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, August 18, 2017

Fall Fair Fun

The end of August is bitter sweet.  On the sweet side, it marks the anniversary my husband and I started dating and got married and it marks the month we moved from a high-risk pregnancy to a “you’re good to go” pregnancy.  On the bitter side, it marks the end of summer, the return of cool nights and for children the return to school.  It also marks the start of Fall Fair season!

Growing up on a farm, Fall Fairs were where you got to show off your prized animal (in my case a purebred Hereford named Patience).  She was aptly named as it took all my patience to teach her to lead on a line, stand quietly to be judged and to stop dragging me through the manure pile.  I was a horse girl, so Fall Fairs were also high season for competition – hunter, equitation and jumping were my events.  My boy Wally, known in the show world as “The Other Man” was a bit fickle.  We had our good days and our bad days.  In hindsight, I should have named him “The Only Man” seeing as he was the reason for much of my teenage drama and losses of boyfriends.  If I had a show, you could be sure that I would cancel a date to go ride and groom my horse.

Fall Fairs are a great time for people to learn where our food comes from and to get to touch and feel different animals, learn their sounds and their smells, and for some unsuspecting child or adult it may also mark the first time you got nipped, bit or kicked it because you wrongly thought that all animals were pets.  Fall Fairs are also a time of food poisoning and catching a zoonotic disease such as Salmonella or influenza.  Because Fall Fairs result in the mixing of humans and animals, it is important that we all take steps to protect ourselves from picking up a zoonotic disease.  Whenever there is a human and animal interface, we need to recognize the risks that come with it.  Promoting simple things like good hand hygiene habits and ensuring there is adequate access to hand washing stations or hand sanitizers can go a long way to protecting people.  But it’s not just about our protection, animals can be susceptible as well, so we need biosecurity measures in place to prevent animals getting sick because we traipsed something in to their area on our shoes.

In fact, a study recently published in Emerging Infectious Disease looked at how novel viruses can evolve in an agricultural fair setting highlighting how quickly influenza and other potential diseases can spread from pigs to humans.  The study looked at samples from 161 pigs from 7 different fairs.  They found that for 6 of the 7 fairs, 77.5% of the pigs were infected with Influenza A. Interestingly only 2 of the fairs showed extensive influenza-like illness among the pigs, meaning subclinical infections with influenza pose a potential public health threat.  Influenza viruses can jump from humans to pigs and back to humans.  Biosecurity measures at Fall Fairs and the need to conduct surveillance within the pig population is an important method for detecting novel influenza A viruses that threaten swine and human health alike.

Don’t let this stop you from attending these fun events.  There is much to see and do, and of course eat!  If you happen to attend any in Southwestern Ontario you may come across my niece!  She’s gone the “western” route meaning she runs barrels, poles and flags, but I still love her even if she picked the wrong events!

Bugging Off!


Friday, August 11, 2017

It was the stethoscope in the ER, my dear Watson.

If you ever read or watched the Sherlock Holmes books, movies or the TV series you will recall the line “Elementary, my dear Watson”.  It was the explanation that Sherlock Holmes gave to his assistant, Dr. Watson, when explaining deductions he had made.  Science, like solving murders, is all about deduction and solving mysteries and puzzles.

The same can certainly be said with infection prevention and trying to find out who or what are transmitting infections and how.  In recent years, there has been a huge push on improving hand hygiene rates.  There has also been a focus on improving cleaning and disinfection processes, particularly when it comes in environmental surfaces.  Studies have looked at different types of disinfectant actives, different cleaning processes, changing frequency of disinfection, increasing staff (or decreasing staff), and implementing verification methods to ensure that cleaning and disinfection has in fact occurred.  Several studies have shown that changing products, processes and including a validation program could in fact improve cleaning and disinfection showing a direct link to reducing HAIs. 

Regardless of the implementation of hand hygiene programs or improving environmental surface disinfection, HAIs were not eliminated.  Improved hand hygiene and enhanced cleaning certainly showed a reduction in HAIs, but HAIs still occurred.  Several years ago after conducting a cleaning audit at a facility that was in the midst of an outbreak one of the observations I made was that I never saw any cleaning and disinfection of patient care equipment by nursing staff.

Don’t jump to conclusions.  I’m not saying that nurses are to blame for outbreaks, but the thought came back in flash after reading a study that hoped to improve both hand hygiene and stethoscope hygiene. The researchers’ intervention sought to educate staff regarding the importance of stethoscope hygiene. Expectations were set that stethoscopes needed to be disinfected between each patient encounter due to the fact that they are repeatedly used throughout the day and can become contaminated after contact with patients.  This repeated use throughout the day and between multiple patients make stethoscopes a key fomite that can transmit pathogens from patient to patient.  Unfortunately for the researchers (and maybe the patients) of the 128 initial observations disinfection of the stethoscopes never occurred.  Post-intervention, an additional 41 observations found that even with an education intervention to discuss the importance of disinfection of the stethoscopes, no stethoscope hygiene was performed.

Do I hear crickets chirping

I wonder just how wide spread the lack of stethoscope hygiene is? I know the next time I’m at my doctor’s I’m going to ask when the last time she disinfected her stethoscope was and may just offer to clean it for her myself!

Bugging Off!


Friday, August 4, 2017

Sharing is Caring

My dad is a prostate cancer survivor.  We were lucky.  He had a doctor who was on top of things and through my contacts, we were able to find him an excellent specialist.   The best news of all was in June when the oncologist said my dad no longer needs to visit him and passed him back to his GP.  It was an awesome day.

Why am I sharing this?  Well each November since my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer I have supported “Movember”.  Rest assured, I am not growing facial hair.   I do, however, donate to friends or family members who decide to grow a beard, a mustache or a goatee.  I’m giving to a worthy cause – prostate cancer research.  I’m hoping that sometime in the future someone else’s dad won’t have to tell his baby girl that he has cancer.

Without a doubt there is no shortage of worthy causes – cancer research, food banks, clothing and even hair donations – we can become almost numb to the requests for money to support cause after cause.  So I will apologize as this is another cause, but one I hope the infection control community can get behind – infection control education.  In particular, funding for infection control education in Africa.

Why is education in Africa so important?  Because there is a shortage of skills particularly in infection prevention and related topics like engineering and infrastructure maintenance.  Education and understanding of the local conditions is pivotal to good infection control practices in both healthcare facilities and in the communities.  Similar to the National Infection Prevention Associations we see in industrialized countries like Canada, the US, the UK, etc, an association was started by a group of visionaries in Africa.  The Infection Control African Network (ICAN) was established in 2012 and has grown include 500 members from 34 countries across Africa. It has an extensive Education programme – Cape to Cairo.  Since 2005 ICAN in partnership with Stellenbosch University has graduated over 120 students in the Postgraduate diploma program in IPC, 300 in fundamentals in IPC, 1200 in the Basic course in IPC, 94 managers in cost effective IPC practices. These are just a few of the many courses that are offered. There is also an ICAN conference where bursaries and scholarships are given to African scientists to present their research. Further, ICAN has been a member of the WHO committees on IPC and related topics with a view to carry forward the view of low to middle income countries. There is no question that ICAN has had a very positive impact on African lives.

But all of this comes with a cost.  In a country the size of Africa where resources and money is scarce, support is needed to continue and expand the education efforts.  By using teleclass education systems like Webber Training, ICAN can take their infection control education into some of the more rural and remote parts of the African continent.  To ensure that as many people as possible can receive the training, all of the course lectures will be made available on teleclassafrica.org in English, and eventually, in French, Portuguese, Arabic, and Swahili.  This will mean that virtually every healthcare worker on the continent will be taught in at least one language that is understandable to them.

In the spirit of “sharing is caring” I am hoping that some of you may be willing to support this worthy cause.  If you’re not able to support, I am hoping that you would consider sharing the Go Fund Me link.  It’s amazing how far $15,000 can go.  Where else on earth can an infection control education program be brought to healthcare workers from 54 countries?  

Bugging Off!


Friday, July 28, 2017

Diarrhea, the newest occupational risk?

I generally start each blog with a little story. Often times the story may be personal and something that can lead nicely into the main topic of the blog.  This week after reading the article that is serving as the basis for the blog topic and deciding upon the title, I knew if I shared a personal story I would really have tipped the scales of TOO much information.   I’m sure each of you can think of a situation where you’ve been hit by diarrhea.  You may even recall from childhood a certain song dedicated to the topic of diarrhea.  There are a few different renditions and I think in an attempt to be mature I’ll let you google “Diarrhea Song” on your own.

So why the talk of diarrhea?  Well an investigation report was released by the CDC last week about a Salmonella outbreak linked to microbiology laboratories which infected a total of 24 people in 16 states between March and June this year.  Of the 24 confirmed cases, 6 people were hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.  The infections occurred in clinical, commercial, college and university microbiology laboratories where the investigation revealed that several of the people infected in the outbreak reported risky behaviors, such as not wearing gloves, not washing hands and using writing utensils or notebooks outside the laboratory. 

As a result of this latest outbreak, the CDC has released a new set of guidelines to be used when working in laboratories.  Some of the key recommendations include not bringing home items used in the lab; following proper biosafety training; wearing gloves, a lab coat or other protective garments; actively washing your hands; and avoiding touching your face or body while in the lab.  Having worked in a lab setting and being responsible for the technical service team and sample reception, I would also say a key recommendation should be not to store your lunch, snacks or drinks in the same fridge that samples are stored…..

The Salmonella typhimurium strain identified in this outbreak was also linked to infections in microbiology labs in 2011 where 109 people infected including 2 children of an infected student and 2014 where 41 people infected.   The long and the short, is it seems to take about 3 years for lab staff to forget that outbreaks and diarrhea associated with Salmonella can be an occupational risk.  This goes to show that biosecurity measures cannot be underestimated.  In a lab setting, once the crisis is over we cannot simply fall back into our old habits over time. Biosecurity measures were designed for one very specific reason – to protect us as we work with potentially infectious pathogens.  This is our health we are talking about.  Sure an infection with Salmonella and the associated diarrhea is a nuisance and some may just shrug it off as a fact of life.  Would we’d be so cavalier if we were talking about Ebola?

Check back with me in 2020 and let’s see if we can find another outbreak!

Bugging Off!


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Pedicures, Plantar Warts and Tinea pedis

I was in SoCal this week.  It was lovely.  It had been a while since I’ve been to California and was able to enjoy a drive down the coast from LA to Dana Point.  If you’ve not been there, it’s the home of the Doheny Beach – you know the one mentioned in the Beach Boy’s song “Surfin’ USA”?  If you love sand and surf it’s worth the trip, as is a visit to Salt Creek Beach.  I say “if you like sand” because I #hatesand!  It gets all over you, and I may have had a bit of a tantrum while trying to get sand out of my sandal and then locking the keys to my rental car in the trunk……  The car wasn’t locked and while there was no trunk button in the cabin of the car we did manage to unlock the car by putting down the back seats and crawling into the trunk that way.  If you don’t believe me check out my Twitter or Instagram for hilarious picture evidence @nicolecronkenny. 

As is the case with the picture that inspired this week’s blog, I may also have followed the local way and walked bare foot in public on sidewalks and stairs.  Why would I risk contracting Plantar Warts or Athlete’s foot (Tinea pedis) by walking bare foot in a public place?  I had #Ihatesand on my feet.  I had to walk back to the car without shoes so that I could use a bottle of water to wash the sand off.  Don’t you agree it’s ridiculous they did not have showers readily available as you came off the beach?  I’m sure I’m not the only #Ihatesand person out there!  At the very least, I am sure that most people hate bringing sand home with them!

Aside from enjoying days at the beach accumulating sand in areas it does not belong, summer is also known as high season for pedicures, because who does not want to make sure your feet look good while walking in public?!  Back in 2012, I wrote a blog “Be Spa Safe” where I gave 7 things to look for when going to a spa or nail salon:

1. Is the facility clean and organized?
2. Are the tools and work surfaces in good repair?
3. Did I see the personal service worker wash their hands?
4. Are the tools and supplies stored in a clean area?
5. Are creams, lotions, wax etc used in a way that does not contaminate them?
6. Are clean sheets, towels, etc used for each client and paper liners thrown out after each use?
7. Most importantly, ask yourself if you feel comfortable with getting whatever treatment you are looking forward to done.  If what you see or hear is making you uncomfortable…RUN!!!!!
I hope that you’ll consider these the next time you go for a mani or pedi!  If you’re off to the beach this weekend enjoy, but I hope it’s a beach that has showers and you’ll wear sandals!  You can be sure this weekend I will not be spending time at the beach.  #Ihatesand you know!

Bugging Off!


PS – I’ll let you know if I caught anything infectious walking in public!

Friday, July 14, 2017

#FF Schools out for summer!

As much as I hate to date myself, I’m hoping that when many of you read the title for this week’s blog you started humming, singing or at least thought of the 1972 song by Alice Cooper “Schools out for Summer”!  Let me be clear, I was still a baby when it first debuted, but I dare say many of us probably sang the song on the last day of school as we ran out the school doors whether it was to catch the bus, to jump in your car or simply run all the way home.   While many kids hope to completely avoid anything that may resemble learning in any form this summer, there are some of us who take the opportunity to catch up on reading or learning during the couple months that we anticipate having a bit more time to slow down and relax.

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 third quarter of 2017.

Title of Teleclass
July 13th
The psychology of hand hygiene: How to improve hand hygiene using behaviour change frameworks
Dr. Jocelyn Srigley, Canada
July 26th
The impact of catheter associated urinary tract infection
Prof. Brett Mitchell, Australia
August 10th
Learning infection control via games
Prof. Anne-Gaëlle Venier, France
August 23rd
Biofilms in the hospital environment: Infection control implications
Prof. Karen Vickery, Australia
August 24th
Social Media: Useless or useful in infection prevention
Barley Chironda, Canada
September 14th
Relationship between patient safety climate and adherence to standard precautions
Dr. Amanda Hessels, USA
September 18th
Igniting passion, sparking improvement
Julie Storr, UK
September 20th
How to publish in the journals and why it matters
Prof. Elaine Larson, USA

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, July 7, 2017

Happy belated Canada Day and Independence Day!

With school finally coming to an end last week, this week we took a long needed family vacation.  I decided I would even take a break from blogging. So unlike me, I know. I hope you don't mind, but with views like the one in the picture, while enjoying a little sunset fishing, what's a girl to do!

Some of you may have already received our Corporate Solutions Newsletter and know that we are fortunate to have friendships with Opinion Leaders from around the world who are willing to write articles for our newsletter.  If you haven't read the newsletter, I hope you will!  I'm currently enjoying reading the book "Preventing Hospital Infections: Real-World Problems, Realistic Solutions" that we mentioned in the newsletter.  I'll tell you all about it next week!

Bugging Off!


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hot-desking creates hot spots!

I would describe myself as an extroverted introvert.  My family, my friends and those that I work with would agree.  I get along with people well (most days) and I can be extremely engaging (when I want) and chat your ear off on a host of topics.  This serves me well when attending tradeshows, engaging in team work and generally getting through day to day life.  I will, however, hit my limit of how much “people-time” I can handle.  When that happens it’s like hitting a brick wall while going 60 miles per hour.  The crash is ugly and the collateral damage can be messy.   As a result I’ve developed a few coping mechanisms to make sure I do not crash as often.   For example, when I travel I give myself at least an hour between the conference and any evening function I have to attend.  My coworkers may decide to grab a drink, but I think they would all agree it’s better that I don’t.  That hour to recharge makes a world of difference!  At home my recharge time is “putting away the laundry”.  My husband knows I hate laundry so if I’m puttering around putting laundry away he knows I need some space.  At work, I close my office door.

We spend so much time at work that I think for many our office or our personal work space can be a haven or sanctuary against the mad onslaught of work, pressures or fires we face throughout the day.  If I think back to my “humble” beginnings, I was thrilled to have a cubicle I could call my own.  I remember the day I “grew up” and got my own office (with a window I may add)……   There is something to say about having your space, your stuff organized or strewn about the desk, your crumbs from breakfast, lunch or snack and your germs.  How many times have I itched my eye after typing on my keyboard - too many to count.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way, but in recent years, the design and layout of our office space has changed.  Today, a number of companies have jumped on the ‘hot desking’ bandwagon.  The premise seems interesting - you can sit wherever you want.  The concept has been touted to promote greater efficiency and teamwork.  In practice, many people find it pretty annoying.  It’s akin to being in High School where, at the end of the day you pack up your books and papers and go home.

As I have been taught over my years, when making plans or developing strategies you need to look for the unintended consequences or unobvious issues that could rear their ugly heads.  In the case of hot-desking, as much of this was thought of by “experts” not in the infection prevention world, the unintended consequence of their unobvious issue was the increasing risk of transmission of germs.  Think about it.  Not every office is cleaned every day.  That means from one day to the next you have different people, different germs attaching themselves to the desk, the shared keyboard or mouse, the shared phone….

I recently came across a study conducted by a company in the UK who specialize in hygiene.  For their study, they swabbed >100 desk areas of a company with fixed-desks (e.g. MINE and MINE alone!).  This company then decided to move to hot-desking and the desk areas were swabbed again.  They results speak for themselves.  They found a 41% increase in microbial contamination on the same surfaces.  The one area where the hot-desks did better was on the keyboard.  Surprisingly, the hot-desk keyboards were 6% “cleaner” than fixed-desk keyboards.  It kind of makes sense; if I were sharing a desk I would probably clean the keyboard too!

Does this mean the end of hot-desking?  Probably not, however, perhaps before moving towards this set up some consideration as to how to minimize loss of productivity due to illness will now be done.  I’ve worked with some call centers where each desk is equipped with a canister of disinfectant wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer.  The idea being that you clean when you leave and you clean when you arrive.  Providing that the disinfectant you choose does not require the use of PPE or contain chemicals that people know to be harmful, it’s not a bad practice to set up!   I’m never too sure who uses my office when I’m travelling or on vacation….perhaps I need to start disinfecting my area when I leave and when I arrive after a period of absence!

Bugging Off!


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!