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, April 29, 2016

What’s your shade of green - kelly, olive, forest, moss….

I will admit, some weeks are harder than others when it comes to picking a topic for the blog.  This week I thought I had a slam dunk.  I knew the topic – something to do with “green”.  I’ve given a number of presentations over the years on looking at the various green certification bodies and how to effectively choose cleaning or disinfectant products that are safer to the user and the planet.  I was going to introduce you to the concept of Greenwashing…it was going to be perfect.  And then….and then a flicker of a thought popped into my head and my memory (affectionately referred to as “The Vault” by my team) threw up flairs and I realized “crud, I think I’ve already done that”.  The vault was right.  Back in May 2014 I wrote a blog titled “Sustainability through Green Killing”.  So much for this week’s topic!

The reason for the need to focus on the topic of “green” is that last week we launched our April education campaign.  As we stated in the introduction for our Going Green  campaign “We all care about our planet and want to do our part to protect the environment.”  Through our education campaign we have tried to gather together in a single location what we think are some great resources that will help to dispel the myths of “Green Cleaning and Disinfection” and help you make informed decisions about the chemicals you use day in and day out.  We timed the launch of our Going Green campaign with Earth Day.  Now in its 46th year, the intent of Earth Day was to launch a movement to give a voice to an emerging consciousness and channeling human energy toward environmental issues.  

Being considerate about the products we choose is important.  We are vastly aware of the dangers of emerging pathogens like Ebola, the yearly fear of influenza and the concerns with antibiotic resistance.  Advertisers and media outlets prey on fear since it sells.  The truth is that disinfectant manufacturers also capitalize on consumer fears by producing more and more products with claims to kill everything under the sun.  It is a vicious cycle.

Disinfectant chemicals are everywhere and have both positive and negative attributes.  The positive are that they all have the ability to kill pathogens.  Conversely, many have adverse impacts including irritation, hormone disruption, damage to our immune systems, and of course damage to our environment (air, water and soil).  However, all is not lost as there are now Green certification bodies such as EcoLogo or the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program that provide credible guidance that manufactures can use to help develop disinfectants that are safer and gentler to the environment and that consumers can feel confident in believing to help guide them in their choice of products.

If you are looking to “Go Green" with your killing agents, be sure to weed through the quagmire of greenwashing using the 7 Sins of Greenwashing discussed in my May 2014 blog as your benchmark or better yet, decide to use only those products that carry third party certification!

We hope you’ll find our Going Green campaign educational!

Bugging Off!


Friday, April 22, 2016

EPA Emerging Pathogen Update - Cause for a Happy Dance!

When it comes to dealing with regulatory bodies, it is notoriously tricky and I am sorry to say that many of my interactions have not left me in “my happy” place.  However, the announcement by the EPA on April 7th was exciting enough for me to jump up and dance!   The ruling is equally important for both human and animal health so I did not just do a happy dance, I did a Puppy Monkey Baby dance!  For those who did not watch the Super Bowl and were lucky enough to have escaped seeing the Puppy Monkey Baby (PMB) I will apologize for any mental scaring or nightmares I may cause as a result of you watching the video.  Without a doubt Mountain Dew produced one of the most disturbing commercials of Super Bowl 50 and probably in the life of commercials with its terrifying puppy-monkey-baby hybrid.

Until the announcement of the Updated Emerging Pathogens Guidance disinfectant registrants were forced to test each and every virus they wanted to make a claim against.  This of course causes significant issues when new viruses “pop up” leading to significant outbreaks such as Ebola, Enterovirus D68 or Porcine Endemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv).  When an outbreak erupts as a result of a new virus, it can take a considerable amount of time to identify what the new virus is (e.g. think back to SARS when we had no clue what the virus was).  If we have not yet identified the virus, a disinfectant manufacturer cannot have their product tested against it.  Even if the virus has been identified it can be months or years before a method is developed that meets the EPA’s requirements to allow for label claims.  There can also be times such as with Norovirus where surrogates must be used because the actual virus just cannot be cultured and grown in a lab in the way needed to conduct disinfectant efficacy testing.

The need for considering the hierarchy of susceptibility is not new.  There was an excellent article written in 2007 by Dr. Syed Sattar, a world renowned microbiologist who recommended “In the case of new and emerging viruses still awaiting culture and full characterization, it is proposed that any official recommendations for disinfectant use be based on the well-established hierarchy of susceptibility to such chemicals as related to virus particle size and structure”.  Several countries including Canada, Australia and several in Europe have implemented a “General Virucide Claim” whereby a disinfectant, if it has shown efficacy against one or more viruses such as poliovirus, adenovirus or parvovirus, allows a product to state that it has the ability to kill both enveloped and non-enveloped viruses.  This claim can then be applied in the event of an outbreak by a virus of unknown origin.  This is exactly what Canada did in 2003 during the SARS outbreak.

The EPA’s Emerging Pathogen Guidance is not perfect, but it is certainly better than nothing!  Under the new guidance document, the EPA outlines to registrants the viral hierarchy that can be used to identify effective disinfectant products for the use against emerging pathogens. In addition to this, it now permits registrants to make limited claims of their product’s efficacy against such pathogens. According to the EPA, the intention of the new guidance applies only to emerging viruses and is intended to allow for a voluntary, two stage process that involves product label amendments and modified terms of registration.  Unlike the countries noted above where there is a blanket General Virucide Claim, the EPA has decided that this guidance may be taken for eligible products ONLY after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has identified an emerging pathogen (new or re-emerging) where environmental surface disinfection has been recommended to help control its spread. 

According to the EPA, in order to be eligible to meet the Emerging Pathogen Guidance, the disinfectant product must meet the following 2 criteria. 
  1. The product is an EPA-registered, hospital/healthcare or broad-spectrum disinfectant with directions for use on hard, porous or non-porous surfaces
  2. The currently accepted product label (from an EPA registered product as described above) should have disinfectant efficacy claims against at least one of the following viral pathogen groupings:

a.      A product should be approved by EPA to inactivate at least one large or one small non-enveloped virus to be eligible for use against an enveloped emerging viral pathogen.
b.      A product should be approved by EPA to inactivate at least one small, non-enveloped virus to be eligible for use against a large, non-enveloped emerging viral pathogen.
c.       A product should be approved by EPA to inactivate at least two small, non-enveloped viruses to be eligible for use against a small, non-enveloped emerging viral pathogen.

For example, this means that if the virus associated with the outbreak is caused by a small, non-enveloped virus, the disinfectant must already be registered and proven effective against two (2) small, non-enveloped viruses.  If the product only has claims against enveloped viruses it will not qualify.  The product is also not eligible to have a claim on the actual product label, and can instead use language akin to the following on marketing materials, technical sheets etc for two years from the announcement of the outbreak.

[Product name] has demonstrated effectiveness against viruses similar to [name of emerging virus, which must be a small non-enveloped, large non-enveloped, or enveloped virus] on [eligible surface type(s)]. Therefore, [product name] can be used against [name of emerging virus, which must be a small non-enveloped, large non-enveloped, and/or enveloped virus] when used in accordance with the directions for use against [name of supporting virus(es)] on [hard, porous/non-porous surfaces]. Refer to the [CDC or OIE] website at [pathogen-specific website address] for additional information.
As I said, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing and still worth doing my Puppy Monkey Baby dance!

Bugging Off!


Friday, April 15, 2016

Yelp? Boast? Cry Out?

There’s a bit of an on-going joke in my office – one that I’m the brunt of.  It’s well known that my love of alliteration and all things Thesaurus means I like to know the definition and meaning of words.  There’s a particular person at work who loves to throw in the occasional not-so–run-of-the-mill word knowing darn well I’ll be hitting Dictionary.com to verify the meaning.  This on-going joke is so well known that other members of the company will provide the definition for me if they feel I have not responded quickly enough.  The phrase “who needs enemies” comes to mind…..

Knowing my penchant for learning new words (or ensuring I know what the word means), it was with some surprise that I learned a new meaning for “yelp”.   My rudimentary belief was that it meant “to cry out” or “to call out sharply” and we often use it in reference to pain such as “The dog yelped when its owner stepped on its foot”.  Tonight I found out that Yelp dates back to Old and Middle English where it meant “to boast”.   Why, you may be wondering, would I look this up?  Well, like many people, when travelling I use the website Yelp.com to find highly rated local restaurants and other establishments because of the comments made by people like me.  You know the ones that “boast” about how great the food or service was? I was curious….

I was particularly curious after reading an article in the Washington Post “What Yelp can tell you about a hospital that official ratings can’t” – I mean who goes to Yelp to determine what hospital to go to?  Apparently now we should all consider it!   Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania looked at 17,000 Yelp reviews from consumers and found that the information left by consumers provided a far broader overview of the hospitals then the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey) scores that are considered the industry standard for evaluating communication and responsiveness of healthcare providers, the cleanliness and quietness of the hospital environment, and pain management.

The study found that while the information included on Yelp only covered about 60% of the content HCAHPS scores cover. It was also found that Yelp covered 12 different areas not included in the HCAHPS analysis such as the cost of the visit, insurance and billing, ancillary testing, facilities, amenities, scheduling, compassion of staff, family member care, quality of nursing, quality of staff, quality of technical aspects of care, and specific type of medical care.  The Yelp reviews focused more on the soft skills or interpersonal relationships such as how caring or comforting the healthcare workers were.

The testimonials on social media sites are organic and often reveal exactly what the problem or positive occurrence was that affected the patient’s or family member’s experience.  For a CEO looking to make improvements on the perception of their facility, online consumer review platforms such as Yelp may be the place to turn to in order to supplement information provided by HCAHPS.   I’m quick to Tweet about positive and negative experiences I’ve had with various service establishments, and so now I guess I’ll have to remember to use Yelp as another platform to share my thoughts and comments on!

Bugging Off!


Friday, April 8, 2016

A royal bacteria you say?

Similar to last week when Valley Fever made me think of Valley girls, the bacteria that has been hitting the airwaves recently made me think of the Royal Family.  Before anyone panics, neither Sweet Princess Charlotte nor Hunky Prince Harry has taken ill.  I’m talking about the bacteria Elizabethkingia anophelis.  Why did I make me think of the Royals?  Well, the first time I learned of this bacteria, I thought I heard or read it as “Elizabethan” and immediately thought of Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabethkingia is a common bacteria found in soil, water and insects.  Elizabethkingia often contaminates water and may remain in sinks or linger on surfaces, allowing it to spread to those who come in contact with it. It is not a bacteria that typically causes much trouble with humans and if it does it tends to sicken the very young, elderly, or those with underlying health conditions.  Elizabethkingia causes meningitis in newborn babies and in people with weakened immune systems can cause meningitis, bloodstream or respiratory infections.  Most of the severe infections are in the bloodstream. With these types of infections, the most common symptoms are fever, shaking, and chills and if it develops into pneumonia, typical respiratory symptoms present. Every year about 5 to 10 cases per state are reported in the United States, with a few small, localized outbreaks reported, most of which are usually in healthcare settings.

True to its form, that seems to be exactly what is happening with an outbreak in Wisconsin.  Since November of last year, 57 people have been confirmed to be infected and 17 people have died as a result of this bacterium.  Most of the patients that have been diagnosed with Elizabethkingia anophelis have been over the age of 65 with histories of at least one underlying serious illness that had compromised their immune system.  At this point, the source of the outbreak is unknown, making it difficult to prevent future infections. Exposure from contaminated food and water have been identified as potential risk factors, however, the water supply has been ruled out as a potential source of the infection after it tested negative for the presence of Elizabethkingia.  The investigation has not found any patterns of medical treatment or device usage among the cases making it difficult to determine if a relationship exists between infection and specific type of treatment.

If you’re wondering how the bacteria got its name, it has nothing to do with The Royals or the Elizabethan era……   The bacterium was named for Elizabeth O. King, a bacteriologist at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who discovered the first species of this genus in the 1950s. The species causing the Wisconsin outbreak was first isolated from the Anopheles mosquitoes in 2011 – meaning it just recently got its crown!

Bugging Off!


Friday, April 1, 2016

Valley Fever? “Like, Whatever….

How many of you remember “The Valley Girl” stereotype?  Those upper middle class ditzy airheads from the early 80’s?  Who created their own language – valleyspeak?  They were all “like”, “way”, “as if”, and “whatever”!  I grew up in that era.  I was never ditzy but I had the valleyspeak lingo perfected and drove my parents insane!  So what’s the connection to this week’s blog on Valley Fever?  Aside from the use of “Valley” and fact that “California” is seeing an uptick in infections nothing.  But I’m guessing for those of you that remember the early ‘80’s you’ve had a nice trip down memory lane.  
So what is Valley Fever?   It’s an illness caused by a fungus found in the soil and dirt of some areas of the southwestern United States, parts of Mexico and Central and South America.  In California, the fungus is found in many areas of the San Joaquin Valley (Central Valley)…..home of the Valley Girls!  People get Valley Fever by breathing in the microscopic, airborne fungal spores. Sometimes, the number of people with Valley Fever increases after there have been weather-related events that stir up more dust than usual, such as earthquakes or dust storms.
Anyone who lives in, works in, or visits a place with Valley Fever can be infected. It usually infects the lungs and can cause flu-like symptoms or pneumonia.  In most people the infection will go away on its own but all persons with symptoms should see a healthcare provider. Although it can be difficult to prevent Valley Fever, the best way to reduce your risk is to avoid breathing in dirt or dust in areas where Valley Fever is common.
Also called Coccidioidomycosis, this fungus infects not only people but can infect many species of animals, however, dogs are affected most significantly. The disease varies from inapparent (cattle, sheep, pigs, dogs, cats) to progressive, disseminated, and fatal (dogs, nonhuman primates, and cats). Exposed dogs can develop immunity to valley fever and never become ill, but when symptoms occur they can include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, lameness, swelling of bones or joints, significant weight loss with muscle wasting, enlarged lymph nodes, skin ulcers and draining sores, inflammation of the cornea or iris of the eye, seizures, and heart failure.

Coccidioides immitis is the particular fungus native to the San Joaquin Valley of California and by Coccidioides posadasii is the species endemic to certain arid-to-semiarid areas of the southwestern United States, northern portions of Mexico, and scattered areas in Central America and South America. Interestingly enough, although the two species are genetically distinct, they are morphologically identical.

I’m currently in Austin, Texas where Valley Fever apparently exists.  I wonder if I should go looking for a dust mask to avoid inhaling the spores….as if”!

Bugging Off!