germs under a microscope

A major challenge in the industry and something that is very confusing to facility executives — since more than 90 percent have no written plan or protocol — is how to handle infectious outbreaks.  We have all seen news reports of this university or that district closed for cleaning and disinfecting due to absences from an infectious outbreak. Unfortunately, the reality is, this is a waste of time and money.

You will pay extra to shut the school down and have a service come in to do a deep clean and disinfect. Instead, it’s better to have correct systems in place every day so infectious outbreaks are not an issue. If they happen, the department is ready.

All types of facilities are used by the public: healthcare facilities, K-12 schools, day care and preschools, colleges and universities, hospitality and hotels, retail, government offices and commercial and industrial facilities. Add recreation and public transportation buildings, and most facilities are covered. Each of these buildings has open access to various areas of the facility, so for all intents and purposes, the solutions are comparable.

Identifying The Problem

Examining the age of the people using the facility, as well as the location, can help predict the type of infectious diseases to watch for. For example:

• Preschool and Day Cares — The population in these facilities are infants and toddlers with some adult teachers and helpers. There is the presence of vomit, fecal matter and urine, as well as food and other soils. Pathogens are also easily spread as occupants share toys, blankets and sleeping areas. As a result, hand, foot and mouth disease, cold and flu viruses, norovirus and respiratory or bronchial bacteria or viruses are easily spread.

• K-12 Schools — Some of the same issues seen in preschools and day cares can apply to school districts. Where differences exist are in locker rooms, showers, athletic equipment and matting, romantic encounters, hallway lockers and more than one lunch service. Cleaning teams should watch for cold and flu, norovirus, respiratory or bronchial bacteria and viruses, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Meningitis.

• Health Care — Whether it be assisted living, a nursing home, a rehabilitation center, an urgent care clinic or hospital, these are dangerous facilities and environmental services (EVS) training protocols and procedures should be as important as medicine, doctor certifications and licenses. If EVS workers do not do their job properly, and management and infection control do not have the right systems and technology in place, then hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) could occur, costing hospitals millions. But, a good system with proper technology, equipment and proper employee training can decrease HAIs, as well as help track them to their origin. These facilities are known to harbor viruses and bacteria previously mentioned, as well as Clostridium difficile (C.diff), HIV, Klebsiella Peumoniae, Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, Staphylococcus Aureus and Necrotizing Fasciitis.

• Public Buildings — Retail, government, commercial and industrial buildings all deal with the general public and will see most of the previously-mentioned infectious pathogens often. In other facilities, such as airports where people pass through from all over the world, higher precautions should be put into place.

People in airports could be passing through for minutes or hours, but if they are actively contagious or an infectious disease carrier, there could be trouble of an outbreak that literally flies around the country/world. Airports can see major plagues such as Zika and Ebola. Identification and quarantine are the best practices in these escalated situations.

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Protection From Pathogens