Recent Outbreaks of Listeria, Salmonella, and E. Coli


February 11, 2016 by TSBio

We clean everywhere; houses, gyms, offices, food processing facilities and hospitals. Whether we do it ourselves or pay someone else to do it. What exactly is clean though? If it is clean, is it disinfected?

One cannot ignore all of the recent headlines of E. Coli, Listeria and Salmonella outbreaks. How about the fact that there are over 100,000 deaths per year from secondary infections that patient’s contract during hospital stays?

It doesn’t make much sense. Hospitals and food processing plants are clean! Aren’t they? We have all seen janitors wiping down surfaces, mopping floors, wiping down equipment and walls, yet people still get sick and even worse die from some very serious outbreaks.

The issue lies in the misconception of what clean is vs. disinfected.

Let’s start with an example of a common household cleaner/disinfectant with bleach.

Disinfectants with bleach says it “kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses”. Sounds impressive, but the wording is not what most people think. It does not kill 99.9% of all types of viruses and bacteria that are in the environment. It merely kills 99.9% of a select list of virus or bacterial load on a properly treated surface. According to this particular label it only kills Staph, Salmonella, Rhinovirus, Flu virus.

Picture a table with 100,000 staph bacterium on the surface; after proper treatment this will leave only 100 bacterium out of the 100,000 bacterium alive after use. A product that claims 99.99% kill will leave 10 bacterium alive after proper use, while a product that claims 99.999% will leave 1 bacterium alive per 100,000.

Anything that is labeled 99.9999% is a true sterilizer and will not leave any live bacterium or viruses. This is called log reduction and it determines how effective a product is for labeled pathogens.

What is proper use? Most people would use this or similar products by spraying it on then wiping it off. Maybe it was a counter that raw chicken was cut on, or a patient bed rail that had blood on it. This method is actually considered pre cleaning, not disinfecting. Pre cleaning alone will leave hundreds of thousands to millions of viruses and bacterium alive on the surface and even worse can create highly resistance pathogens.

In order to properly disinfect a surface, disinfectants must be applied to a pre cleaned surface; then the product must remain completely wet for the prescribed amount of time on the product label to kill the specific targeted pathogen. Some viruses like HIV may only need 30 seconds of wet contact time on a surface to be affected while other hardy bacteria like Tuberculosis may require 30 minutes of wet contact time.

When was the last time you saw any hospital employees spray a surface and let it remain wet for 30 minutes?

To make things even more complicated, temperature also affects how long a product must remain wet on a surface to effectively kill the targeted pathogens. A reduction of 10 degrees may require doubling the length of time that a surface remains wet.

What is most important about proper disinfection is having a staff that understands the difference between an enveloped vs. non-enveloped virus and a gram negative vs. gram positive bacteria! How can you expect to fight an enemy that you don’t even know?

Don’t put your family, students, patients or coworkers at risk by trying to disinfect an outbreak on your own. Our team is specially trained in environmental disinfection against all harmful pathogens. We can even test surfaces for levels of microbial presence after our treatments to ensure the job was done right.