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 17, 2018

Summer Sickness may equal Winter Weakness



A few weeks ago while a group of us were floating in the river enjoying an adult beverage my husband announced that in 120 days it will be winter. The day in question was north of 30oC (>90oF).  It was sunny.  The water we were floating in was about 82oF.  My drink was over ice.  None of us were interested in thinking about winter, snow, ice or -30oC (-22oF) temperatures.  There are now only 106 days until winter starts.  As I no longer ski and people are often idiots when driving in snow, I’ve hit the age where I can do without it. It’s bad enough 10 out of 12 months of my year are spent hockey rinks. I get enough “freezing” time.

So what does winter and freezing have to do with summer sickness?  Norovirus infections can occur at any time of the year, but happen most often during the winter months – hence its old name “winter vomiting disease”. Apparently for Norovirus, there is a link to the severity of outbreaks during summer months and what our winter Norovirus “season” might look like. Experts reviewed Norovirus trends and are linking higher case counts in the summer to winters with more severe disease.  Britain has been experiencing a rash of gastro cases with unusually high numbers of people suffering with diarrhoea and vomiting.  Based on published information, the illnesses appear to be short-lived, with a sudden onset, and very unpleasant – sounds like Noro to me!  The difficulty in confirming the cause of illness can be attributed to the fact that most people when sick do not seek medical attention so samples are not taken for verification. One of the trends noted is that following the increased summer activity of 2002, there were more cases than usual reported in the following winter, higher than any of the preceding years. 

Before we start yelling “The sky is falling”, it’s too early to say that what’s going on this summer can in fact predict what will happen in the near future.  But here’s a few examples of what happened this summer:
  •         At least 97 people suffered from symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea and fever after spending time at Woods Pond Beach in Bridgton, Maine in the US.
  •         Officials at Camp Glenburn (New Brunswick, Canada) decided to close the summer camp for the rest of the season after being closed a second time because of norovirus.
  •         780 people have caught the illness since May, back when the hot weather in the UK began.
  •         3 outbreaks on cruise ships since May with 187 illnesses. 1 of the outbreaks has been confirmed as Norovirus, the other 2 remain unknown.

In probably one of the best quotes I have read on Norovirus, Dr Peter Cowling, a microbiologist from the UK stated “The only way to avoid norovirus is to avoid everyday life.  You run a risk of catching it wherever you go and if you come into contact with someone who is infected you are highly likely to catch it.”

Realistically, getting Norovirus at any point during the year is a crapshoot (pun intended).  It will be interesting to see if the same trends with higher than normal summer Norovirus sickness will lead to upcoming winter Norovirus weakness!

Bugging Off!
Nicole

Friday, August 10, 2018

Bacterial Laden Wristbands


As mentioned in last week’s blog, after coming back from a conference I had something up my sleeve.  Summer is a time for fairs, water parks and many other outdoor events. As a way to easily identify those who have paid for admittance to special areas of parks or have unlimited ride access, wrist bands are commonly used. They can be any colour under the sun. They are generally made of a plastic-papery type material, have an adhesive or other self-closing mechanism to keep the band in place. I’ve never really thought much of them. They’re on for a day and then they’re off. Even during any hospital stays, I’ve never really thought much of the bands that are placed on me or a loved one. They provide our identification, they have crucial information that for some may even be lifesaving.

Last week however, at one of the largest international beauty shows in Vegas where the temperature outside was well into the 90’s we were given a wrist band made of a very nice silky ribbon and told that it had to stay on at all times and if we lost it we would have to pay $75 to replace. After having lunch with the thing on and seeing firsthand the darn thing slipping into the salsa we were eating it occurred to me that this was gross! I don’t wear any piece of clothing constantly for 4 days. I was curious how gross the bands could get!

Thanks to our R&D team who is as curious about these type of things as I am, I grabbed the wristbands of my colleagues and some of the other vendors. I was also able to sweet talk my way into getting a “new” wristband without having to pay. I will admit, the lady was looking at me oddly when I explained what I wanted to do, but she played along to my geekiness!

We looked at the bacterial contamination of the wristbands by testing them both qualitatively and quantitatively to determine their level of contamination.  From the pictures below, I hope you’ll agree that the results are pretty cool! The first picture is what they looked like from placing a piece of the band on a growth media to see what would grow.  The second image is what we found after sonicating the bands in a buffer solution, incubating and then doing a colony count.



For full disclosure, the ‘control’ band was shipped in a Ziploc that previously held candies (Skittles to be exact), so it was “as gross as the used bands”.  To my defense, that was the only bag I had on me when I got the band and was scared I would lose it….  I definitely need to improve my sample collection “skills”.

Thankfully we do not know who Band #2 belongs to, but definitely, their level of hygiene, or what they get up to with their hands and wrists is different from the owners of Band #1 and #3!  We can’t really draw any conclusions, but what it does highlight is that we can easily pick up “bugs” as we go about our day to day business.  It would also appear that some are better at picking up “bugs” than others.  Is this enough to put me in a non-wristband wearing bubble?  NO!  That said, it does remind me of the importance of cleaning my hands frequently throughout the day and especially before I eat!


Bugging Off!

Nicole

Friday, August 3, 2018

Ride the Red Tide


This week I was at one of the largest international Beauty shows.  I have something up my sleeve as a follow up, but I need to wait patiently for our microbiologist to conduct some “testing”.  I will say, it was 4 days for equally seeing the good, the bad and the really, really ugly! If you think I’m being petty, no, I’m not talking about people...

One of my favorite parts of travelling, is having uninterrupted time on a plane to catch up on reading.  While I’m not a “tree-hugger”, I do care about the environment and try to do my best in minimizing my environmental footprint.  We recycle, we compost, we minimize our plastic use and we minimize purchasing packaged or processed foods opting for fresh grown veggies etc.  The company I work for also ties nicely into my hope for a future where we do not continue to kill the environment.  Our corporate focus is to innovate and develop sustainable disinfectants to improve the health of people and animals all the while reducing their environmental impact.  This means we work to find greener alternatives to many of the more commonly used chemicals used for manufacturing cleaning and disinfecting products.  Our products have never contained Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs) which are known endocrine disruptors that have negative impacts on both people and animals and are toxic to aquatic life. In the last 10 years we have also been reducing and/or removing phosphates from our products due to the impact that they have on the environment.

You may be thinking “Who cares!” or “How does a Beauty conference and how cleaners and disinfectants are developed impact me?”  Well, the products we use in both our professional and personal lives have a direct impact on our environment.  We need only to look at the Red Tide and the thousands of dead fish, manatees, whale sharks, sea turtles and sea birds that have been killed over the last 9 months in what has been the longest lasting Red Tide in our history.  About 100 miles of shoreline in southwest Florida have been affected by the Red Tide so far, and the scariest part is that officials don't know when it's going to end meaning thousands of more animals and people will be impacted.

Red Tide is caused by algal blooms. The growth of this algae depends on wind, temperature, nutrients, and salinity. While there is no one factor that contributes to the development of these blooms, pollution of water or coastal areas has been linked to the phenomenon. Access to nutrients to such as nitrates and phosphates, which can be abundant in agricultural run-off, human sewage and waste water. Think about it, every cleaner and disinfectant, body wash, shampoo, laundry and dish detergent we use enter our sewer systems which eventually get released back into the environment. As usual, we are our own worst enemy.

Knowing this, it was refreshing to see the number of products showcased at the Beauty convention that were phosphate free, that were environmentally friendly and would reduce our negative footprint on the environment. I hope you’ll take a look at some of the pictures or videos that have been shared highlighting the impact of Florida’s Red Tide on the marine life. I hope you’ll share with your friend and I hope you’ll join me in choosing products that will reduce the impact on animals, people and the planet!


Bugging Off!

Nicole