Fighting infection - a matter of life and death

9th of November 2015
Fighting infection - a matter of life and death

Fighting infections truly is a matter of life and death. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that at any given time, of every 100 hospitalised patients, seven in developed countries and 10 in developing countries will acquire at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI).1 Tragically that means every year, HAIs kill 16,000,000 patients as documented in Thierry Crouzet’s ‘Clean Hands Save Lives’ book.

Dr Ilham Kadri, president of Sealed Air Diversey Care, writes exclusively for ECJ's Hygiene for Health supplement.

In the EU alone, approximately 4,100,000 patients per annum acquire a HAI according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC). The number of deaths occurring due to these infections is estimated to be over 37, 000 and HAIs are thought to contribute to an additional 110,000 deaths each year. Approximately 20–30 per cent of healthcare-associated infections are considered to b

e preventable by intensive hygiene and control programmes again according to the ECDPC.
Infection prevention and control are therefore now, more than ever, key objectives of healthcare locations and most other types of facilities too.

The healthcare sector, and the building service contractors who clean within them, have long placed huge emphasis upon understanding and mitigating the risk factors that can lead to outbreaks of infectious pathogens. Increasingly, others are following suit – from the hospitality sector to food services, retailers to offices – and with good reason.

Financial implications

An organisation’s brand reputation and brand value can be tarnished and diminished – perhaps even irreversibly. Who would want to go to a hospital, or eat at a restaurant or school canteen, in which people have fallen ill? Future business may well be affected, and many who have suffered such circumstances know that recovering a brand’s good name, once diminished in the eyes of the public, is a long and slow road. In the meantime, fingers may well be pointed at those responsible for designing and undertaking the (failed) cleaning regime.

But it is not just the infection of patrons which can have serious financial implications. When a facility fails to take adequate precautions against contagions, employees are also risk of becoming ill. Absenteeism will always reduce overall productivity as projects become delayed and deadlines are missed. Ultimately, robust infection prevention practices result in both healthier people, and a healthier bottom line.

If you want further validation of this point, I strongly recommend that you look at the Value of Clean Calculator from our friends at ISSA. In recent years, there has been an explosion in the scientific breakthroughs which are driving – and changing – the future of this area.

For example, in the last 10 years, the volume of scientific literature being produced on environmental microbiology has expanded exponentially. This is in itself one of the most significant breakthroughs affecting infection prevention. It has created a powerful focus on the impact the environment has on infection rates – including increased investigation into areas that were previously largely ignored, such as the role of soft surfaces in patient care.

In turn this focus has led to the development of technologies that help address the risks inherent in the environment – such as those that significantly reduce pathogen load on surfaces – and has led to increased efforts to elevate the role of certain highly effective cleaning practices, like good hand hygiene.

There is a wealth of new products on the market designed to help cleaning teams better tackle and reduce the risk of infection. These include hands-free robotic cleaning machines, no-touch disinfectants like fogging or the use of UV lights, and safer, more effective disinfectants such Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide (AHP) technology – a blend of surfactants, chelating agents and low levels of hydrogen peroxide which have been demonstratively proven to reduce infection rates.

Safe and efficient processes

With a shift towards more cleaning taking place while patients are present – and this means that cleaning processes must be completed safely and efficiently by cleaning staff, so as not to create an unpleasant environment or put patients at risk - AHP formulations are increasingly replacing disinfectants whose formulations include chlorine and/or quat-based ingredients.

There has also been a rise in the use of cleaning validation methodology, which allows facilities to better understand how effective cleaning should be conducted, and therefore whether they need to re-evaluate their current procedures.

There are standards of care, especially related to healthcare facilities, which are fairly well established within the recommendations that come from the CDC and WHO. However, there is sometimes a gap between what these and other such organisations put forward in their guidance, and the specific details needed to effectively manage the environmental risks that contribute to infections. This is where cleaning validation methodology comes in.

For example Diversey’s VeriClean is a comprehensive cleaning validation solution designed for healthcare, which does just this – in addition to improving cleaning compliance; it also focuses on the processes of cleaning that are being used to clean a clinical space. New technologies and products play a strong part in infection prevention, but more ‘fundamental’ solutions which address the actual methods of cleaning are vital in helping to reduce the risk of environmental contamination, and ultimately reducing infection rates.

The fight for universal adoption of infection prevention best-practices is not one that is going to be won overnight. My view is that it is a multi-year exercise that will ultimately rely not only upon the development of new technologies, but also upon ensuring knowledge levels are raised internationally and on all sides of our industry – contractor, distributor, manufacturer and end client. But as science and technology continue to innovate, the future of infection prevention looks very bright – and very clean!



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