anxiety throughout the infection prevention world, and now with COVID-19, in everyone’s world.  The SARS-CoV-2 strain in question was first found in Europe back in February before it landed on the East Coast of the US.  This has been the main strain around the world since mid-March and seems to have the capability to infect more people than the original strains found in Wuhan, China.

The researchers analyzed more than 6,000 sequences from around the world, and found 14 different mutations on the spike protein which is the part of the virus that allows it to enter human respiratory cells. This does not mean that this strain is more lethal.  The concern is that it may lead to the susceptibility of a second infection for COVID-19 patients.

The question becomes whether the conclusions are sound, or if they are making too large a leap. In an article published by The Atlantic, Lisa Gralinski of the University of North Carolina stated that the conclusions are overblown, cautioning readers that without testing to verify if the new strain and/or any of the mutations are more transmissible can be misleading.  It’s not that the conclusions are not plausible, but that further research is needed to support the conclusion.  The question is whether there is one strain or more than one strain.  Additional experts interviewed by The Atlantic do not feel there is more than one strain.

COVID-19 and the path it has been travelling since it emerged in Wuhan, China is exciting and seductive to some.  For others, it instills fear and anxiety. In the wise words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror paralyzes the needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”.  Perhaps, the COVID-19 pandemic and the fear it is generating in many is actually causing more disruption than the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself.

Bugging Off!

Nicole

Friday, May 8, 2020

Post-Pandemic Reality and Avoiding Cooties


If I told you last year or even in January that something was going to happen that would have the potential to forever change how we look at things or interact with people, I would hazard a guess you would have called me crazy or wondered if I had fallen, bumped my head and caused some permanent brain damage.

In our current situation of COVID-Craziness, do you think differently?  Have you thought what your or our futures may look like?  Are there traditions that will cease to exist? Are there aspects of what makes our society collegial that will no longer be followed?  This week, I thought I would give you a little nudge to start thinking about what the new norm, post-pandemic will look like and how you may change the way you interact with family, friends and colleagues.  I hope it may also change how you look at the facilities you frequent, from banks and grocery stores, to spas, gyms, schools, and healthcare facilities, both human and animal.

Let’s start with traditions. Knowing what we all know now, will you ever eat a piece of birthday cake that someone has blown the candles from? I’m not going to lie, this has grossed me out for years and depending what I saw during the activity of blowing out the candle, I have been known to politely decline a piece of cake.  Without offending anyone, what about some of the traditions that different religions have? I grew up in a small town, and our church celebrated communion during special times of the year. We were served the grape juice (aka the blood of Christ) in individual glasses, but everyone took turns putting their hands into the basket to pick out a piece of bread.  I have been to other services where everyone drinks from the same goblet and the priest simply wipes the area you drank from with a cloth before the next person takes as sip. How will COVID-19 impact our societal and religious traditions?

What about social interaction and manners? Will we ever go back to shaking hands, opening, and holding doors for others, kissing someone’s cheek or hugging when we greet someone hello (e.g. the reception wedding line), sharing food like popcorn or kissing on the first date?  I know many may think differently.  I may think differently about kissing on the first date or kissing someone’s cheek as I say hello.  There is too great a chance of sharing bodily fluid, which could be laden with all sorts of germs.  The others, well they have something in common.  I can protect myself by not touching my face, washing my hands using soap or hand sanitizer after the interaction and continuing to wash my hands before I eat.  I may refuse to share food, unless I have visual proof that your hands are clean.

Lastly, what about party games? As kid, I remember at fairs, picnics and birthday parties bobbing for apples, playing telephone where you whisper in someone’s ear and this continues down the line until the last person has to say what they were told.  What about the 3-legged race where you are tied to someone, musical chairs or playing twister? Will you ever volunteer to man the kissing booth again? These games are what makes growing up and interacting with family, friends and neighbours fun. What games to we see becoming extinct?  What games will continue, but we may modify them slightly in an effort to minimize getting “cooties”.  Let’s be honest, did you ever think as an adult you would be concerned with getting cooties from someone?

This is just food for thought.  In the coming weeks, I plan to continue our discussion about what life may look like post-pandemic.

Bugging Off!

Nicole

Friday, May 1, 2020

Cleaning COVID from Chow


In the last several weeks, I have had a few friends and colleagues ask what I do when I grocery shop and when I bring my food home.  I must admit my husband has done most of the shopping, and not just because of COVID-19.  I loathe grocery shopping.  I will get only on what’s on the list I have been given and if I cannot find something easily, it simply does not come home.   The few times I have gone shopping, I have to say it is not so bad.  But then again, cutting down the number of people in the store means less cart jams so I’m not getting cart rage.

There have been a number of suggestions for what to do when grocery shopping from all sorts of people, with the most ridiculous being a recommendation to follow almost an aseptic technique with surgical precision.  I have heard stories that people have spent almost an hour wiping everything down with a disinfectant wipe prior to bringing anything in the house.  We have moved to disposable plastic bags versus using our reusable bags. We sanitize our hands; before entering the store, when we are leaving the store, after putting groceries in the car, put the cart away and before we get into our car.  We then wash our hands after we have finished putting the groceries away.  I will openly admit, I know I have eaten an apple and pear without washing it.

It’s true that grocery shopping carries extra risk.  Not only are you near other people, but many of the products you're buying have probably been handled by others, have definitely been in the 6’ bubbles of others, meaning it is quite possible that they have been sneezed or coughed on.  I wholeheartedly agree that social distancing is extremely important and from my blog last week, wearing a mask in public keeps your respiratory droplets to yourself, helping reduce contamination of surfaces if you happen to be asymptomatic and are shedding COVID-19 while shopping.   The CDC and every infection prevention expert I have heard continues to support that washing or sanitizing your hands is the single most important thing we can do, as is NOT touching your face and not eating until you have washed your hands.

I have seen an increased use of gloves and certainly, from an infection prevention perspective, they have their place, but unless you are trained in how to use them, in most cases you are potentially doing more harm than good.  Assuming you use them, do you put them on prior to leaving your car?  If you said yes, think about your shopping routine and how many things you have touched.  Do you take them off after you have placed your groceries on the checkout conveyor? Do you keep them on until you get home, as I have to assume happens based on the number of blue hands I have been seeing of late?  If you do the latter, think of the number of things you have touched?  As a female, you have likely gone into your purse to get your wallet and retrieved your credit or debit card.  How many times did you touch your phone while shopping?  Is it sunny out?  Did you put sunglasses on while walking to the car? Did you have to grab your keys?  I think you get the point.

If you wear gloves thinking you are protecting yourself, please understand that those gloves have touched everything and has the chance to pick up pathogens like COVID-19 along the way.  This is why my husband and I do not wear gloves in public but then sanitized our hands frequently while we are out shopping.
While there is evidence that contaminated surfaces may help in the spread of COVID-19, there is no evidence that food or food packaging has been linked to getting sick.  The CDC’s recommendations are to wash your hands, disinfect the handles of grocery carts or baskets and avoid touching your face.  We have enough to worry about, please do not add additional anxiety to your life.

Bugging Off!

Nicole

Friday, April 24, 2020

COVID Cleaning can Cause Catastrophes


In February of last year, I wrote a blog “Don’t Be Daft” that talked to the fact that you cannot dilute a concentrate formulation to get a contact time or claims list equivalent to a Ready-To-Use product.  The reason for this is because disinfectants are formulated in very specifically to meet the dilution rates, contact times or claims lists specified on their label. The long and the short of that blog was that formulating disinfectants should be left to the experts.

While many consumers may purchase and use various cleaning and disinfecting products at home, until COVID-19 hit, the need for widespread disinfection was not a topic of discussion. Most people had not contemplated social distancing, how far the droplets of our coughs, sneezes or even talking spread, and likely never thought of high touch surfaces they touched on a daily basis that had been touched by any number of people before them.

I’m thrilled that we are entering a new normal where these types of things will be at the forefront of our thoughts; however, we still need to exercise some common sense and understand that unless we are a chemist or chemical engineer, we should not be mixing chemicals together.

Case in point is a recently released study by the CDC that has correlated an increase in calls to the Poison Control Center to COVID-19 and the increased use in cleaning and disinfection chemicals.  According to the CDC, calls to U.S. Poison Control Centres have increased since COVID-19 landed in the US, with a sharp increase in March during the onslaught of lockdowns. Calls concerning exposures to chemicals and disinfectants increased by 20% from 2019 to 2020, with children five years old or younger making up most of the victims. Around two thirds of the calls were related to bleach, non-alcoholic disinfectants, and sanitizers.

The study provided two case studies. The following is taken directly and highlights the importance of why, if you do not have a degree in chemistry or chemical engineering, you should not try to concoct your own cleaning solution:

“An adult woman heard on the news to clean all recently purchased groceries before consuming them. She filled a sink with a mixture of 10% bleach solution, vinegar, and hot water, and soaked her produce. While cleaning her other groceries, she noted a noxious smell described as “chlorine” in her kitchen. She developed difficulty breathing, coughing, and wheezing, and called 911. She was transported to the emergency department (ED) via ambulance and was noted to have mild hypoxemia and end-expiratory wheezing.”

The second case highlights why we need to consider the safety profile of the products we bring home as well as how or where we store them:

“A preschool-aged child was found unresponsive at home and transported to the ED via ambulance. A 64-ounce bottle of ethanol-based hand sanitizer was found open on the kitchen table. According to her family, she became dizzy after ingesting an unknown amount, fell and hit her head. She vomited while being transported to the ED, where she was poorly responsive. Her blood alcohol level was elevated at 273 mg/dL (most state laws define a limit of 80 mg/dL for driving under the influence); neuroimaging did not indicate traumatic injuries.”

Although a causal association cannot be demonstrated, the timing of these reported exposures corresponded to increased media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of consumer shortages of cleaning and disinfection products, and the beginning of some local and state stay-at-home orders all correlate together nicely.

When it comes to using disinfectants, read the label, use the product as the manufacturer intended it to be used and do not mix things together.  The dilution rates and contact times are there for a reason.  Don’t be daft. 

Bugging Off!

Nicole

Friday, April 17, 2020

Speak Moistly to Me


A week or so ago, the Prime Minister of Canada had a cringe-worthy moment during an address to the nation.  Anyone who has ever spoken in public, during a meeting, at a family dinner and even just one-on-one with a friend has likely experienced a speaking blunder.  If you’re lucky, you just experience an awkward moment and it is soon forgotten.  If your blunder is on a larger scale, like Trudeau, you may end up with  viral memes and various remixes on YouTube.  A word to the wise, do not tell a nation that wearing masks prevents you from “speaking moistly” – even if it is true!

It’s possible that when Prime Minister Trudeau was giving his speech, he had been privy to some new research that has now been published in New England Journal of Medicine.  The researchers of the study looked at method to visualize oral fluid droplets while speaking.  I’m sure we have all had that moment when we’re talking with someone and get grossed out when you visibly see spit leaving their mouth.  I know I have been in situations where I myself have done that on stage and know exactly what my inner voice is saying.

When it comes to respiratory infections like COVID-19, transmission of the virus via respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing are always at the top of our minds.  With reports that COVID-19 is spreading in the community via asymptomatic carriers, looking at aerosols and droplets generated during speech is certainly something we need to consider.  Obvious droplets generated from talking are one thing, but droplets or aerosols generated during normal speech that cannot be seen could be a source of transmission – especially if you are not socially distancing.  The truth is that talking does create droplets and of course if you are sick, these droplets have the potential to transmit disease both directly, when the droplet comes in contact with another person, or indirectly, when a person touches a surface that is contaminated from your moist talking.

The researchers looked at the size of droplet generated when talking with and without a face mask on.  They found that droplets ranging from 20µm – 500µm were created, and the louder you talked, the more droplets you generated: WATCH THE VIDEO OF THE STUDY FINDINGS.

The study did not go on to correlate the impact of talking with transmission, but previous studies have shown that the number of droplets generated during sneezing and coughing were similar in number, but smaller.  The smaller the size means the droplet has the chance to travel farther.

Social distancing is a key component of helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.  While there may be differing sides in terms of if the general public should or should not wear masks, it would appear that Prime Minster Trudeau was on to something when he introduced the concept of “speaking moistly”.

Bugging Off!

Nicole