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Friday, May 31, 2019

The Horror of Hand Dryers

I just returned from the 2019 IPAC-Canada National conference. Since Friday I have been using public washrooms in hockey rinks, hotels, restaurants, conference centers and airports. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of public bathrooms. They can be dirty. They can lack amenities (aka TP and soap) and whats even more disgusting, is that they may have only the option to use hand dryers. My dislike for hand dryers stems too much reading, but also observing what the area around hand dryers looks like. You can see the buildup of water splatter (aka biofilm) on the walls, if the bathroom has the air jet type you can see the pooling of water at the bottom, and if you’re really lucky the telltale reddish-pinkish hue of Serratia.

In 2012, guest blogger Prof. Todd wrote about hand washing and drying to reduce microbial contamination highlighting the fact that the friction generated during hand drying is even more important than that generated during washing. Why? Because the soaping stage loosens the microorganisms from the skin, while the physical friction from drying removes them. Since then, this concept has stuck with me, and ensured my preference was to dry my hands using some form of hand towel.

In 2017, I summarized a study (Ban the Bad Blowers!) looking at microbial contamination in washrooms that utilized paper towels and hand dryers. The researchers found lower microbial levels in the washrooms using paper towels while washrooms that employed the hand dryer had much higher microbial contamination. These washrooms also had a greater range of bacteria, and in general the floor, the hand dryer and the dust samples were more heavily contaminated. This study really solidified my dislike of hand dryers, and my reduction in their usage when using washrooms.

This week a friend send me a link to a study published in 2018 that I had not come across - Deposition of Bacteria and Bacterial Spores by Bathroom Hot-Air Hand Dryers. The researchers compared the bacterial contamination in the air of a bathroom, and found something that now makes me feel that I need to hold my breath in bathrooms with hand dryers. The study showed that petri dishes exposed to bathroom air for two minutes with the hand dryers off only grew one colony of bacteria (or none at all). Conversely, the petri dishes exposed to hot air from a bathroom hand dryer for 30 seconds grew up to 254 colonies of bacteria (most had 18 to 60 colonies).  

If this is not bad enough, the researchers further studied how the bacteria came to be in the hand dryer. After placing a HEPA filter over the air intake and testing the hand dryers again, they found that the amount of bacteria grown in the petri dishes had fallen by 75%. The bacteria is not coming from the hand dryer itself but the air pulled through it and used to dry our hands. In another 2018 study, researchers found that every time a lidless toilet is flushed, it aerosolizes a fine mist of microbes and that this “fecal cloud” may disperse over an area as large as six square meters (65 square feet).

Does this mean that you’re better off not to dry your hands when a hand dryer is the only option? No. Drying actually helps minimize the chances of bacteria left on your hands after you’ve washed to survive. Truthfully, the chances of picking up a pathogenic bacteria is higher via direct contact with someone than a bathroom, but the findings are still gross and I still will try to avoid hand dryers whenever I can!

Bugging Off!


Friday, May 24, 2019

Innovate, Integrate, Motivate

Sunday marks the start of the annual IPAC-Canada Conference.  I’m proud to say I’ve been part of the Scientific Committee and this year we’re hosting a conjoint conference with IFIC (International Federation of Infection Control). Innovate, Integrate, Motivate is the theme for the conference and with the topics and speakers that are lined up, I think it’s fair to say that we’re touching upon how we can innovate and improve infection control practices, how we can integrate new practices or ideas into our programs and keep you motivated to want to continue pushing forward and make infection prevention and control a concept not just within healthcare facilities, but a household topic to boot!

If you’re not able to attend the conference there are a couple of ways you can participate.

    1. Follow the conference on Twitter using #IFICIPAC2019. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, is that you can feel like you’ve attended a conference session by following along on Twitter.  

2. Join in on the Webber Training Teleclasses that will be broadcast simultaneously.
a. ADAPTING IPAC IN UNCONVENTIONAL SPACES will be presented on Monday, May 27th from 4pm to 5:30pm EST. This panel discussion will include discussions on Design Considerations, Risks and Competing Priorities in Water Management and Emerging Risks in Water in Healthcare.

b.  Adult Learning Styles will be presented on Tuesday, May 28th from 10:50 – 11:50am EST. The speakers for this session will discuss how to apply adult learning principles for effective teaching and the advantages, pitfalls, and lessons learned from high-tech learning and teaching strategies.

c.  One Health – the risks and rewards of loving animals will be presented on Wednesday May 29th from 9:15 – 10:15am EST. If you have a pet, you may be interested in checking this one out!

For those that are attending the conference be sure to drop by the Virox booth to take a selfie with our Space Man and grab a MARS bar for a snack!

Bugging Off!


Friday, May 17, 2019

Boatman are you still out there?

If you’ve ever had a service related job, be it in a call centre or being a waitress or any IT department, you likely have “a story” about a customer.  Over the years, I’ve had several.  One of my favourites was a gentleman from New York State.  It was spring time.  He was getting ready to launch his boat and he found a mouse nest.  When he first launched into his story, he was so panicked I thought we were dealing with an infestation and hundreds of nests and mouse poop as far as the eye could see.  I eventually teased out the fact that we were dealing with a single nest, there were no mice around and he had recently watched a TV program on zoonotic diseases that cause death and was concerned he had caught Hantavirus.

Hantavirus can cause severe and sometimes fatal respiratory disease in humans that is spread by several types of rodents.  Thankfully, only a very few number of human Hantavirus infection cases are reported each year.  Deer mice in particular are known to carry the virus and shed the virus through urine, saliva and poop.  People can pick up the virus by breathing in virus particles when cleaning up after the mice (e.g. sweeping up a nest or poop).  You can also get infected if bitten or if you touch broken skin with infected material. 

Boatman, knowing he could get Hantavirus from cleaning up after a mouse, was beyond agitated, as his boat was small, he had been cleaning and sweeping with no PPE prior to finding the nest and was concerned he had inhaled enough dust to get sick.  I’m not a medical doctor.  I do not have the credentials to diagnose people and certainly I’m not going to speculate with a stranger over the phone.  The best I can do is help calm his fears by giving him information on how to clean up the mess in a way that will limit transmission.

This weekend is a long weekend to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday.  There will be a lot of cottage openings and more than a few boat launches.  If like me, you’re heading to cottage country, here are a few tips if you come across a mouse nest or mouse poop.

  1. Wear gloves.
  2. Do not stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming.
  3. Spray a disinfectant onto the material and let sit for the contact time as noted on the product label.
  4. Use a paper towel to pick up the poop or other material and dispose in the garbage.
  5. Re-apply the disinfectant, again over the entire area and ensure the contact time is met.

Luckily, Hantavirus is an enveloped virus and is easy to kill when it comes to disinfectants.  While it can be frightening, coming across a nest and mouse poop, as long as you take some simple precautions the risk of contracting Hantavirus is low.
To my Canadian readers – Happy May 2-4 weekend! 

Bugging Off!


Friday, May 10, 2019

Things That Make Me Cringe…

There are advantages and disadvantages to traveling and having a kid in competitive hockey. I’ve become a professional packer. I get to see some pretty amazing places and meet even more amazing people. The downside is that I use a lot of public washrooms.
Case in point, this week I spent several nights in a hockey rink for my son’s tryouts. I’m part of a great group of hockey mom’s. We cheer when our son’s do well and cry when something goes wrong. Last night we were huddled together over drinks cheering on our sons for their final skate. As expected, after a drink or two, the “facilities” are often needed. The washroom was surprisingly clean. There was nothing on the floor, the countertops and sinks were clean and the mirrors sparkling. Then I went to use the hand soap…
Did you know that refillable hand soap containers have been linked to bacterial contamination? In fact there have been a number of studies highlighting that up to 25% of refillable soap dispensers in public washrooms were contaminated with bacteria. Even worse, a study conducted by Montana State University found that not only was there bacterial contamination in refillable soap dispensers, but that that these dispensers also contained bacterial biofilm! The researchers found that the biofilm bacteria was able to attach to the inner dispenser surfaces. Furthermore, the cleaning and disinfection protocol used to clean the dispensers demonstrated that even when cleaning with highly concentrated disinfectants, the biofilm was not removed. They had in fact adapted to live in the soap environment.
Another study using students and staff at a school as subjects, looked at the levels of Gram-negative bacteria remaining on or transferred from hands after washing with contaminated soap found in the refillable soap dispensers. As expected, the levels of bacteria found on hands after washing with contaminated soap was higher than if using uncontaminated soap and the “dirty soap contaminated hands” were able to transfer more bacteria to a secondary surface.
Refilling soap dispensers is a double edge sword. Buying in bulk can be cost effective and reduces the amount of plastic and is better for the environment. Unfortunately, refillable soap dispensers are hard to clean and prone to bacterial contamination. What do you do with your hand soap at home? I used to buy in bulk, but no more. While I’m using more plastic, I do look for soaps that are environmentally friendly, packaging that contain recycled content and make sure that I recycle my empty soap containers.
As I head for yet another hockey tournament, you can be sure that I have a supply of premoistened hand wipes and lots of alcohol hand sanitizer!
Bugging Off!
PS – my son made the hockey team last night, but we shed lots of tears for our friends that did not.