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.

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Under the weather? Under productive!

I know, enough about influenza already!  I’m a proponent of the old adage “too much of a good thing can be bad for you” unless of course we’re talking about chocolate, Ruffles Regular chips and Hell of a Good dip or talking about outbreaks and other geeky topics related to infection prevention.  So, bear with me for yet another blog on influenza.  I say “yet another” because if you’re following Talk Clean To Me you’re very likely in the Infection Prevention business and influenza (or Norovirus) has likely taken over your life.

Pediatric deaths from influenza are drastically higher (30 vs 17) compared to this point in time last year.  This is also the first year ever, that the CDC has reported widespread influenza activity in all areas of the continental US by the end of the first week of January.  If you equate an epi-curve to a rollercoaster ride, we had best make sure we’re buckled up and ready for a very bumpy ride! Not to belabor a point, but if you’re sick with the flu, the CDC recommends staying home from school or work for at least 24 hours after your fever subsides as most people are at peak contagiousness in the three or four days after becoming sick. When it comes to influenza from an infection prevention standpoint, we know that staying home when sick will help minimize transmission to your coworkers, but from a business perspective is there any other reason that as an employer we may want to take influenza seriously and have a sick policy in place?

According to a study published in December in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, influenza is associated with greater workplace productivity loss (sick days and presenteeism) than any other acute respiratory illnesses. Putting the statistical findings into something we can grasp a little easier, the study findings show that a typical full-time employee loses an extra half day of work per 5 day work week when infected with influenza.  The researchers also concluded that the data supports the importance of widespread vaccination in working populations as a method to reduce infections.

According to the CDC, losses due to absenteeism are estimated to cost employers $1,685 per employee annually. Of interest is the fact that 60% of the total cost of sick workers is due to employees who come to work while ill. Presenteeism is costly!  In fact it costs employers in the United States $150 billion annually. YOWZERS!

Knowing that this year influenza is bad, what can be done to protect staff, profits and our bottom line? Luckily, it’s not rocket science and really doesn’t cost that much. Have hand sanitizer available through the office, provide wipes to staff so they can clean their keyboards, telephones, desktops etc.  Empower and engage your employees to help clean the germ hotspots around the office!  They may readily jump in if you share the fact that phone receivers have been shown to harbor more than 25,000 germs per square inch!  A few years ago, I heard of a hospital that would randomly page the song “Wipe Out” over the PA system. When it came on, every employee would stop what they were doing, grab a wipe and clean the high touch surfaces around them! 

Do I think increasing cleaning and disinfection at work works? You bet! Up until this fall we had a facilities person who during flu season disinfected our high touch surfaces and if someone was off sick would disinfect their office or work-space. He unfortunately left and I would say our “infection rates” have been worse because of it…that and of course a whole lot of presenteeism!  Thankfully a new person started this week and I’m hoping that we’ll see a rapid decrease in our illness rates!

Bugging Off!


Friday, January 19, 2018

Measles at O’Hare Airport!

A new year, signifies the start of a new tradeshow calendar of events meaning, I start packing my bags and booking flights. Traveling is a bit like Russian roulette, as once you walk in the front door of an airport you’re in close quarters on planes, trains, elevators, security lines and bathrooms. Heck let's face it, virtually any area of the airport you’re in you’re lucky to have a foot of free space around you.  In the infection control world this is bad because we know respiratory droplets can travel. In fact a study I found from 2007 showed that respiratory droplets varied in how far they could travel depending on their size and how they “left” the body. They found that large droplets are carried more than 6 m away by sneezing, more than 2 m away when you're coughing and less than 1 m away when breathing normally.  Hmmm, I say.  I may need to invest in a bubble to wear when travelling.

As I mentioned in my “Welcome to 2018” blog, you never know where the next outbreak may come. You may be wondering why I’m talking about airports and the distance respiratory droplets travel. Well, if you haven’t heard, a passenger with an ACTIVE case of measles recently arrived (January 10th) at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. They arrived on an international flight landing into terminal 5 and departed on a domestic flight that left from terminal 1. For those that have been at O’Hare that leaves a lot of ground to cover, people to come in contact with and surfaces that could be touched.

Why care about a single infected person who has been on a plane (confined space), or walking around an airport? Well…there is a reason why Public Health panics and promotes vaccination. Measles is spread to others through coughing and sneezing (think 2 – 6 meter radius). If that’s not bad enough, this highly infectious virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed meaning if people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. If we’re willing to be honest we know that in public spaces like this, surfaces are not likely cleaned more than once every 24 hours except perhaps for bathrooms. This is certainly something to consider particularly as according to the CDC, measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.  I wonder what type of plane this person was travelling on…

If one person with active measles is not bad enough, apparently a second measles infected person has been identified. This person arrived at the airport on January 9 (also arriving in Terminal 5) and also visited an office plaza and three suburban hospitals between January 10th and 13th.

On a positive note, vaccination rates in children for MMR (the vaccine that covers measles) in the US is about 92%. The negative side, is that there is data now showing that twenty years after a second MMR vaccination, antibody levels for all 3 viruses in the MMR vaccine wanes. In Canada, MMR was introduced in 1983 which saw a significant decrease in the number of cases. In 1997, a two-dose vaccination protocol was introduced. This means there could be a number of adults who only received 1-dose of the MMR vaccination. If your GP does not routinely screen for antibody levels to some of the vaccine preventable diseases and you’re like me and only received a single dose in my childhood you may want to check out your antibody levels. I had mine checked a couple of years ago after an outbreak of measles at a university happened in a population of immunized students. My levels showed my immunity was questionable but with a quick shot to my arm I’m now completely covered!

I will admit, I avoid O’Hare at all costs. I don’t have anything against the city of Chicago. I just don’t like missing connecting flights due to snow and rain storms that seem to be so prevalent in that part of the country!

Bugging Off!


Friday, January 12, 2018

Spoil Yourself by Considering Spa and Salon Safety

My sister-in-law and I decided that for Christmas we would treat ourselves to some girl time. An afternoon out and about that included some pampering in the form of a manicure and pedicure. As I was travelling to my home town in South-Western Ontario, I let her organize the location for said pampering, albeit with a little trepidation of not knowing what type of infection prevention was being followed. As it turned out, the aesthetician is a long-time friend of our family and she was in fact going to cancel my mani & pedi because she’d seen one of my social posts about having Norovirus! The long and the short is that I assured her I was fine and she assured me after chatting about her reprocessing procedures and fact she uses a basin and not a circulating tub for the pedicures! 

It always amazes me how life works. Serendipity, happenstance or coincidence – call it what you will, things happen for a reason and when it comes to infection prevention, it has been my experience that after talking about the importance of cleaning and disinfection, an outbreak or advisory notice of some sort invariably comes across my news feed that highlights the point I was making or solidifies my belief that ignorance is not bliss and that if we want to live a long, happy and healthy life, we need to be educated, ask questions and put ourselves first.

Case in point, just yesterday a story hit the news about an advisory from the Middlesex-London Health Unit (South-Western Ontario area) about a salon that had been cited with repeated infection control infractions and the report of a client who had tested positive for a blood-borne infection.  The Health Unit has stated that clients who obtained services at the salon may have been put at an increased risk of contracting a blood-borne infection.

Now, before we all start panicking and swearing off manicures, pedicures, tattoos or facials, the risk of acquiring a blood-borne infection is low. Inadequate infection prevention practices such as improper reprocessing of equipment can result in the potential transmission of blood-borne infections as well as common skin infections such as MRSA. The long and the short is that as a consumer you need to educate yourself on what questions to ask and what practices (present or absent) to look out for in order to keep yourself safe and healthy.  While I hate to say it, money talks and generally speaking, higher end spas and salons put more emphasis on infection prevention measures. I realize the choice of location is personal so to keep you healthy, the following are a couple of great check lists to refer to before your next appointment!

As I said in my blog last week, you never know when the next outbreak might pop up!  You can also be assured that this advisory will not stop me from enjoying spa services.  It just reminds me the importance of asking questions before “handing” myself over to be pampered!

Bugging Off!


Friday, January 5, 2018

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

After the last couple of days, I think mine may be to not get so excited when I see that Norovirus and Influenza are ramping up…..   Why do I get excited?  Well, I’m in the cleaning and disinfection business.  Environmental surfaces, fomites and let’s face it, when it comes to Norovirus, anywhere our hands will touch has the potential to spread that nasty virus.  Why after the last couple of days?  Well, as they say “Karma’s a witch”.  I got bit by Noro, but on the bright side, I have successfully lost any weight I gained from consuming sweet treats over the Christmas Holidays! 

As we enter the 7th year of Talk Clean To Me, I would like to reflect back on the hundreds of blogs that have been shared and the dialogue with many of you that has started as a result of reading them.  One would think that the topic of cleaning and disinfection would get stale after a while.  What I have learned in my almost 15 years in the industry is that we never know what is around the next corner.  

If I look just at the last several weeks, there have been updates on the rising Flu cases across Canada and the US, cruise ships being hit by Norovirus, virtually a total ban on Romaine lettuce due to E. coli (seriously – skip the Caesar salads until Health Canada says it’s safe), Salmonellosis in Australia linked to a bakery, Avian Influenza cropping up in numerous countries causing millions upon millions of poultry to be culled, Leptospirosis in Colorado and scrub typhus has turned out to be the 2nd most frequent infectious disease in parts of India after dengue. Of course these are just the highlights of the “cool” outbreaks and do not touch on any of the science that is being published about new disinfectant technologies, surfaces or issues with reprocessing surfaces, materials or devices.

The long and the short is that 2018 promises to continue to provide great fodder for blogs and of course we never know when or where the newest pathogen will arrive and with that what we need to do to keep ourselves safe and healthy!  I hope that Talk Clean To Me will continue to be a source of education and entertainment!

Until next week, I have some surfaces I need to disinfectant to get rid of my highly contagious virus that is a “great” jump start to my winter weight loss program!

Bugging Off!