CDC Calls for Stricter Hygiene and Sanitation Precautions in Healthcare Settings

healthcare standardsWith reports of a potentially deadly superbug spreading in healthcare settings across the U.S., professional cleaning, sterilization and infection control services are more important than ever.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rates of unusual superbugs known as Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) have nearly doubled in recent months.

While still relatively uncommon, the CDC believes some alarm is warranted:

“This increase highlights the need for U.S. health care providers to act aggressively to prevent the emergency and spread of these unusual CRE organisms.”

CREs are a form of bacteria that has developed high levels of resistance to antibiotics — including last-resort carbapenems antibiotics (hence their name). They typically affect ailing patients that require ventilator or catheter devices, but they can infect almost any vulnerable patient.

The bugs are particularly prevalent in certain areas of the country, including the Northeast and long-term acute-care hospitals

CDC Recommendations

The CDC’s health advisory is calling for stricter hygiene and sanitation precautions, as well as increased patient screening.

CDC director Tom Frieden also offered some advice last week to healthcare providers via Twitter:

“Healthcare providers: Wash your hands before touch a patient everything! Prevent CRE.”

When it comes to cleaning and sanitation, the CDC also has some recommendations:

  • Using dedicated non-critical medical equipment
  • Assigning a dedicated cleaning staff to affected patient care units
  • Increasing cleaning and disinfection, especially on high traffic areas (e.g., bedrails, charts, bedside commodes, doorknobs)

The CDC’s 2012 toolkit also recommends that healthcare providers lessen their use of catheters, endotracheal tubes and other invasive medical devices known for spreading the infection.

Image Credit: Flickr

Social Media: Latest Flu Prevention Tool

sick office worker
No doubt, this year’s flu season has been one of the worst we’ve seen in years — but feeling under the weather hasn’t prevented many of us from logging into Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

In fact, we visit them just as frequently, or more so — according to the results of a new survey.

The nationwide survey, which was sponsored by Clorox Co. and conducted by Ipsos, received responses from nearly 1,000 men and women aged 18-29.

What they found was that 83 percent of people admitted to using social media as a source of entertainment when they were feeling sick, while a little over 9 percent said they used it to gain sympathy from friends online.

Enhanced Flu Prevention Behaviors

The survey also found that those who saw posts related to the flu were more motivated to step up their flu prevention behaviors.

Nearly 65 percent said they washed their hands more frequently after hearing of a friend or family member’s illness via social media, while 55 percent said they were more likely to use disinfectant on germ hotspots.

Cleaning and Hygiene for Flu Prevention

Fortunately flu season is almost over, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down quite yet. Remember to follow these important cleaning and hygiene tips.

  • Wash your hands often with foaming hand soap and hot water
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that may be contaminated with flu germs
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tisue when you cover or sneeze and toss it in the trash
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth
  • If you do get sick, avoid contact with others for at least 24 hours

Image Credit: Flickr

Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Office

office spring cleaning
Maybe we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves (it’s still February after all), but we’re gearing up for some serious spring cleaning around the office.

In our opinion, a clean office is just as important as a clean home. If you sat down and actually calculated the number of hours you and your employees spend annually in the office, you’d probably be inclined to agree with us.

Additionally, numerous research studies have shown that a clean, organized office environment means a healthier, more productive workforce. To kick start your office spring cleaning, we thought we’d share some of our favorite tips below:

Encourage and promote healthy habits around the office.

According the 2012 study, 47 percent of working adults eat lunch at their desk on a daily basis. Though this might sound harmless, it’s not. Most workstations carry as much as 400 times more dangerous bacteria than the average public toilet seat. Not a very pleasant visual, we know.

There are several ways to minimize the risk of harmful bacteria:

  • Promote employee hand washing by keeping your restroom fully stocked with the right supplies (e.g., paper towels, foaming hand soap). A sign designed to remind employees to wash up can also be beneficial.
  • Make sure there are sanitizing/hygienic wipes available for employees to use throughout the office.
  • High touch points such as door knobs, light switches and bathroom surfaces should be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent the spread of bacteria. The same goes for communal areas such as fridges, microwaves, ovens and other shared equipment.

Be careful when cleaning up computer workstations.

Computer workstations are used for hours a day –which means they’re likely to collect a lot of dirt and dust. Unfortunately, they can be trickier to clean than most surfaces – and using the wrong methods can result in significant damage.

  • Use compressed air to remove dust from computer keyboards and CPU towers.
  • Clean monitors with wipes approved for use on LCD screens to avoid scratching screens.
  • Remember to dust each computer mouse and set of speakers before moving on to the next workstation.

Remove dirt and grime from your office space carpet.

A cold, snowy winter followed by damp spring showers can bring water, dirt and residue into your facility. Improve the look of your office and protect your carpet investment by initiating a carpet maintenance program.

  • A professional deep clean is the best first step, followed by regular vacuuming and spot removal. A successful maintenance program can extend the life of your carpet by three or more years.
  • Strategic matting is also a good way to prevent dirt and grime from entering the office. And the spring season may just be the perfect time to upgrade your current system.

Don’t be so literal. “Spring cleaning” can also pertain to your technology.

Your computer probably has its own version of dusty shelves and leaky faucets that could use some attention, both inside and out.

  • Back up all of your important files (e.g., documents, photos, videos, web bookmarks, emails, and so on). There are a number of cloud services that will store this information for free (Google Drive, Dropbox, Skyline and others).
  • Update your infrastructure – this means removing unused applications and programs. It’ll clear up your hard drive, and possibly your icons from your desktop – which means you’ll actually be able to see your wallpaper again.
  • Download the most recent software updates for your operating system. It might also be a good idea to do this for your favorite programs as well.

Image Credit: Flickr


Cleaner Work Spaces Mean Less Sick Days

sick dayIf you work in an office, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve touched a doorknob, a keyboard, a copier and a whole slew of other germ hotspots today. And depending on how clean they were, you could be passing on harmful bacteria to your co-workers and family.

According to Stephen Collins, founder of a 35-year full-service cleaning service in Massachusetts, employee health is closely related to the cleanliness of their work environment – especially during cold winter months.

“Commercial buildings are buttoned up tight in the winter, but reduced fresh air flow along and the arrival of the cold and flu season means workplaces are an ideal place for the growth and spread of germs – and a dramatic jump in sick days. Besides a person’s health, cleanliness of the work environment has a direct effect on employees’ health, mood, productivity and attendance.”

Laboratory studies have shown that cold and flu germs can remain on surfaces for 48 hours or longer – especially on surfaces like stainless steel, plastic and similarly hard surfaces. Other factors such as temperature and humidity can have an effect of the life cycle of germs outside of the body.

If the conditions below sound like your office, then it’s time to clean up your act:

  • Employees work long hours in close proximity to their co-workers
  • Employees regularly eat meals in their work space
  • Employees sneeze, cough or yawn without covering their mouth
  • Employees don’t wash their hands after using the restroom

So what’s the best way to keep your employees healthy?

Though you can’t always control employee behavior, you can ensure a clean work space. Regularly cleaning and regularly sanitizing commonly touched or handled surfaces around the office are two of the best ways to keep your employees healthy.

Encouraging hand washing with hand soap is also an important way to prevent the spread of infection. Hands should be washed frequently with soap or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (though hand soap is always preferable).


Restaurant Management 101: Employee Hand Washing

employee hand washing
It’s no secret that regular hand washing is essential to good hygiene. This is especially true in restaurant environments, where food contamination can run rampant under unhygienic circumstances.

If you want to prevent the spread of microorganisms and bacteria in your restaurant, it’s important that your employees understand the basics of hand washing – before they begin serving your customers.

How should employees wash their hands?

Hand washing compliance starts with the right supplies. Your employees certainly can’t do an effective job without the basics:

When washing, your employees should begin by wetting their hands and forearms. Next they should add a pump of foaming hand soap. The soap should be rubbed over the surface of the skin – making sure to get the fingers, wrists and under the nails.

Approximately 20 seconds of rubbing and lathering should occur before rinsing. We’ve all heard tricks like sing happy birthday or say your ABC’s while you wash, but in most cases that’s doesn’t allow enough time for a thorough washing.

Once 20 seconds have passed, the soap should be rinsed away with warm running water, followed by a complete drying with paper towels or a hand dryer. It’s important to point out that employees should not dry their hands using their pants or apron. This can re-contaminate the hands.

When should employees be washing their hands?

  • In advance of food preparation. Food preparation is defined as working with any food equipment and utensils.
  • Any time the hands coming in touch with bare skin (e.g., touching their face or hair).
  • After using the restroom.
  • After touching or handling an animal.
  • Any time an employee sneezes or coughs.
  • Several times throughout the food preparation process to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Prior to presenting food to customers.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Do cleaning supplies like sponges carry bacteria?

sponge bacteria
If you’re a cleaning supplies freak like us, you may not want to hear this – but that kitchen sponge you’ve been using to clean your dishes may actually be one of the dirtiest items in your home.

In fact, you may be better off just cutting your veggies on a toilet seat rather than that chopping board you just wiped down. According to a new study, common cleaning supplies like kitchen sponges and dish rags carry around 10 million bacteria per square inch, and are “200,000 dirtier than a toilet seat”.

Sponge Bacteria May Cause Serious Health Conditions

Though much of the bacteria lurking on sponges are thought to be harmless, Hugh Pennington, one of Britain’s leading microbiologists wants consumers to know that dirty cleaning supplies like sponges can actually be dangerous.

A bacterium called campylobacter remains a big concern for the Health Protection agency. Campylobacter, which naturally occurs from poultry, can result in Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Guillain-Barre syndrome, a potentially deadly muscle disorder, can cause paralysis, severe pain, difficulty breathing and rapid heartbeat. Don’t worry too much though – Guillain-Barre syndrome is rare, at only 1-2 cases per 100,000 people annually and the majority of those affected recover.

If you don’t have access to a dishwasher and sponges are your only option – just remember to sanitize them on a regular basis.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Should I use antibacterial foaming hand soap?

hand soap
These days, it seems like you can’t even wash your hands without coming across antibacterial foaming hand soap. And while most of us can probably agree that regular hand washing is a crucial component to good health, there seems to be a divide when it comes to antibacterial.

It’s just soap…what’s the big deal?

There are several issues of concern when it comes to antibacterial soap – and most of them are related to its main active ingredient triclosan. Triclosan, which is found in nearly 75% of antibacterial hand soaps, has been widely scrutinized in the last decade.

Why researchers and consumers are concerned about triclosan:

  • Triclosan needs to be left on the surface of the skin for at least two minutes to be effective. Most people aren’t that patient.
  • Some researchers believe that bacteria could eventually develop a resistance to bactericidal agents like triclosan over time.
  • Being exposed to some bacteria is actually beneficial to your health. The normal population of bacteria living in our body helps fend off dangerous bacteria.
  • Many diseases are viral in nature, which means they can’t be prevented using antibacterial soap anyway

So when should you be using antibacterial foaming hand soap?

A clean environment and a clean body are important, but not every inch of every surface needs to be sterile in order to be safe. On a daily basis, antibacterial soap may a little much for the average person.

However, there are definitely instances where antibacterial foaming hand soap is appropriate, such as:

  • In health-care settings where there’s a risk of transferring bacteria from patient to patient.
  • In restaurant settings where someone is handling raw meat or fish.

The takeaway

Unless you work in a healthcare or restaurant setting, you may want to stick to regular soap and water. However, if antibacterial foaming hand soap is your only option, it’s certainly safe to use – but probably a little overkill on a daily basis.

World Toliet Day: Sanitation Matters

Image Source: The Christian Science Monitor

World Toilet Day came and went a few weeks ago, unnoticed by many. Created back in 2001 to raise global awareness of the struggle billions face every day without access to clean sanitation – World Toilet Day has still failed to gain the same level of public interest achieved by other international awareness events (such as World Water Day on March 22nd).

Why World Toilet Day?

Water contamination is one of the fastest growing threats to life as we know it worldwide – and a significant amount of contamination is directly related to human sewage.

According to the World Toilet Organization, “Over a billion of the 6 billion people in the world are served by sewerage systems but much of this sewerage is discharged into rivers, lakes and the sea with little or no treatment.”

  • Roughly 2.5 billion people do not have access to a toilet worldwide
  • Over a billion people are still defecating in the open
  • Around 1.5 million deaths are cause by diarrhea each year
  • Diarrhea remains the second leading cause for children under five

World Toilet Day is an opportunity to shed some light the world’s current sewage crisis and to look toward a solution that can facilitate transformative change.

How you can help…

Whether you have professional expertise in a particular field, or a just a desire to contribute, you can play an integral role in advocating for and on behalf of the 2.5 billion people who lack safe access to a toilet.

Ways to get involved:

  • Follow World Toilet Day on Twitter and Facebook
  • Sign the Keep Your Promises petition
  • Host or plan an event your area next year
  • Contribute press releases to local media
  • Ask local sports or cultural events to promote sanitation messages
  • Spread the word anyway you can!

Sick Office Workers Still Show Up for Work, According to New Flu Season Survey

sick office workerIn an average year, the flu contributes to an estimated 70 million missed days of work – which calculates into roughly $10 billion in lost office productivity.

Flu season is just about to arrive, which means a multitude of employee sick days are just around the corner – or are they?

According to a new flu season survey conducted by Staples, almost 80 percent of office workers show up for work, even when they know they’re sick. This number is up 20 percent over the past year. And for those who elect to stay home, nearly two-thirds return to the office when they’re still contagious.

When asked about their office habits, the survey also demonstrated that office workers continue to make preventable errors that fuel the spread of office germs:

  • 51 percent of employees surveyed clean their desk once per week or less. Germs can live on surfaces for up three days – especially on keyboards (traditionally one of the dirtiest workspace areas).
  • 25 percent of those surveyed believed that door handles were the least sanitary place in the office, when it’s actually the break room sink, followed by the office microwave.
  • 65 percent of survey participants believed that individuals sick with the flu are contagious for a total of 1-3 days, when in actuality the flu virus is contagious at least a day prior to symptoms and for an additional 5-7 days after becoming sick.

So why are employees going to work when they’re still sick? They’re concerned about completing unfinished work.

Image Credit: Flickr

Commercial Cleaning Tips: Five Ways to Prevent the Flu in Your Workplace

Between 5 and 20 percent of Americans will contract the flu this year according to the U.S. Department of Health. Minimize the spread of disease and protect your employees by following some of our commercial cleaning tips below:

Promote employee hand washing

Habitual hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of illness among employees. Make hand washing easier for your employees by providing automatic hand dryers and bulk foaming hand soap.

Disinfect high touch areas

Areas of your office where that receive a lot of touch (keyboards, door handles, phones), should be disinfected on a regular basis.

Deep restroom cleaning

If you saw our last post on clean restroom tips, you already know that restroom hygiene is essential to your company’s reputation. It’s also essential to employee health. Your restrooms should receive extra care during flu season.

Use entrance mats

Entrance mats are an effective way to trap harmful germs from entering your workplace, but soiled mats can also be a breeding ground for harmful microbes and bacteria. Make sure to keep them clean throughout the day.

Keep your floors tidy

A dirty floor can contain more than two million bacteria per square inch. To reduce bacteria throughout your workplace, use tools specifically designed to reduce and prevent cross contamination.