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!


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!


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!


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!


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!


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!


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!


Thursday, April 9, 2020

Living in a Bubble

Last night my husband and I were talking about what COVID-19 life looked like this week and what we think next week may bring.  The discussion turned to economic recovery and why, if we adhere to social distancing, can we not go back to some semblance of normalcy.  It was a fair question that generated a bit of a heated discussion and then it dawned on me. How I look at things and how he (and most likely many of the public) are categorically different.  He sees his social distancing, his 6-foot spacing, as a protective bubble.  I, and likely most people with a stronger understanding of infection control, see a something very different.  We see the bubble and we see the pathogens (or potential pathogens) on the surfaces left behind after someone and their 6-foot bubble have passed by.

Think of it like a Venn-diagram where you have circles intersecting and points where they overlap.  Now put a circle around the entire Venn-diagram, because that is really what happens.  Everywhere you go, your germs go. 

Social distancing helps minimize direct contact with respiratory droplets.  It does not prevent you from touching everything everyone else has touched, coughed or sneezed on.  That was the ah-ha moment. Unlike healthcare workers and companies or people who service the healthcare industry, most do not think of the germs left behind the person who previously occupied the space.  You’re touching everything the person before you touched.

This is why we are hearing so much about the importance of hand hygiene.  Many people are wearing gloves, thinking they are providing a protective barrier.  Those gloves are touching everything the person before you touched.  Are you taking them off before you grab your wallet, credit card or phone to pay for the goods you are buying?  Are you getting into your car and driving home with them on?  Are you opening the door and keeping them on while you put away groceries and touch however many surfaces?  If you are, then you have potentially transferred germs to every surface you touched.  Don’t be fooled by wearing gloves.  Practice hand hygiene.  Sanitize your hands after you have placed your groceries on the conveyor belt and before you grab your wallet or phone to pay.  Practice hand hygiene after you have put your groceries into the trunk and before you have gotten behind the wheel of your car. 

But it’s not just about the hands.  Within your home, your office or your car think about all the high touch surfaces.  Use a disinfectant to wipe these down at least daily.  The good thing about viruses like COVID-19 is that while they can survive for a period of time once we have sneezed, coughed or moistly talked them out, they cannot reproduce.  If we increase our frequency of disinfection along with washing our hands when we should, we can put a stop to COVID-19.

Bugging Off!


Friday, April 3, 2020

How to Tell if your Disinfectant Kills COVID-19

One of the questions on people’s minds is how to know if the disinfectant they are using is effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  The good news it that coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2 are enveloped viruses, therefore are generally quite susceptible to disinfectants.  The downside is that confirming that the product has been approved can be a bit of a challenge.
In the US, when emerging viruses show up and are deemed a threat to public health, the Emerging Pathogen Rule is enacted.  Depending on the type virus that has emerged, there are different requirements a disinfectant must meet in order to be considered effective.  For SARS-CoV-2, the Emerging Pathogen Guidance went into effect as of January 29, 2020.  The following conditions were required:
  • The product must be a hospital or broad-spectrum disinfectant product registered with EPA.
  • For an emerging enveloped virus, the product must have acceptable efficacy data previously submitted to and reviewed by the Agency against one non-enveloped virus (e.g. Poliovirus).

Due to the severity and spread of the virus, at the beginning of March, the EPA indicated that EPA-registered hospital or broad-spectrum disinfectants that carry a claim against Human Coronavirus would also be effective, allowing additional products to be included on EPA List N – products expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2.

One would think finding the product you use would then be relatively easy.  Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case.  Many disinfectant manufacturers register products using a Project Name, meaning that the name of the product you are using is likely different from that on List N so when you search you will not find the product name.  Instead, search by the EPA number listed on your product – that should work at least 50-60% of the time.  If your product has 3 sets of numbers, then the product is a sub-registration.  This means, a company has been given access to sell a product under a different name.  In this case, you again only search for the first 2 set of numbers.  The following is an example of what EPA List N looks like:

And that, folks, is how you find out if your disinfectant is registered and approved for use in the US against COVID-19.

Bugging Off!


Friday, March 27, 2020

Impact of Asymptomatic Coronavirus

I feel a bit like a broken wheel as the last several weeks have only focused about COVID-19.  But we are watching history unfold.  By that, I do not mean the number of infections, recoveries or deaths.  I mean that each week, each day and even every hour we learn something new.  Studies and data are being published all the time.

This week, I came across two studies looking at the impact of asymptomatic transmission. The rate of transmission seems to be what makes COVID-19 a more serious threat then outbreaks of coronavirus we have seen previously.   As discussed in last week’s blog, the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to live on the surface was found to be the same as SARS-CoV-1 that caused the 2003 outbreak.  This means that other factors are impacting its spread.  Some additional factors could be higher viral loads in the upper respiratory tract which could account for spread, but also the potential for SARS-CoV-2 infected people to shed the virus even before they show symptoms.

With the COVID-19 pandemic we are seeing that most secondary transmission is occurring in the community as opposed to healthcare settings.  In the first study, Japanese investigators looked at the 634 passengers from the Diamond Princess who tested positive for COVID-19.  They found that 17.9% of the passengers were asymptomatic meaning they could presumably spread the virus.  The second study published by Dutch researchers estimated a 48% occurrence for asymptomatic transmission for Singapore and a 62% for Tianjin, China.

This data raises concerns about the protocols being used for screening and the potential impact for further community transmission.  It also highlights the potential for transmission to healthcare workers who would not be in PPE but could be exposed to infected patients who are not showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19. 

The long and the short is while we are learning and sharing as much information as we can, and as quickly as we can, we must rely on some of the key tenets of infection prevention to minimize the spread of COVID-19.  Hand hygiene is something that needs to be on the top of our minds.  Wash your hands as frequently as possible and particularly before eating or touching your face.  Keeping you and your hands to yourself via social distancing.  Respiratory droplets can be projected quite some distance, hence the need to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.  This is the reason for the recommended six (6) feet space between people.  Disinfection of high-touch surfaces and increasing the frequency of disinfection will help to limit the chance of secondary transmission from touching contaminated surfaces.

I’m sure next week more will be found, until then….

Bugging Off!


Friday, March 20, 2020

COVID-19 Surface Survival

Infection prevention experts are calling COVID-19 an infodemic, meaning misinformation spreading quicker than the virus itself.  Everyday we are reading updates on the increasing number of cases and deaths.  We are unfortunately not talking about the positive: the increased number of cases who have recovered.

As more time passes, researchers are sharing and publishing more information about the virus itself.  One of the exciting studies that is being published in the New England Journal of Medicine investigates the length of time that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, can survive on surfaces.  It is generally believed that COVID-19 is transmitted in droplet form after sneezing or coughing.  The importance of this is that droplets are heavier and can only stay suspended in air for a short period of time before dropping to land on a surface.  If you are close enough for the virus particles to reach you after someone coughs or sneezes, you can become infected.

The ability for the virus to survive in the air and on surfaces has a direct impact on its ability to transmit from person to person.  The study investigated and compared SARS-CoV-2 and the original SARS virus to determine their aerosol stability and surface survival capability.  When it came to stability of SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces, researchers looked at the ability to survive on the surface for up to 7 days.  The testing conducted indicated that viable virus could be found on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours.   The virus was found to survive better (higher concentrations for longer) on plastic.  On copper, SARS-CoV-2 did not survive past 4 hours and on cardboard, it did not survive past 24 hours.  When it came to the viability of SARS-CoV-2 surviving as an aerosol, researchers used 3 hours as the point of time to test and found that viable virus was found in aerosols throughout the duration of the study.

Gaining clarity into SARS-CoV-2’s ability to survive on surfaces and after being “shed” via coughing and sneezing is an important piece of the puzzle.  The shorter timeframe it can survive, the better our chance of stopping its spread.  It’s important to understand that these tests were conducted under carefully controlled conditions in a lab.  In the real world, where conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity and sunlight) can impact the ability to survive as well.  For example, we know that sunlight can help in reducing the infectivity of viruses on surfaces. 

The long and the short is we still have so much more to learn about this virus.  There is speculation that infected people may be shedding the virus and infecting others before they even exhibit symptoms.  If true, this certainly impacts the speed with which we can curb the pandemic. However, many countries are taking precautions such as cancelling large gatherings, closing schools and restaurants as well as asking for people to work from home and follow social distancing, all of which will help curb transmission.  If the virus is only capable of surviving for 3 days as opposed to initial indications of much longer, then we can continue wage war against SARS-CoV-2 and be victorious by all working together.

Bugging Off!


Friday, March 13, 2020

Leprechaun Luck for St Paddy’s Day

Next week is St Patrick’s Day and for many each year it signifies a day of celebrating, wearing green and perhaps a few sips of green beer.   Saint Patrick, who was the foremost patron saint of Ireland, is the name sake for Saint Patrick's Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick which celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish.

In the wake of the school closures, travel bans, restrictions on mass gatherings and cancellation of conferences, sporting events, concerts and award ceremonies due to COVID—19, many of the traditional celebrations for St. Paddy’s will likely also be cancelled.   For those that have the luck of the Irish and intend to celebrate regardless of recommendations of social distancing the following are a few tips to help you enjoy your night and help to reduce you chances of getting sick:
  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or with an alcohol-based hand rub, like hand sanitizer, when soap and water isn’t available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible. 
  • Use your knuckles to press buttons and your sleeves to open doors to help minimize contaminating your hands.
  • Maintain at least a 3-foot distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze (don’t spread your germs, and if you are sick – stay home).

If you’re thinking of celebrating at home with a group of friends, you may also want to consider adding the following additional precautions:
  • Limit movement around the house (e.g. keep to the main floor).
  • Consider removing your reusable hand towel and use disposable paper towels.
  • Clean and disinfect all high touch surfaces before your guests arrive and again after they’ve gone (less area to clean if you limit their movement!)

While COVID-19 is firmly on our minds, the recommendations given to keep yourself disease-free is the same for Influenza and many other communicable diseases.  The long and short if you want to stay healthy is to wash your hands, avoid touching your face and disinfect high touched surfaces to reduce the chance of picking something!

Bugging Off!


Friday, March 6, 2020

Canine Case of COVID-19

As if the increased number of COVID-19 cases around the world is not enough, Hong Kong announced a case of COVID-19 associated with a pet dog of a positive COVID-19 patient.  We know the likely source of COVID-19 is zoonotic, and while during SARS there was some evidence cats could pick up the virus from the environment there was no infection.

According to infectious disease experts, some animals do have the same receptor for COVID-19 so it’s plausible they can have the disease but do not tend to be symptomatic and pets are unlikely to spread the virus further.

Initial information from Hong Kong indicated that the result could be caused by environmental contamination meaning that the dog picked up traces of the virus from their environment or person.  However, on Wednesday a new statement was issued stating that the dog had been tested two more times (nasal and oral) which returned positive tests. After consulting medical and veterinary experts and the World Organization for Animal Health, Hong Kong officials concluded it is a case of human-to-animal transmission of the virus.

This does not mean we should panic.  At this point, the testing conducted has been completed using PCR which is a very sensitive test which can detect minute amount of the COVID-19 viral RNA, however, PCR does not differentiate between viable virus that is capable of causing infection and inactivated virus.  Infectious Disease Experts are stating that pet parents need not be overly concerned and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets.  We should, however, practice good hygiene practices such as washing your hands before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing them or them kissing you.  Like other respiratory diseases we should also work to maintain a clean and hygienic household environment through cleaning and disinfection.  The other advice is for people who are sick to restrict contacting animals and if their pets have any changes in their health seek advice from a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, in Wuhan, China, authorities are reportedly euthanizing animals that are found in homes of people infected with the virus.  Hong Kong is being more level-headed and only recommending that animals of positive patients be quarantined, as the likelihood of pets getting sick or spreading the disease is very low.

Bugging Off!


Friday, February 28, 2020

Coronavirus Clean Up

According to the WHO, 82,539 cases and 2,812 deaths due to COVID-19 have been recorded.  While around the world, these cases have been linked back to the original source of Wuhan, China, this week, the CDC confirmed the first U.S. COVID-19 case of unknown origin.  The patient appears to have contracted the virus without visiting a foreign country recently or coming into contact with an infected patient meaning this is an instance of community spread of COVID-19 in the United States.  That said, it is possible that the patient was exposed to a returned traveler who was infected without realizing it.
The outbreak is not going to stop any time soon and with the ever-increasing number of cases around the world, we need to be taking every measure possible to limit the spread.  Certainly, hand hygiene and quarantining of suspected and confirmed cases is a way to help slow the spread especially within the community, but focusing cleaning and disinfection are key aspects that cannot be forgotten – just ask those responsible for the Diamond Princess.             
Princess Cruises has put out a global search for a service provider with advanced, scientifically proven cleaning and disinfection capabilities to perform work onboard the Diamond Princess. They are looking to hire a vendor that has experience in significant cleaning and disinfection projects and experience in the use of the disinfectant agent manufactured by Virox®, which is well-known to be an effective disinfectant.  According to the RFP, companies who wish to submit a proposal should be prepared to comply with detailed standards set forth by experts in health protocols and administration such as the Japanese Ministry of Health, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, in addition to the operational standards established by Princess Cruises.
This is not the first time that Virox’s patented Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide® (AHP®) has been used against Coronavirus.  In 2003, during the SARS outbreak, AHP® became the recommended disinfectant of choice, resulting in the distribution of a Training Bulletin disseminated by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care mandating the use of AHP® by all EMAs and Paramedics.  While the original Training Bulletin referenced the use of AHP® for emergency vehicles, AHP® became the only disinfectant used by healthcare providers across Canada.
Coronaviruses are known to be able to persist on environmental surfaces for up to nine days.  In a recently published study, AHP® was included among the disinfectants that have been shown to have proven efficacy against various strains of Coronavirus.  When it comes to managing the transmission of Coronavirus, thoroughly cleaning environmental surfaces with a safe and effective disinfectant that carries a short contact time, like AHP®, will support in ensuring healthcare facilities, offices, schools, cruise ships and transportation vehicles (planes, trains and automobiles) have a cleaning and disinfection program that will support their infection prevention needs.
Infection prevention requires a daily focus.  In this time of heightened concerned and continued expansion of COVID-19, I hope you’ll add cleaning and disinfection to your daily routine!
Bugging Off!

Friday, February 21, 2020

Sharing towels is not caring

Have you ever looked at a towel and thought “OMG! I’m going to get sick from using it!”?  If you’re old enough to remember the cotton roller towels in public washrooms you’ve likely had that reaction.  Have you ever looked at a towel of a family member and wondered if it would make you sick?

I would hazard a guess that most people would think about the potential to pick up germs from high touch surfaces such as refrigerator door handles and the TV remote and most would not consider sharing toothbrushes, but towels?  According to a recent study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, sharing personal hygiene items including towels could increase the risk for colonization of antibiotic resistant organisms like MRSA. 

Over a course of a year, researchers made several visits to the homes of 150 children treated for MRSA infections. A total of 692 family members, as well as 154 cats and dogs, took part in the study.  The researchers swabbed sinks, refrigerator door handles, bathroom countertops, bath towels, bedsheets, light switches, telephones, TVs, video game controllers and computer keyboards and mice. The humans had their nostrils, armpits and groins swabbed, while the animals their noses and backs as this is where they are most often petted.  By the end of the study, 3,819 samples were collected and analyzed.

For the children, the bedsheets of the child with the initial infection were found to be most often contaminated with MRSA. The refrigerator door handle was the most contaminated kitchen site; the sink was the most contaminated place in the bathroom and as most would expect, the TV remote was the dirtiest electronic device.  From a transmission perspective, the dirtier the house was, if the home was rented and the larger the family size also contributed to the likelihood of additional members of the family becoming infected with MRSA.  Surprisingly to the researchers, pets were more likely to catch MRSA from people than visa versa.

Researchers and healthcare providers agree that hand hygiene is the greatest method to stop the spread of disease, however, if a loved one comes home with an infection like MRSA, sharing of personal hygiene items should be avoided as once MRSA is in the home as this study shows it can be easily spread around, picked up by other family members and difficult to get rid of.

The next time you’re at a family members or friends house and use the washroom, will you look at the hand towel in the bathroom in a different light?  If it’s wet, will you be wondering how many people have used it before you and what may be on it?  I know I will!

Bugging Off!