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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Year in Review

As 2015 draws to an end, it’s time to reflect back on the year.  What were the events that shaped this past year?  What did we learn and perhaps implement to improve our infection prevention programs?  As I write this last blog for the year I realize that if I gave myself a bit more time I may have been witty enough to create a blog using the cadence of “T’was the Night Before Christmas”, “The 12 Days of Christmas” or better yet “Jingle Bells”.  Alas (and perhaps for the best) I did not.  Instead I want to share with you my 12 favorite blogs for the year.
  1. Mommy this water Tastes Funny
  2. Is there an animal in your family closet?
  3. How full is your bucket?
  4. Reading the Fine Print
  5. Do you know who cleans your clinical workstations
  6. Zombies – Do they exist in real life?
  7. Who’s the last man/women (girl) standing!
  8. Reasons to Read the Fine Print....
  9. Would you eat off of your desk?
  10. Is your antibacterial soap providing a false sense of security?
  11. Clean that room STAT!
  12. Do you know what humans, birds, pigs and dogs have in common

The topics span from discussions on how to ensure people (and children) do not get harmed by disinfectants or other chemicals, how quickly germs can spread, why we should not believe everything we hear and ensure we investigate and understand the true abilities of the products we use, the fact that time is not always of essence in cleaning and disinfection and a reminder that regardless of where we are, who we are or what we are we have more things in common then we often realize.

To quote from Dr. Seuss “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store?  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

To put into the context of infection prevention, what if saving lives and reducing HAIs was not all about the quest for the silver bullet, focusing on what a product kills or who is or who is not doing their job? What if 2016 brings us wisdom, strength and courage?  What if 2016 brings us the wisdom to realize that we cannot continue on with the status quo?  What if 2016 gives us the strength to fight for what we know is right and courage to not back down in the face of adversity and put our patients and their lives first?

Wishing everyone a Happy Holidays!  Thank you for reading our Talk Clean To Me blogs.
Bugging Off for 2015!

Friday, December 18, 2015

All I want for Christmas.....

For many around the world, next week is a holiday that signifies something far more important than giving and receiving gifts.  For others it may simply be a day like any other.  Regardless of your nationality or religious belief, the spirit of giving lives in us all.  It is also a time of reflection and prediction, so it was with interest I read the WHO’s published list of the Top Emerging Diseases likely to cause major epidemics.

According to the WHO, a panel of scientists and public health experts met in Geneva to prioritize the top 5 to 10 emerging pathogens that are likely to cause severe outbreaks in the near future, which few or no medical countermeasures exist.  The initial list of diseases needing urgent R&D attention are Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola Virus, Marburg Virus, Lassa Fever, MERS and SARS Coronavirus diseases, Nipah and Rift Valley Fever.  Three other diseases were designated as serious, requiring action by WHO to promote R&D as soon as possible including Chikungunya, Severe Fever with Thrombocytopaenia Syndrome, and Zika Virus.

According to the WHO missive, this priority list forms the backbone of the new WHO Blueprint for R&D preparedness to help focus accelerated R&D programs on the world’s most dangerous pathogens – those most prone to generate epidemics. The intent by identifying these pathogens is also to advocate for the initiation or enhancement of the R&D process to develop diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for these identified diseases.  Additionally, the blueprint will also consider behavioural interventions, and how to fill critical gaps in scientific knowledge that will help in the design of better disease control measures.

What’s interesting in looking into the routes of transmission is several of these viruses are transmitted via vectors such as mosquitoes or ticks while others are zoonotic in nature and have found a way to infect humans and further transmission by direct human to human contact.  As the year draws to an end, this list reminds us yet again how small our world is.  Ebola, which was once thought to be a disease of Africa, has shown that it can with ease move around the world.  As our world increases in population, we generate more waste which provides fertile breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and as our cities grow and expand to areas that were once fields and forests we live closer to areas with higher rodents and other animals that have the ability to spread diseases directly to us or through other routes such as tick bites.

As this season of giving and receiving draws near, I hope you’ll take a few moments to reflect on your past year, your health, the health of your loved ones and the health of those who live in areas that have been ravaged by outbreaks.  While there are certainly a number of materialistic things I would like to see under the tree Christmas Day, for 2016 I hope for a year where researchers can make tremendous strides in developing vaccines or other treatments to fight these emerging diseases.  All I truly want for Christmas is a world where fewer people will have to suffer, be it from communicable diseases, hospital acquired infections or emerging pathogens.

Bugging Off!


Friday, December 11, 2015

Do you know who cleans your Clinical Workstations?

One of the common questions during many of the presentations that I give is asking if you know who cleans what.  As you’d likely suspect, the answers vary significantly.  The reason I call this out as an important consideration for your infection prevention program is to remind everyone that our jobs are not done once we have chosen what we think the optimal disinfectant is, and this I know for fact. 

The story I usually share is one about a commode.  It’s a true story.  It’s one that occurred during a clinical study I was working on, which was focusing on the cleaning of patient rooms comparing the cleaning compliance in a patient room with diarrhea, versus a patient room with confirmed C. difficile.  We were focusing on toilets (and commodes) so we put a UV marker on the underside of the toilet or commode seat.  After several days in a C. diff positive patient room the study researcher called the nursing and environmental services (EVS) staff together to discuss the fact that for several consecutive days she was finding that the commode in a particular room had not be cleaned (it had the same piece of feces on it), and none of the UV markers had been removed.  As you may guess the question was asked in terms of who is cleaning the commode.  The nursing staff said “not us”.  It’s a toilet, that’s the responsibility of EVS.  The EVS staff said “not us”.  It’s on wheels, that’s considered portable patient care equipment.  I think you get the picture.  Without communicating and setting clear roles and responsibilities things get overlooked.

Knowing this, the findings of a study recently published in AJIC titled “A pilot study into locating the bad bugs in a busy intensive care unit” did not surprise me.  The researchers wanted to find out where multi-drug resistant (MDRO) organisms were lurking in spite of the environmental cleaning practices.  To do so, the researchers traced the steps of healthcare workers between their workstations and patient bedsides then sampled high touched surfaces they found in the path of the healthcare worker.  What they found was that many of the high touch surfaces identified in the path of the healthcare worker, such as the chairs, clipboards, keyboards, telephones and computer mouse found at the clinical workstation, were contaminated with MDROs.  Perhaps more surprising was that when they dug a little deeper, these surfaces were not included in the EVS cleaning protocols.

The long and the short is developing a cleaning and disinfectant program is not simply about what a product kills, what the contact time is or if EVS staff are achieving 80% or higher cleaning compliance.  Developing an effective cleaning and disinfectant program also needs to ensure that everyone who works in a space and is responsible for keeping that space clean needs to get together, look at every surface in the unit – patient room and otherwise - and come to an agreement on who cleans what and with what frequency.  If we do not have clear roles and responsibilities, studies like this one will continue to be published and HAIs will continue to flourish.  We need to think beyond the obvious.  By focusing on the unobvious, we’ll really move the needle in stopping HAIs and saving lives.

Bugging Off!


PS – What happens if an EVS is cleaning a room, but the patient has used the toilet and has a note on file that a doctor / nurse needs to see it before its flushed?  Do you really think the EVS person is going to have time to come back and clean?  Do you think the clinical staff will notify EVS that the toilet can be cleaned?  Who should clean the toilet in this situation?  I ask because I’ve seen it.....and the toilet did not get cleaned and this was a semi-private room.  Gross right?

Friday, December 4, 2015

#FF Winter Woes Welcome Webber!

For our American friends last Thursday was Thanksgiving. For some, the excitement of Black Friday may have been more alluring as it kicks off the holiday shopping season.  This is of course followed by Cyber Monday....I tried shopping but gave up.  The internet was just too slow for my instant gratification personality. In Canada there is a new movement starting – Giving Tuesday.  The day after Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is the opening day of the giving season - a day dedicated to giving back.

In the spirit of Giving Tuesday, I thought I would share a list of the free Webber Training Teleclasses that were given throughout 2015.  As noted in past blogs, the Teleclass Education by Webber Training is an international lecture series on infection prevention and control topics. The objective is to bring the best possible infection prevention and control information; to the widest possible audience; with the fewest barriers to access. 

Title of Teleclass
Jan. 14th
Spotlight on the future of healthcare-associated infections – A case study to inform global actions
Dr. Raheelah Ahmad, UK
Feb. 25th
WHO guideline and systematic review on hand hygiene and the use of chlorine in the context of Ebola
Dr. Joost Hopman, The Netherlands
March 11th
Using the core component of infection control during the Ebola outbreak
Dr. Sergey Eremin, WHO
May 5th
10 Years of WHO Clean Care is Safer Care; Why you should be a part of the social pandemic that is Safe Lives: Clean Your Hands
Prof. Didier Pittet, WHO
May 13th
Understanding consumer perceptions of HAI and hand hygiene through a global survey
Claire Kilpatrick, WHO & Dr. Maryanne McGuckin, USA
May 21st
Is your phone bugged? The role of mobile technology in infection control
Richard Brady, UK
June 3rd
Preventing infections in healthcare workers: Strategies and challenges
Bruce Gamage, Canada
June 15th
The Power of Influence
Michael Grinder, USA
June 16th
Using infection prevention and control resources wisely in Africa
Prof. Shaheen Mehtar, South Africa
June 25th
Reducing catheter-associated urinary tract infections in resource-limited settings
Dr. Gayani Tillekeratne and Dr. Mariah Obino
June 28th
Healthcare infection control lesions learned from recent outbreaks
Dr. Ryan Fagan, USA
June 29th
Natural ventilation in healthcare facilities
Linda L. Dickey, Dick Moeller and Russell N. Olmsted, USA
Sept. 3rd
Is mandatory influenza vaccination for healthcare workers the best way to protect our patients?
Dr. Michael Gardam, Canada
Sept. 24th
Evidence vs. Tradition: Examining the evidence of bathing to reduce HAI’s
Kathleen Vollman, USA
Sept. 28th
What did the Romans ever do for us?
Carole Fry, UK
Sept. 29th
Faecal transplant to treat Clostridium difficile disease
Dr. Jonathan Sutton, Wales
Sept. 29th
Debate – Selective decontamination of the gut
Dr. Cliff McDonald, USA and Prof. Jan Kluytmans, The Netherlands
Sept. 30th
The emergence of MERS: From animal to human to human
Prof. Ziad Memish, Saudi Arabia
Oct. 14th
The use of social media in support of global infection prevention and control
Jules Storr and Claire Kilpatrick, WHO
Nov. 5th
Demystifying the CIC® certification examination
Roy Boukidjian and Linda Goss, USA
Nov. 17th
The role of water as a vector in the transmission of infections in hospitals
Dr. Jimmy Walker, UK
Dec. 3rd
HIV treatment as prevention: The key to an AIDS-free generation
Prof. Julio S.G. Montaner, Canada
Dec. 17th
Examining the “unmentionables” – Sanitation and the global agenda
Rose George, UK

For more information on Webber Training, including a full list of the upcoming Infection Prevention and Control Teleclasses for 2016 and to access these free teleclasses, please visit www.webbertraining.com.

I hope many of you will take the opportunity to listen to these teleclasses and share them with your colleagues!  Perhaps next year Giving Tuesday will become a bigger event then Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  In these troubled times it’s certainly a nice dream to hope for!

Bugging Off!


Friday, November 27, 2015

A cold or being cold – the glove and scarf trade off

There are some lucky people who never have to deal with the frigid cold of winter.  I know there are lots of people who enjoy winter, but I on the other hand am fine to see a skiff of snow on Christmas morning and then want to be back in sandal weather – or at the very least bare foot weather temperatures immediately thereafter.  This detest of cold weather is somewhat contradictory as I happen to love crocheting – scarves and hats in particular. 

It was then with a heavy heart that I read a recent APIC email that gloves and scarves are germy.  I love scarves.  They are great accent pieces to virtually any outfit and there’s such satisfaction in completing a crochet project and getting to wear a new scarf.  I’m not advanced enough to crochet gloves or mitts, but I can state with conviction that I start wearing gloves as soon as my steering wheel is cold to touch in the morning.  They’re a necessary piece of attire during the winter – unless you want frost bite that is.  And now I’m being told scarves and gloves germy?  It’s more than my already germophobic mind can take!   

But I suppose if I put my logic hat on it’s not really surprising.  There’s a ton of literature talking to the number of times we touch our faces with our hands.  Why would this stop when we put on winter gloves?  In fact, it likely increases because what does your nose do in the cold?  It runs.  What do you do when that happens and you do not have ready access to a tissue?  You casually dab your nose with your gloved hand.  Gross right?  It gets better.  Similar to touching our faces, over the course of the day we are constantly touching things with our hands; door handles, railings and other surfaces that have been touched by hundreds or thousands of people who had walked the same route ahead of you.  Did you dab your nose with your hand  before or after touching all those public spaces?

It really doesn’t matter, the ugly truth is that gloves like your bare hands pick up everything - and when was the last time you washed your gloves?  The gloves I generally wear are leather or suede...I’ve NEVER washed them!  According to  APIC, missive gloves can carry bacteria such as E. coli and viruses such as the cold virus or flu virus.  To make matters worse, the type of material your gloves are made from can directly impact the ease of transferring germs.....leather gloves of course being amongst the worse due to the ease with which they can transfer germs to another surface or face....... 

Now for my beloved scarves - the flu virus can live on clothing like scarves for two or three days, while diarrhea-causing viruses, such as rotavirus and norovirus, may thrive for as many as four weeks!  How many times have you coughed into your scarf...or used your scarf to dab your nose?  Thankfully I do tend to wash my scarves with some frequency, but only because I love the feel of a downy soft scarf next to my neck and face. 

While I am unaware of scientific studies that support all this, the International Forum on Home Hygiene put together a wonderful white paper in 2011 titled "The infection risks associated with clothing and other household linens in home and everyday life settings, and the role of laundry” which talks to the fact that clothes, like any other hand contact site, have the potential to be a link in the chain of infection transmission during normal daily activities.  

Thankfully, my current crochet project is a blanket for my nephew, but I do have 3 skeins of beautiful super soft chunky yarn waiting for me to make my next hat and scarf combo!  I’ll be sure to wash them more frequently; I’m just not sure what I’m going to do about my gloves!

Bugging Off!





Friday, November 20, 2015

Investigation into Infections Leads to Dead End

It’s not often you read an article where an investigation has been halted because the source of an infection cannot be found, but that seems to be the case in Toronto.  For an unknown reason there has been a 78% increase in the number of Torontonians testing positive for Mycobacterium avium – to put that number into perspective that equates to 66 new cases each month between June 2014 and June 2015!

While there is cause for concern, there is no need for people to panic.  Most people who become infected by M. avium have underlying conditions such as age, HIV-positive and those with pre-existing lung problems.  The unfortunate truth is that most people who become ill end up with lung damage and develop reoccurring lung infections, as the main symptoms are similar in nature to Tuberculosis.  M. avium is ubiquitous in nature and has been isolated from fresh and salt water worldwide. The common environmental sources include; aerosolized water, piped hot water systems (including household and hospital water supplies), house dust, soil, birds, farm animals and cigarette components (e.g., tobacco, filters, paper).
Transmission is generally thought to be due to inhalation of environmentally derived airborne organisms rather than person to person, however, oral ingestion may also be a route of infection but is generally considered more likely in the immunocompromised host.  Because it is primarily transmitted by inhaling droplets of water, municipal water supplies are often the original source – but it’s important to understand that drinking water is not how you’re going to get it.  Total eradication of the bacteria from municipal water supplies is virtually impossible as the bacterium tends to grow in biofilms that are known to line the large water pipes used in municipal water distribution systems. 
While this current situation is associated with humans, M. avium can also cause infections in pigs, domestic and wild birds, cattle, sheep, goats, cats and dogs.  However, the mechanism of transmission and type of infection can vary greatly.  Domestic and wild birds become infected by ingesting contaminating food and/or soil.  Similarly, other animals can be infected by ingesting contaminated soil or infected poultry.  The long and the short is that due to the ubiquitous nature of this bacterium it’s impossible to avoid being exposed to the bacteria.  The best way to prevent developing the disease is to keep your immune system strong. 
As for Toronto, numerous experts want to see the spike in cases investigated further.  While there does not seem to be a specific area of the city impacted more than others or clustering of cases that could be associated with environmental exposure, it is obvious that by the sudden spike in cases in June of last year that there was a tipping point when something changed and it certainly would be nice to get to the bottom of it!
Bugging Off!


Friday, November 13, 2015

Hunters beware - wild animals bite back!

While not everyone condones hunting, it is that time of year and for some it may be the primary way of filling a freezer with meat for the coming year.  Hunting does have its perks - spending time outside enjoying the beautiful views and appreciating the world we have the fortune to live in, but it also has it’s downsides - like zoonotic diseases.  Case in point was an alert from a Public Health Unit in Ontario, Canada about the first case of Tularemia.

Tularemia, also known as Rabbit Fever, is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis which occurs naturally worldwide.  Rabbits and other wild rodents such as squirrels are the primary species affected, but it can also infect beavers and muskrats, livestock such as horses, pigs and sheep and pets such as dogs and cats.  Tularemia bacteria can be found in the organs or body fluids of infected animals, which can contaminate the environment.  It is a hardy organism that can live for long periods of time in soil, vegetation and water.  Tularemia is transmitted to animals by ingesting contaminated raw meat or drinking contaminated water, inhaling the bacteria, direct contact with contaminated environment, being bitten by an infected animal, or from biting flies or ticks.  People similarly can get Tularemia in the exact same manner.

The disease itself varies depending on the route of exposure.  Initially flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache and joint pain may occur.  Glands (lymph nodes) may become swollen and painful and may break open and drain pus.  Other symptoms such as skin rash, sore throat or swelling of the eyes can occur, as can coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath and severe pneumonia if the lungs become infected.

Because of its ubiquitous nature, Tularemia is difficult to prevent.  Prevention measures include keeping pets indoors and away from wildlife and not feeding them raw meat from wild animals.  Hunters are at higher risk of exposure because of the handling of wild game carcasses and therefore need to avoid contacting sick animals, handling dead wildlife without gloves (hint, hint to my niece!) and ensuring that they wash their hands after touching any animal particularly before eating!

We cannot underestimate our daily and often seemingly innocent interactions with nature.  While our greatest chance of being infected directly is through contact with infected animals, the environment itself can be easily contaminated as well and we need to be cognizant of the fact that the air we breathe or the water we drink while enjoying nature may be carrying something we had not intended to pick up.

Bugging Off!


Friday, November 6, 2015

In the EYE of the beholder

Flu season is officially here!  The geographic distribution of confirmed flu cases has been steadily increasing week over week – 6 US states are reporting regional distribution this week, which doubled from last week.  The unfortunate truth is that it’s not possible to predict what this flu season will be like. While the flu spreads every year, the timing, severity, and length of the season is unpredictable. Generally, seasonal flu activity occurs between October and May with it peaking in North America between December and February.  In my neck of the woods (Ontario, Canada) we see our biggest peak during the week of Christmas....not the type of present most of us are dreaming of!

As we’ve done a number of blogs on influenza, I’m not going to repeat signs, symptoms or hints to keeping you healthy.  However, after reading an interesting summary of a survey conducted by the CDC highlighting the fact that almost all of the 41 million estimated contact lens wearers in the United States are engaging in at least one behavior known to increase their risk of eye infections, I thought it would be the perfect reminder of how cold and flu viruses are spread.  The survey concluded that more than 99% of survey respondents reported at least one risky behavior such as; keeping their contact lens cases for longer than recommended (82%); “Topping off” solution in the case—adding new solution to the existing solution instead of emptying the case out fully before adding new solution (55%); or wearing their lenses while sleeping (50%).

So let’s talk about risky behavior.  Topping off with any form of disinfectant is a BAD idea.  You need the right concentration to kill bugs.  I’m surprised they didn’t ask the question to find out if people perform hand hygiene before putting in, taking out or adjusting contacts. If we are going to talk about risky business, that is definitely one of them!

Most cough, cold and flu viruses are believed to be passed from person to person by contact with respiratory droplets through direct bodily contact (such as kissing) or touching something with virus on it (such as shaking hands with someone who has the flu) and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.   Combine this with the fact there is a plethora of scientific evidence that people touch their faces an average of 3.6 times per hour, and common objects an average of 3.3 times per hour means that germs get on our hands much more frequently than we wash them off!  Being a person who used to wear contacts, I know that I had a horrible rate of self-touching - in fact I stopped wearing contacts due to dry eyes which lead to my constantly rubbing or touching them with my fingers which eventually lead to getting an ulcer.

As peak flu season is only 6 weeks away, I hope you’ll start thinking about where your fingers have been - and if you wear contacts ensure that you wash your hands before you touch your eyes to avoid your risk of getting the flu!

Bugging Off!


Friday, October 30, 2015

Zombies – Do they exist in real life?

With Halloween only a few days away, I thought this was a perfect time to talk about Zombies.  For years, zombies have dominated science fiction.  These creatures, the walking dead, don’t actually exist, right?  Wrong!  There are in fact several very real life diseases that could and can make you act like a zombie.

To set the stage, let’s first define what we think the characteristics of a zombie are. There obviously is no validity that people who are actually dead walk around but there are diseases that make people ACT like the walking dead. Other traits of interest would be rotting or dead flesh, a trance-like state, inability to communicate other than perhaps moaning, a slow shuffling gait and if we’re lucky the penchant for biting people.  So, what are the diseases that can cause you to ACT like a zombie?

Sleeping Sickness – is prevalent in Africa and is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei, which is transmitted by the tsetse fly.  In the late stages of the illness, once the parasites have invaded the brain, victims find it hard to concentrate, become irritable, their speech is slurred and they stop eating.  Most are unable to sleep during the night and find it almost impossible to stay up during the day eventually reducing them to a zombie-like state before going into a coma and dying.  Those that survive are generally left with irreparable brain damage.

Rabies – while not a disease that is truly going to make a person bite someone, it can mimic some of the conditions of the zombie’s lust for brains.  The rabies virus causes massive inflammation of the brain and is transmitted by bites from infected animals.  Symptoms of rabies can include full or partial paralysis, mental impairment, agitation, strange behaviour (which I would like to be better defined as many people accuse me of acting strange....), mania and delirium.  It’s true, there aren’t many people with rabies going around and biting other people, but many rabid animals become very aggressive and attack so....I suppose if a person who had a tendency toward aggressive behavior got rabies, it would be possible!

Dysarthria – is a disorder affecting the motor controls of human speech.  It’s neurological in its origins so it ties in with the brain-based aspects of zombie lore.  There are a number of causes of dysarthria, but all are characterized by a malfunction in the nervous system that makes it difficult to control the tongue, lips, throat or lungs which then leads to difficulty in articulating and can cause the inability to communicate more than unintelligible noises – quite like the moans and groans of zombies.

Leprosy – is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae.  Cases of leprosy have been reported going back more than 4000 years, and considering a common feature of zombies is their rotting flesh and decaying body parts, it would seem that leprosy and its similar sounding symptoms would be a natural inspiration for such stories!  It is a myth that leprosy causes body parts to fall off, but it can cause damage and numbness which could cause slow, shuffling walk similar to the gait we associate with zombies.  The skin lesions that are probably the key characteristic of leprosy with some imagination, give skin the diseased, decaying appearance we associate with zombies.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Halloween trip down zombie lane!

Bugging Off!


Friday, October 23, 2015

Nosocomial Nuisances

Where did this week go?  For those of you celebrating International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW), I hope it was memorable with compelling stories or education initiatives to rejuvenate your love of infection prevention and quest for improving the lives of others.  In trying to decide how to close the week off, having been given the topic of Nosocomial, I was looking for an upbeat rah-rah way to end the week but then thought otherwise.  It’s not that I want to be a Debbie-downer or point out flaws, but thought what better way to close out the week than with some stories from my friends and colleagues of their friends or families that have been impacted by a hospital associated infection. In sharing these stories I want to remind everyone why infection prevention is so important.  I have three stories; a worst case scenario leading to death, a story of while you can recover there may be lasting health effects and one that well...I’ll let you read about it.

I actually blogged about my first HAI story, in November2015 – it’s the one with an unhappy ending.  A friend reached out to learn more about C.diff.  Her mother-in-law had gone to the hospital with an UTI and pneumonia and contracted C.diff. We were going to meet so I could give her some disinfectant wipes that the family could use in the room to clean the bedside rails and other high touch areas.  We never met so I could give her the wipes.  Instead I attended a visitation. Her mother-in-law at the age of 67 had died of an HAI and my friend’s sons who were 4 and 6 were left wondering what was going on and asking when Grandma was coming back. A life was lost, senselessly.

The next story is fitting, because not only is it about an HAI, but an HAI that was transmitted to a nurse in the line of duty.  This story comes from one of my colleagues – a family friend who is a nurse was infected with SARS during the outbreak in 2003.  As a result of her bout with SARS she has been left with breathing problems due to the severity of the infection.  From a vibrant nurse she now has troubles walking around the house and is short of breath all the time.  Her lungs have been damaged so badly that she is no longer able to work. 

My last story is a little tongue and cheek, but I assure you it is true.  While it’s a happy story in that this young woman fully recovered, the story still had a sad ending.  This story, also from a colleague, is about a young woman who while being treated for bacterial bronchitis ended up with C.diff.  The first “bout” lasted for about 2 weeks and then she relapsed shortly after her antibiotics were finished.  As many of us know this is not uncommon.  Unfortunately, after a month of his girlfriend being ill, my colleague, a young man at the time, decided it was time to move on.  The young woman recovered from C.diff, but C.diff killed her budding young romance.....

IIPW is a week of celebration and a week of education.  Some of the most effective ways to learn is to reflect on our mistakes and reminisce on past events as the ones I have included above.  While we are all working to Target Zero, the truth is it will be sometime before we get there.  It’s not from a lack of trying, but due to all the moving parts that need to be working in concert and perfect precision.  I am proud of the work that my IP friends do in trying to ensure the patients in their facilities are safe.  Kudos to you!  You deserve to be celebrated!

Bugging Off!