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, August 29, 2014

Influenza - like a teenager, knows no bounds!

I admit, I spend a lot of time trolling the internet.  I've given up counting the number of chat groups, e-newsletters and Google alerts that I have and truthfully many of the emails I get after a quick scan just get deleted, but how else is a girl to keep on top of the trends and hot topics in infection prevention and chemical disinfection?  I'm certainly no computer whiz, but after last week and learning about "Twitterbots" I wish I were!  For now, I'll just have to be my own Internet and Twitterbot and as luck would have it this week I found a gem....well at least to me.

The majority of our blogs tend to focus on human health topics, but I do spend a significant amount of time understanding the biosecurity (aka infection prevention) needs for animal health.   Several years ago, I wrote a an article on Equine (Horse) Influenza (EI) for Horse Canada - What to do to stop the Flu.  Similar to the impact Influenza can have on our communities, EI can devastate a barn.  In fact EI is so contagious that there is a near 100% infection rate in un-vaccinated horses and, like many diseases, the young and old are at greater risk of complications.  The similarity does not stop there.  EI is transmitted via aerosolized respiratory secretions.  In case you didn't know, horses can cough and snort just as well as any human.  In fact having been on the receiving end, I would say horses snorts (sneezes) can travel far greater distances and eject far larger volumes of snot.  I'm pretty sure it has to do with the size of their nostrils.  EI is also transmitted via contact with contaminated surfaces including tack, brushes or feed buckets and also from people who travel from barn to barn.

The gem I found this week was an article published in Emerging Infectious Diseases titled "Equine Influenza A(H3N8) Virus Infection in Cats". For those not in the know, horses, dogs and cats are interrelated.  Horse owners often own dogs.  Horses live in barns/stables and barn cats are usually kept to keep the rodent population down!  Using data supporting the fact that EI has been found to infect dogs and the fact that the during the 2003–2004 outbreak of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in Asia, infections in cats was reported the researchers hypothesized that EI infection in cats could occur.  The study experimentally infected 14 cats with the equine influenza A (H3N8) virus. All showed clinical signs, shed virus, and transmitted the virus to a contact cohort.

The fact that the cats were susceptible to EI by direct inoculation was not surprising because infection of cats with various influenza A viruses has been reported, however, it continues to highlight the ability of  influenza to adapt and transmit between different species and highlights the fact that we never know where the next influenza pandemic may come from.  Will it be our beloved cat, dog or horse?  In the meantime, keep yourself and your pets vaccinated and maintain a healthy environment by cleaning and disinfecting on a regular basis.

Bugging Off!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Twitter Tracking Tummy Troubles

I can say without a doubt I have had food poisoning from eating at restaurants.  Two of the most severe episodes I can even state with a high level of probability that I know what caused it. In Sydney, NS while on my honey moon it was definitely the Digby Clams...the one that tasted slightly off, but not so bad you spit it out.  In France, it was the warmed milk I put in my coffee at the lunch I had in a quaint little Inn near the Millau Viaduct in Southern France.

Why you ask can I say with certainty that the Digby clams or the warmed milk were the culprits?  By deduction my dear Watson.  In both cases, my husband and I had eaten the exact same things all day. With the clam I distinctly recall thinking, hmmmm perhaps I should not have eaten that and with the milk...well my husband takes his coffee black. 

According to a report publishes last week in the MMWR (Health Department Use of Social Media to Identify Foodborne Illness — Chicago,Illinois, 2013–2014) an estimated 55 million to 105 million people in the US experience acute gastroenteritis caused by foodborne illness each year.  In Canada, 1 in every 8 people get sick due to foodborne illnesses. The unfortunate truth is that most people (me included) do not seek treatment which results in underreporting so the statistics are likely far higher.  The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and its civic partners launched FoodBorne Chicago and used Twitter Tweets to try to track potential foodborne illnesses.

Using a Twitterbot (an algorithm) plus a new online complaint form. It searched for tweets geo-located to Chicago and its surrounding suburbs that mentioned "food poisoning." Human staff then read the tweets and marked them as relevant or not relevant, to help improve upon the algorithm to learn what tweets to pull in the future. Staff members then responded to the relevant tweets themselves.  For example, the Twitterbot would locate a tweet such as "Guess who's got food poisoning? This girl!"  and the staff members would reply back with "That doesn't sound good. Help us prevent this and report where you ate here (link to Foodborne Chicago and a web form to report the illness)." Over 10 months, the Twitterbot helped the department identify 133 restaurants for inspections and accounted for 6.9% of the 1,941 health inspections of food establishments prompted by complaints during the study period. For the 133 restaurants identified through the use of the Twitterbot, 21 failed inspection and 33 passed with "critical or serious" violations. Overall, Foodborne Chicago complaints contributed to 4% of the restaurants the city shut down for violations during the study period.  Most importantly, the city likely would have never caught the majority of those complaints without the Twitterbot.

The use of Twitter has been widely discussed for tracking Pandemics and other outbreaks and certainly with this example shows that will a little work in developing the Twitterbot can help to identify foodborne illness.  I wonder when we will see Twitterbots start investigating topics such as Hand Hygiene and cleaning and disinfection? Twitter just may be the tool to identify who is or who's not washing their hands and where the dirtiest surfaces or unclean conditions within hospitals and long-term care facilities are.  Talk about peer pressure on steroids!

Bugging Off!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Review - The Germ Code: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Microbes

I am a horrible friend.  Jason Tetro and I have known each other for some time, in more recent years we have become chums through social media - the Germ Guy meets Clean Freak so to speak.  In fact, Jason was one of our early Guest Blogger contributors with his blog,  "Finding Clarity on Clean Information....".  I've also referenced his blog "The Germ Guy - Confessions of  Mercurial Microbiologist" as well as his featured blogs on Huffington Post in some of my #FF - Follow Friday blogs.  Yet, when his book The Germ Code hit the stores in November of last year it did not occur to me until today to use it for one of my summer book reviews.  Tisk. Tisk.

The Germ Code is Jason's first book publication (another reason for me to feel bad!) and is about our relationship with microbes and the need to find a way to love them.  The book, in true "Germ Guy" fashion is easy to understand as it details why we need to learn to just blissfully live with germs.  Of course learning to look at our surroundings in a new way and not panic over the fact that germs are everywhere, that they make up 90% of our body's cellular composition and that there are over 2 BILLION different kinds - that's 4 times MORE than the population of North America!  - may be a bit hard to swallow for some.

There are far too many good tidbits throughout the 256 page book to touch upon them all.  Jason touches upon the history of the earliest discoveries of pathogens and lessons in microbiomes to outbreaks and pandemics such as SARS and Influenza. The section later in the book on "Germs and Worms" that discusses a clinical trial where patients were fed, YES FED, hookworms!! It rapidly brought back flashbacks of my university days where after completing the section on parasites and worms in Zoology and being thoroughly grossed out, my roommates cut up sections of elastics and placed them in my bed.  For those not in the know, small sections of elastics look EXACTLY like the segments of tapeworms.  While funny now, I was seconds away from running to the ER to get a prescription to treat tapeworm infections....

The whole concept of microbiomes is fascinating.  The fact that as we move from place to place, our natural flora (the bugs that live on or in us every day) change and pick up new bugs on our skin, in our mouth and intestinal track and even our belly button!  To quote Jason, "The belly button is a microbial museum of lifetime experiences!"  I wonder if mine's still filled with horsey-germs from my years of horseback riding!
In the end, The Germ Code is a book that teaches us that understanding germs doesn’t require a stethoscope, a microscope or coke-bottle glasses. We simply need equal parts knowledge,  imagination and responsibility (to wash our hands of course!).

I hope you'll take the time to read The Germ Code!   I'm sure this is the first of many books by The Germ Guy!

Bugging Off!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Swimming - Sharks are the least of our worries!

I live in Ontario where we are blessed with the Great Lakes and the Trent-Severn Waterway, a meandering 386 km river and lake system with locks that is absolutely gorgeous, but then I spend every weekend on the Trent so am a bit biased.   We have fish, water snakes (I'm not so partial to those), osprey, beavers, fishers, crows and of course our share of bugs and noxious weeds such as poison ivy that we need to worry about, but the water is clear, clean and cooling when we want to take a dip!  To my knowledge there are no parasites or bacteria that we need to be wary of.

Apparently that is not the case in Florida where Vibrio vulnificus has been found.  It is a gram-negative bacteria that is related to the organism that causes cholera, and can be found in marine environments such as estuaries, brackish ponds, or coastal areas.  Thankfully it needs salt to live, so my fresh water Trent River does not pose any concerns.  Vibrio vulnificus infections often occur after eating seafood, especially raw or undercooked oysters. It does not alter the appearance, taste, or odor of oysters which of course increases the risk of eating a contaminated one, (I'll take the risk!). The bacteria can also enter the body through open wounds when swimming or wading in infected waters, or via puncture wounds from the spines of fish such as tilapia or stingrays. When it enters the body via a cut, scrape or any other type of wound, the bacteria that can lead to the "flesh eating" condition also known as "necrotizing fasciitis".

As of July 28th, 32 people have been infected and 10 people have died from infections caused by this bacteria.  When ingested, the bacteria has a 25% mortality rate, but this jumps to 50% if it enters your body through a wound.  One Epidemiologist from Florida has been quoted to say "anyone with an open wound should think twice before heading into warm salt water."  According to the Florida Department of Health, states in the Gulf Coast region average about 50 cases, 45 hospitalizations and 16 deaths annually.  Florida, which is where the majority of cases are reported from has averaged about 27 cases annually over the past five years. 

Illness generally begins within one to three days of exposure, but can take up to a week with symptoms including fever, swelling and redness of skin on arms or legs, with blood-tinged blisters, low blood pressure and shock. Swimmers with broken skin are especially susceptible to infection from seawater. While concerning because of the mortality rate, the bacteria rarely causes serious disease which actually leads to underreporting.  

If you're headed to Florida for a summer vacation, please investigate if Vibrio has been found in the waters in the area you will be staying.  Even if it hasn't, take a few extra minutes to check over your loved ones for open cuts before they enter the water!

Bugging Off (Well, wading off....I'm going for a dip in the Trent!)




Friday, August 1, 2014

The Sweet Sweat of Summer

For those of us who live in a climate where we have to suffer through winter, we generally cannot wait until the warmth of summer arrives.  Inevitably we are also the same people that after several days of scorching heat complain that it's too hot.  I may be hot, I may be sweaty, but by gosh, I'd rather be warm than cold... well within reason of course!  Summer is also a time for many to hit the gym.  Whether its university students returning home for the summer looking to see and be seen or those of us not blessed with naturally formed bikini bodies, summer and the gym are synonymous - as we get older if we want to enjoy that extra beer and burger we need to do a few more miles on the treadmill and extra crunches to keep our stomachs in check.

The dirty little secret about gyms is that while we (well not me...) are there to improve our health, gyms can be dirty and covered with bacteria like MRSA, viruses like the cold, flu and/or herpes viruses, and fungi causing athletes foot.  Let's be serious, any time there are groups of people milling about sweating on and then sharing equipment, there is an opportunity for germs to thrive and hop from person to person.  In fact, one study found that 75% of weight equipment was contaminated with cold-causing rhinoviruses and even wiping the surface twice did not completely nix the germs.  However, a stuffy nose and sniffles is the least of your worries, considering antibiotic resistant bacteria such as MRSA are being found with alarming frequency in gyms and have been the cause of numerous outbreaks and infections within the community, schools and professional sports teams.   In fact, Carl Nicks (Guard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) who was a first-team All-Pro for New Orleans in 2011 might be done with football because of a MRSA infection he suffered last year (a toe injury....).  He was one of several unlucky players to pick up MRSA at the Buccaneers facility during training camp in 2013.

To lessen your chance of exposure you can do as I do and avoid the gym, or follow the following simple steps:
  1. Limit direct skin contact with surfaces by putting a towel down when using an exercise mat or bench and that goes for the bench in the locker room too!
  2. Bring your own Yoga mat as most communal ones are only sporadically (if ever) cleaned and disinfected.
  3. Swap your clothes from tank tops and shorts to T-shirts and leggings - the less contact your skin has with shared surfaces, the less chance of picking something up!
  4. Shower immediately after you work out and keep your dirty gear separated from other items in your gym bag.
  5. Let your shower flip-flops dry out before repacking.
  6. If you do not wear shower flip-flops, get some, and then refer to point 5.
  7. Bring your own towel (at least one outbreak of MRSA has been associated with improperly laundered towels).
  8. Use a disinfectant spray or disinfectant wipe to clean and disinfectant the equipment before you use it.  Certainly gym etiquette mandates cleaning AFTER you have finished using the equipment, but do you really trust that the person before you did?
  9. Clean your hands after you have finished working out and DEFINITELY before you eat anything!
When it comes to cleaning, most gyms do not have the staff to clean the equipment after every use.  Instead they rely on you, the user, to do it.  Unfortunately, there is no standard or regulation that dictates the type of product to be used.  Many facilities will have registered disinfectant products that are proven to kill the types of pathogens that circulate within gyms available, however this is not always the case.  Be sure to read the label of the product provided at your gym to see if it is in fact a registered disinfectant.  If it's not, you basically have four choices to protect yourself: ask the owner/manager why they are not using a disinfectant and ask them to change products, bring your own disinfectant, make sure you do not touch your face, mouth or eyes and do not eat until you have washed your hands or just quit going to the gym.  The choice is yours, but be safe!

Bugging Off!