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, October 27, 2017

Acquired Infections vs Acquired Illness

It’s relatively hard to go a day without seeing some form of media article about hospital acquired infections (HAIs).  Hospitals and Infection Preventionists are being pushed to prevent HAIs so as not to lose out on funding (and of course not to harm patients).  At virtually every tradeshow or conference I attend and speak with Infection Preventionists, I hear “Do you kill X or Y?”  or “How fast is the contact time?” over and over…..ad nauseam.

Depending on the person or the conversation, I have been known to challenge the concept of focusing only on efficacy or speed.  In fact one of my favorite lines is “I don’t care what the product says it will kill or how fast it will kill it, if the staff don’t like using it (or are scared of using it), you can be guaranteed they won’t.” It’s the truth.  I’ve seen it.  I’ve talked with staff who are concerned for their health due to the perception they have of the disinfectant product that has been chosen and they feel forced to use.

The truth is, in the race to ensure we rid every surface of as much as we can in order to minimize the spread of HAIs we have forgotten one important thing.   We have forgotten to consider the balance between efficacy and safety.   It’s relatively easy to go online and find a recipe to make a “safe” disinfectant.  From a chemical engineering perspective it’s also pretty easy to create a disinfectant that will kill everything….assuming we’re not concerned with occupational safety or materials compatibility.  Finding the balance and creating a product that has a pretty broad-spectrum efficacy along with a great safety profile is another thing altogether. 

A recent study published in AJIC investigated health problems associated with disinfectant product exposure and concluded that the PAA-based disinfectant chosen because of its product label effectiveness to reduce C. difficile was directly associated with mucous membrane and respiratory health effects.   The results were based on a survey completed by healthcare workers as well as air monitoring in units that utilized the disinfectant in question.  It was found that there was a higher prevalence of work-related wheeze and watery eyes among users of the disinfectant product.  It was also found that in one unit where the highest level of chemicals was found in the air that there was a higher prevalence of health effects among both product users and non-users.  The researchers also compared the prevalence of asthma among the healthcare workers in the hospital to reported values for the US adult population and found that the prevalence was significantly higher.  The recommendations of the study were to ensure that healthcare workers concerns about occupational illness are taken seriously and to implement controls to reduce exposure to cleaners and disinfectants in order to provide a safe working environment while still protecting patients from HAIs.

The long and the short is that everything we do in life needs to be balanced and that many of our choices will require a trade-off.  In the case of choosing disinfectants, the difficulty being you may be choosing between the health and well-being of a patient over a healthcare worker or vice versa.  When looking at our disinfection needs remember it’s not just about what a product kills or how fast it kills.  We need to consider the safety of the staff that have to use it.  If there is a potential health concern, then what controls need to be put in place such as additional PPE such as respirators or only cleaning 1 or 2 rooms per shift with the product in question.   Alternatively are there changes in cleaning protocols that can be used such as twice daily cleaning (e.g. morning and afternoon) to help keep the pathogen load in the environment lower?  

As I learned today, perhaps we need to use a “Beginner’s Mind” when trying to come up with solutions to the problems we have.  We often look to the experts to come up with a solution, but according to Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki “In the Beginner's Mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." 

Bugging Off!


Friday, October 20, 2017

Sword fighting with baseball bats

If you think about growing up, there seems to be kids who naturally are more reserved and less adventurous, and then there are the ones who often act before thinking and have no fear.  You might even wonder if there really is a “dare devil gene”.  I was and still am a dare devil.  I can honestly say that if I or my brother thought of something, we rarely ever failed to follow through on execution.  From building the best hay forts with booby traps to climbing trees to see who could swing the top over the farthest, we did it.  We also successfully built a bike out of wood which steered, but lacked brakes, and were professionals at making swords, spears and may have been known to dabble in making things that could go “boom”.  I’m happy to say that neither of us ever broke anything that required casts, but there may have been the occasional set of stitches and an eye patch, and by the time I was 6, we knew I was allergic to almost every adhesive used in band aids.

I was 5 the first time I had stitches, although surgery was required before the stitches could be put in.  My brother was only 3 at the time so was not involved in this scheme, but the boys down the road sure were!  The collective “we” decided that sword fighting with baseball bats was a reasonable thing to do, and for a while it worked. If I recall, I was holding my own…. that was until my pinkie (check out the picture) got caught between the 2 wooden baseball bats.  I’m not really sure how it happened, but I suspect I went in for a thrust and the neighbour swung to fend me off.  Let’s just say, my pinkie didn’t stand a chance against 2 baseball bats.  That said, I was lucky.  The bone did not break, but the skin from my first knuckle up sure popped off!  In fact it was hanging by a thread and let’s just say, while running around in circles, there was a lot of blood.

The surgeon was able to piece my finger back together, but during the healing process the beginnings of infection set in.  Luckily my mom was a nurse so nothing got out of hand, but I do remember having to soak my finger in a bath every day to draw out the infection to avoid losing more of the finger than I did.  I was lucky.  I kept my pinkie, I grew back a finger nail and best of all when we were learning right from left at school, I never had a problem because I only ever had to look at my pinkie to know which hand was which!

In the stories I shared this week, the HAIs were all associated with adults and several of them older adults with poor immune systems or underlying diseases that would have increased their odds of getting an infection.   I’ll admit, while the infection was in the site of a surgical incision, the original “incision” was not made with a sterile scalpel, so it’s entirely plausible that my foray into sword fighting contaminated the area which made it easier for infection to set in.  The reason I’m sharing my story is because we need to keep in mind that the transmission of pathogens can happen almost everywhere and to anyone.  While I focused on HAIs this week, we see infectious diseases transmitted in schools, at work, on cruise ships, at restaurants, at spas and even other healthcare settings like dental offices. 

The long and the short is that we need to be mindful.  We need to take a pause and if sick, stay home.  We ALL need to wash our hands.  As highlighted in the obituary I shared yesterday, dirty hands can lead to HAIs.  In healthcare settings, we need to support the cleaning staff and allow them the time they need to clean rooms properly and not push them to finish faster in order to get a new patient in the bed.  If we rush, we cut corners and those corners can be deadly. 

As we come to the end of International Infection Prevention Week, I would like to give a shout out to the great jobs done by the housekeepers who work hard to keep facilities clean, to the nurses and doctors who work hard to keep us healthy and the Infection Preventionists who work tirelessly educating and helping to reduce HAIs!

Bugging Off!


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Farewell dear husband, father and friend

I started with Virox in March of 2003.  Shortly after I started, I was introduced to someone who I would now call a dear friend.  Paul Webber, who some of you may know as one of the founders of the Webber Training Teleclass program, took me under his wing. He introduced me to some of the greatest and most influential minds around the world in infection prevention, he helped build my love of infection prevention and the myriad of opportunities there are to educate, and he has spent more than a decade correcting my grammar any chance he gets!

You’ve likely guessed from the title, this story does not have a happy ending.  It’s the story of Paul’s father-in-law and how he lost his life due to a HAI.  Paul wrote about the unfortunate set of circumstances in his father-in-law’s obituary that I am sharing in full.  It’s poignant.  It’s heartfelt and I could not do it justice by trying to create an abridged version.

“On October 30, 2005 David Williamson Milne passed away at Kingston General Hospital after a battle with hospital-acquired infections.  He was loved and is deeply missed by many.

David Milne was the kind of person that you got to know, and like, quickly.  His friends were among society’s small and society’s great, and he treated each with equal respect and appreciation. His Scottish humour and laugh were infectious. Even in the last days he could make us laugh.

His family was the joy of his life and sustained him throughout. As the youngest of a large Manitoba farm family, he was his mother’s joy and primary recipient of her loving largess. He wedded his first love and childhood sweetheart, Catherine, who followed him from posting to posting, with one and then two children, Catherine Jr. and Jacqueline.

As a long-service pilot in the Canadian Armed Forces David Milne’s life was not without risk, but risk balanced in an equation with skill.  His heart surgery was a risk, but it was balanced against the outstanding skill of Dr. Hamilton at Kingston General Hospital.  The surgery was successful and Dave’s recovery was proceeding well, thanks to the care of KGH staff. Unfortunately, a series of hospital-acquired infections set back his progress and ultimately caused is premature passing.

Every year hospital-acquired infections cause or contribute to the death of more people than breast cancers, heart disease, and car accidents combined. Most of these infections are initiated by otherwise caring healthcare workers who forget or neglect to clean their hands. And for each of those who, like our friend David, succumb to one of these unnecessary infections there are many more who ache for their loss. These are not numbers on month-end reports. These are our fathers, our mothers, our children and our dear friends who are dying prematurely because of unclean hands. The little bit extra time that it takes for healthcare workers to wash or to use and alcohol sanitizer is pittance compared to the waste of so many productive, loved and loving lives.

In honour and memory of David Williamson Milne a donation will be made in his name to the Community and Hospital Infection Control Association of Canada.  His family and extended group of friends openly urge those at Kingston General Hospital as well as healthcare workers everywhere to clean their hands before and after every patient contact.  It is absolutely a matter of life and death.

Farewell to a dear husband, father and friend.”

Thank you Paul and Jacquie for letting me share your story.  There is nothing additional that I can add.  I agree completely that cleaning, be it hands or environmental surfaces or medical devices, saves lives.

Bugging Off!


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cars, Hearts and HAIs

In the story I’m sharing today, one may wonder how cars, hearts and HAIs go together.  In fact when Rob, our Director of Production shared his family’s story I did what I often do when writing a blog – I started Googling.

Rob’s story goes like this.  “In 1996 my father-in-law was in Lewiston, New York and got in a car accident. While sitting in the back of a police car, he had a heart attack and thankfully paramedics who happened to be at the scene of another accident about a mile down the road were able to bring him back to life.  Unfortunately, while in the hospital in New York he contracted MRSA.  After being flown back to Canada, he was put in an isolation ward for 3 months, this is 3 months of wearing gowns, gloves and masks every day we went to see him….  In the end after a quadruple bi-pass you couldn’t slow him down, at least for another 12 years or so…”

Did you know that stress-induced cardiomyopathy is not uncommon?  In fact, it’s known as Takotsubo Syndrome and according to research it’s a temporary and sudden weakening of heart muscles, often triggered by emotional stress or constant anxiety. The sudden emotional stress can cause abnormal contractions of heart muscles and while contractions usually disappeared one to four weeks after the “stress that caused them,” they can sometimes persist which can lead to more serious complications and even death.  If you’ve ever been in a car crash, without a doubt it can put you on an emotional roller-coaster that depending on the severity can take weeks, months or even years for a victim to emotionally recover from the accident.

As Rob mentioned, his father-in-law contracted MRSA while in the hospital.  MRSA is usually spread by direct contact with an infected wound or from contaminated hands, usually those of healthcare providers.  From a risk of contracting MRSA there are 3 key factors; being hospitalized, having an invasive medical device, and residing in a long-term care facility.  Considering Rob’s father-in-law had 2 of the 3 risk factors since he was in a hospital with a weakened immune system and he had intravenous lines and urinary catheters, he was the perfect host for MRSA to travel directly into his body. 

The ending of Rob’s story is a happy one.  Certainly, it was a long road back to recovery, but his father-in-law was able to recover from the ordeal, and I hope like every good father-in-law he gave Rob a hard time for the next decade of his life!

Bugging Off!


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

For the love of grandparents

According to Dr. Karl Pillemer of Cornell University, the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is second in emotional importance only to the relationship between parent and child. I could not agree more.  I was fortunate to have grown up knowing both of my Great-Grandmothers and both sets of my Grandfathers and Grandmothers.  In fact, in my mid-forties I am still fortunate to have a living Grandmother who is very much with it and at 86 is still driving and only just moving into a retirement home.  Even then she’s only moving because she was able to find a 2 bedroom condo that would meet her needs……  Ask my mother, it was no easy feat!

For many of us, our grandparents hold a very dear spot in our hearts.  You may have fond memories of spending the night at their house, going on vacation with them, eating “special meals or treats” that your grandma always made the best – even if your mom used the same recipe!  In one article I read, the author states that “Grandparents are like shady trees that have an ever welcoming attitude towards life. They are always there to offer their cool shade to the next generation. It seems that they have all the love, affection and warmth in the world stored within them.” I can’t speak for you, but this sums up my relationship with my great-grandmothers and grandparents perfectly and I think my colleagues who provided the stories I’m sharing today will agree.

Today’s blog is dedicated to the memories of the grandfather of our Marketing Assistant Brandon Petrasso and the grandmother of our R&D Laboratory Technician, Shukria Atta.  I hope you caught the fact that I said “memories”.

The story of Brandon’s grandfather goes something like this.  He went in to the hospital for his routine daily dialysis treatment, but after his usual treatment his care team noticed his vitals were reading a little lower than they should be.  To be on the safe side, rather than letting him go home as he normally would, they felt it would be in his best interest to be admitted into the hospital for observation as a precautionary measure.  In trying to determine what was causing his poor health, they realized he contracted Clostridium difficile at the hospital.  Brandon’s grandpa ended up passing away due to complications associated with C.diff

Patients who undergo dialysis treatment have an increased risk for getting an infection because of their weakened immune systems due to the fact that the process of hemodialysis requires frequent use of catheters or insertion of needles to access the bloodstream. However, it should not be a given that every dialysis patient will get a HAI. In fact there is a wealth of supporting documentation to help ensure that infection prevention programs can be put in place to ensure the health and safety of dialysis patients.

The truth is that as we age, our immune systems have to work harder to fight off infections.  There have been a number of studies that look at HAIs and mortality in the elderly population showing that HAIs were more frequent in the elderly population particularly with respect to VAP and infections by Gram-negative pathogens. The overall mortality has also been shown to be greater in the elderly group.

This is the likely case of Shukria’s grandmother. She was admitted to the hospital for something that was not serious and while there, caught something from the hospital.  Because of the fact that she was already too weak and frail, Shukria’s grandmother could not fight the infection and passed away.  She was in Dushanbe, Tajikistan so Shukria was not able to say good bye and even a year later really misses her grandma.   

When Shukria shared her story with me she said “I hope we can save lives by educating the hospitals and clinics.”  This really sums up the spirit of the Talk Clean To Me blog and the reason for asking my colleagues and coworkers to share their stories.  I’m not an expert by any means in every facet of infection prevention, but I certainly know how to clean and how to use disinfectants so that we get them to do what we need them to do.  In the case of the stories I shared today, cleaning certainly saves lives

Thanks Brandon and Shukria for sharing your stories and allowing me to honour the memories of your grandparents.

Bugging Off!




Monday, October 16, 2017

The joys of birth and the nightmares of SSIs

The theme across Canada for International Infection Prevention Week is “It’s a Team Thing”.  It’s a perfect theme and without a doubt 100% accurate.  Lapses in infection prevention in most cases are not attributed to a single thing, but a number of factors.  As mentioned last week, to celebrate IIPW I will be posting a daily blog sharing stories of friends and colleagues I work with at Virox whose lives either directly or indirectly have been touched by an HAI.  It’s easy to play the blame game and point fingers, but I am hoping that by sharing these stories, we can instead think of how as a team we can work together to try and prevent HAIs from happening and reinforce the importance of infection prevention in saving lives.

When I sent the email out to our company asking if anyone had been impacted by an HAI in some way, I was hoping no one had a story to share.  That unfortunately, wasn’t the case.  The truth was many of us had.  What was most alarming is that several shared stories that were almost identical.  The stories I am sharing today are one of those.

The birth of a child should be the most amazing day or your life.  After waiting for 9 months, you get to meet the child that you have felt growing in your belly or seen growing in your wife’s belly.  Let’s be honest, giving birth to a child is not all sunshine and roses. It’s messy.  It’s painful and yes, it can be deadly.

Today, I share the stories of the birth of my VP of Manufacturing's first child and the birth of my CEO's third child.  Both stories follow the same path, an SSI after a C-section.  In Zubair's story, his wife, Mehwish, spent two weeks in the hospital following the birth of their daughter, Zara.  Mehwish was put on antibiotics, needed blood transfusions, and as one can expect, it took a while for her to recover, but she eventually went back to full health.  Zara was born March 15, 2016 and today is a health, beautiful little girl.  

My CEO, Randy, had the same thing happen to his wife Catherine.  With 2 children at home, they thought they knew the game plan.  Instead Catherine ended up with a staph infection, spent 2 weeks in quarantine and ICU where she had multiple cocktails of antibiotics.  In fact at one point, his wife’s health had deteriorated so badly they actually had a priest come to her room.  Even after the SSI cleared, she had 3 to 4 years of poor health due to the impact of the ordeal on her immune system.  As Randy tells the story, Malory who is now 20 would sit on his desk while he worked after he had sent his 2 older children who were 7 and 5 at the time to school wearing pyjamas (Little Mermaid and Batman) which he thought was perfectly acceptable clothing…

SSIs are the most common and costly of all hospital-associated infections.  In fact in the US, they account for 20% of all hospital-associated infections, meaning they occur in an estimated 2% – 5% of patients or 160,000 to 300,000 people each year.  The most common pathogens to cause SSIs include bacteria such as StaphylococcusStreptococcus, and Pseudomonas.  So how do SSIs occur?  Unfortunately, it’s really not that difficult. They can infect a surgical wound through various forms of contact, such as contaminated surgical instruments, the hands of a Healthcare worker or caregiver, through germs in the air, or through germs that are already on or in your body that get spread to the wound.

Luckily for my colleagues, while the start to what should have been one of the most joyous occasions of their lives got off to a rocky start, the story ended with a happily ever after for 2 very proud papas and 2 very beautiful girls.  I hope we can use their stories to learn from our mistakes, learn that the cause of an HAI cannot be pinned on a single person or event, but that we all need to pull our weight to try and help stop them from happening to others – others who may be less fortunate.

Bugging Off!


Friday, October 13, 2017

Are you part of the 25% group?

Next week is International Infection Prevention Week.  It’s always a fun time of the year with opportunities to provide education, particularly through games.  In fact I came across an on-line quiz that will tell you “What Germ you are” – if of course you were a pesky pathogen.  I’m happy to say I would be MRSA.  As part of celebrating IIPW, next week I will be doing daily blogs sharing stories of how friends and colleagues I work with have been impacted by HAIs.  There are some stories with happy endings and, well, as you can guess, some not so happy endings. 

Knowing what I will be writing about next week, this week I wanted to share a survey I came across that was conducted by Canada Life looking at presenteeism.  I would hazard a guess that most of us can attest to the fact that we to have gone to work despite being ill and knowing we’ll not be functioning fully.  According to the Canada Life survey, 1 in 4 workers would need to be in the hospital before they would call in sick.  Sound familiar to anyone?  When trying to tease out why people pick presenteeism over caring for themselves the following were the primary reasons:
·        People did not want to appear “weak” for not coming in over a “short-     term illness”
·        People were nervous of being seen as “lazy”
·        People were nervous about being considered as “not dedicated”
·        People were made to feel “guilty for taking time off even if ill” by   coworkers and company leaders

While the survey was conducted in the UK, this trend is not limited to the UK.  Results from the NSF Workplace Flu Survey showed that 98% of American workers judge their colleagues for coming into work sick……BUT it’s the minority that actually feel negative about it!  In fact 67% thought those that do come in when sick are hard workers and only 57% of those surveyed said they would encourage a fellow employee to go home “if they thought they were too sick to be at work”.

I know for a fact that presenteeism is not just related to the corporate world.  In my “Who’s the last man/women (girl) standing” blog I discussed a study published in JAMA Pediatrics that looked at presenteeism in healthcare workers finding the top reasons for working while sick included; concern over who would fill in for them, concern that their patients could not get by without them and a widespread belief that if they stayed home because of a cold or flu they would be perceived as being weak or unprofessional. 

What does this say about us?  I’ll admit, I’ve been known to come in with a cold, but that’s because I firmly believe if I can spread it to one person I instantly start to feel better.  If I’m running a fever, I stay home.  I also send people home, admittedly less about concerns for their health, but for the fact that I don’t want to get sick (or get the rest of the team sick)!  I will even admit, upon occasion, I wonder why someone can’t just “suck it up”…. 

So what group are you in?

Bugging Off!


Friday, October 6, 2017

Heater-Cooler Hurts Hearts

Unless you’re completely without feeling, I would hazard a guess that when you hear of something bad happening to a child be it abuse or neglect, injury or disease or even death your heart hurts a little.  Many of us cannot fathom having a deathly ill child.  I’ve been lucky, but I have a close friend whose son at the age of 19 months was diagnosed with a very rare cancer.  The treatment was long, hard, and heartbreaking, and made worse by the fact that my friend was also a childhood cancer survivor so knew exactly what his son was going through.  I’m happy to say that Liam beat the odds and while he remains cancer free, he will continue to be closely monitored.

While not a brand new issue, heater-cooler units that are used during heart surgeries to regulate the temperature of patients on bypass continue to plague Infection Preventionists, since they are difficult to disinfect, but much needed machines that have been the root cause of several outbreaks.  The most recent I’ve read about impacted 12 patients at a children’s hospital who underwent cardiac surgery this summer.  The outbreak was blamed on a single heater-cooler unit used in a single operating room.

Patients exhibited signs of surgical site infections including swelling, wound drainage, redness and fever caused by Mycobacterium abscessus.  This bacterium is an environmental bacteria that is routinely found in water, soil and dust and while perhaps not the most common bacteria to cause SSIs, it has been known to contaminate medications and other products including medical devices.  Transmission of this bacterium generally occurs by injections of substances contaminated with the bacterium or through invasive medical procedures such as open heart surgery that use medical devices, equipment or material that is contaminated with the bacteria.

In order to ensure more patients were not infected the hospital has replaced the heater-cooler device and completed a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the operating room to remove any chance of future environmental contamination.  As for the 12 patients infected, while they have all been hospitalized, the good news is that some are very close to going home!

This story parallels the story of duodenoscopes.  As we improve our ability to develop more and more technically savvy instruments that can aid in the treatment of patients we increase our risk of developing instruments that are more difficult or nearly impossible to reprocess in a way that we can ensure they are safe to use on the next patient.  I’m not saying that we should halt innovation.  What I am saying is that we should, when bringing these devices into our facilities, consider conducting validation studies to ensure that we can safely reprocess in a manner that is reproducible each and every time.  My motto is if we would not use the device on a loved one, we should not use it on a patient!

Bugging Off!