From the surfaces we touch to the food that we eat and the water that we drink--virulent bacteria plague every corner of our lives.
Germs & Bacteria Everywhere
Illness-causing viruses and bacteria are everywhere--not just in your bathroom, or the counter where food is prepared--everywhere.
The reason germs and bacteria are everywhere is because they are most commonly spread by our hands, and they spread quickly.
Bacteria and germs can spread and grow around a workplace really quickly.
In less than five hours, 500 bacteria can become 16,000,000.
Most germs are spread by our hands and germs can stay alive on hands for up to three hours.
The issue of germs and bacteria on our hands is so prevalent, that our money is teeming with them.
The results of a study conducted by Dr. Paul Matewele, Professor of Microbiology at London Met reported that;
[...] cash is incredibly dirty and has become a breeding ground for bacteria.
In total, 19 different bacteria were found across UK coins, polymer £5 and £10 notes and paper £20 and £50 notes, including two life-threatening bacteria associated with antibiotic-resistant superbugs – Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Enterococcus faecium (VRE).
The life-threatening airborne bacteria, Listeria was also found.
Dirty money: Life-threatening bacteria found on UK cash
Additionally, recent studies have identified deadly germs and bacteria on items that rarely benefit from deep cleaning and thorough disinfection--soft surfaces, such as divider curtains in hospitals, as well as furniture.
Scientific research has shown not only the presence of pathogens on soft surfaces, but also that organisms can persist on soft surfaces for several hours — like the influenza virus — to as long as three months for MRSA and VRE on fabrics like polyester.
Since pathogens can survive for days and months on soft surfaces, it is likely that the surface will be touched while the pathogen is still alive, and therefore it is assumed that soft surfaces can and do play a role in the spread of infection in facilities.
Facilities that provide areas for close personal contact, such as gyms and schools, and especially daycare and long-term care facilities, are ideal environments for the spread of infections and are likely one of the most common sources of infectious diseases.
If you're not careful, deadly bacteria can even contaminate your bedsheets.
The results of research conducted by Time4Sleep reported that;
[...] a member of the public [was asked] to sleep in the same bedsheets for a whole month, swabbing parts of the bed at the end of each week.
Each swab was sent to the Biology Development Centre at the University of Seville laboratory and tested, revealing an alarming list of dangerous bacteria.
Among the bacteria discovered in the laboratory were bacteroides, a bacterium linked with pneumonia, gonorrhea, and appendicitis, fusobacteriales, known to cause throat infections leading to Lemierre’s syndrome, as well as neisserial, bacteria that are known to cause gonorrhea.
When tracked back to the original source, bacteria were found to come from everything from human skin and the oral cavity to human stool.
However, those areas are not the most concerning, nor most tragic place for which bacteria can strike.
Recently, the NICU at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania was forced to close after the deaths of three preterm infants and discovery of illness in five other infants, all tied to bacterial contamination in the water supply.
A Pennsylvania hospital has closed its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to premature infants and stepped up its disinfection process after it was determined three preterm infants died and five were sickened due to a waterborne bacteria present in the unit within the last few months.
The NICU at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania, recently experienced an increase in pseudomonas infections.
The bacteria which cause this infection grows in water and is commonly found in the environment.
Individuals with compromised or immature immune systems, such as premature infants, are susceptible to the infection.
Of the five babies who became ill, one infant is still receiving treatment and four have recovered.
And, finally, while washing your hands remains the best method for preventing the spread of germs and bacteria, you'll want to think twice about using a bulk-filled soap dispenser.
As it turns out, the common practice of topping off these types of dispensers leaves them open to bacterial contamination.
According to a study published in Applied Environmental Biology, Bulk-soap-refillable dispensers are prone to extrinsic bacterial contamination, and recent studies demonstrated that approximately one in four dispensers in public restrooms are contaminated.
The study also noted that it [...] is the first to quantify the levels of bacteria remaining on hands after washing with contaminated soap and to quantify the transfer of contaminating bacteria from the hands to a secondary surface.
This research confirms previous work demonstrating a strong association between open bulk-soap-refillable soap dispensers and extrinsic bacterial soap contamination and demonstrates that washing with contaminated soap poses a potential public health risk in community settings.
So, what can be done to combat the continued rise in dangerous, often deadly germs and bacteria in our living and working environments?
Seek & Destroy
A practice popularised and lauded in Dutch hospitals is the Search & Destroy method, which emphasizes:
- Personal hygiene.
- Addressing accidental blood or bodily fluid contact, and;
- Cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization.
One area that sets the Dutch method of search & destroy apart from conventional cleaning, sterilization, and disinfection practices in healthcare environments is the sparing use of disinfectants--only using products verified as safe and non-toxic, and only as needed.
Research carried out by various institutions has concluded that good cleaning practice is sufficient in most cases, even within healthcare environments, and disinfection is not always necessary.
It must not be forgotten there are some negative aspects to using disinfectants.
For example, they often also kill 'good' bacteria as well as harmful ones. They can also cause harmful side effects to people if not used properly - the eyes, airways, skin and mucous membranes are particularly vulnerable.
That means they must be used under strict conditions only and with the right personal protective equipment for the cleaning staff.
References & Resources
- A comparison of the bacteria found on the hands of ‘homemakers’ and neonatal intensive care unit nurses
- Bacterial Hand Contamination and Transfer after Use of Contaminated Bulk-Soap-Refillable Dispensers
- Study reveals best practice handwashing technique for bacteria removal
Conventional methods applied to germ and bacteria removal rely too heavily on the application of dangerous disinfectant products and too little upon diligent personal and hand hygiene practices combined with scientifically-backed cleaning and sanitation procedures.
This process has led to the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that take a devastating toll on those with compromised or weakened immune systems.
The most concerning aspect of bacterial contamination is its presence on nearly every surface conceivable, including human skin, combined with its ability to grow and spread rapidly, even after a thorough cleaning and disinfectant process.
Fortunately, it is demonstrably within our ability to halt and reverse the spread of these germs and bacteria through a combination of well-planned and executed cleaning and sanitation practices combined with advanced personal hygiene and janitorial equipment.
The level of training and investment required to purchase and adapt these products and practices to your specific school, office, or medical facility can prove daunting.
Outsourcing your organization's needs will assist with rapidly onboarding services, supplement needed skills and equipment, and offset management overhead and the cost of recruitment, hiring, and training.
If you would like more information regarding the benefits of outsourced infection prevention and control services, or if you would like to schedule a free, no-obligation onsite assessment of your facility's custodial needs, contact us today for a free quote!
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