Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hand washing just one part of infection control, medical experts say

An excellent common sense approach to the hype surrounding hand washing hygiene. This article is excerpted from the Grand Island Independent, a newspaper published in Nebraska:

"Widespread use of antibacterial hand gels has helped make it easier for healthcare workers to comply with hand hygiene policies, which is especially important during cold and flu season.

The gels, which have been proven as effective at killing germs as soap and water, are also less drying to the skin an important quality for those who work in the medical field and may cleanse their hands up to 50 times per day.

Recent studies and local experience have proven, however, that increasing compliance to hand-washing policies is not always enough to reduce the rates of hospital-acquired infections.

A study published by the University of Nebraska Medical Center this month showed that while use of antibacterial hand gels in two UNMC adult intensive care units helped the units increase their hand-washing rate from 38 percent to 70 percent, there was no corresponding reduction in hospital-acquired infections.

But a similar experiment at St. Francis Medical Center has had different results.

At St. Francis, the use of hand sanitizer and the creation of a hand hygiene improvement committee has nearly doubled the rate of hand-washing policy compliance for the entire hospital, said Laura Mader, St. Francis infection control coordinator.

The hospital's current 76 percent compliance rate is above the national average. It has also led to a decrease in St. Francis' incidence of hospital-acquired infections, Mader said.

While UNMC and St. Francis had different results in similar experiments, officials from both facilities agree that hand washing, while highly important, is only one component of infection control.

"There are many factors that influence the development of hospital-acquired infection," said Dr. Mark Rupp, professor of infectious diseases at UNMC. "It would be naive to think that a single, simple intervention would fix this problem."

The lack of a correlation between increased hand hygiene and lower incidence of infections could be attributed to many factors, including UNMC's already low infection rate in the ICU."

Infection Control professionals fight disease transmission on many fronts. While hand washing has drawn much attention, it is merely one weapon in the arsenal. We believe that a comprehensive approach to infection control should include air disinfection, especially in critical care units.

Case Fatality Rate for Avian Flu is 80.6% in Indonesia

Disturbing news from the Indonesian Ministry of Health that says 80% of the people who contract H5N1 Avian Influenza (AI), will die from from the infection:

"Four AI New Cases at the End of January

29 Jan 2008

Entering last week in January 2008, there are 4 more AI cases, based on RT PCR (Real Time Polimerase Chain Reaction) test in laboratories of National Institute of Health Research & Development (Balitbangkes) MOH and Eijkman Molecular Biological Institute. Those 4 cases are Nas (Tangerang District, Banten), MIY (Depok, West Java), and Res and Vir (both from East Jakarta).

Since the first case found in mid July 2005, number of AI cases in Indonesia by January 28, 2008 reaches 124 cases with 100 of them dead. The Case Fatality Rate (CFR) is 80.6%."

Some have argued that the CFR for AI is skewed because there may be many instances where nonfatal AI is not reported or mistakenly diagnosed as seasonal influenza. Dr. Niman @ Recombinomics has stated that high CFR rates for AI are not inflated and presents an elegant argument here.

Putting these numbers in perspective:

How does this relate to a possible pandemic? Nobody knows for sure, but informed calculations project that assuming a clinical attack rate of 25%, a pandemic could kill 1.7 million Americans. The assumed CFR for this projection is 2.3%.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Reporting Live From AHR EXPO 2008

The AHR Expo is in full swing here in New York City. We are among 1,800 exhibitors that are presenting booths at this show. The technical programs have been outstanding, especially the programs dealing with Ultraviolet light.
As a whole the industry seems to be maturing. As compared to previous years when people asked, “What is UV?”, this year they know what it can do and are asking more questions regarding applications. The field of UV manufacturers is well represented here at the Expo and at the technical committee level. Although we are competitors there is an agreement that we have shared interests as an industry.
This spirit was evident at a symposium entitled, ‘Applying UV Without Getting Burned’. Moderated by Steve Martin, the forum discussed the safety implications of applying UV to HVAC. Altru V’s VP of Technology Dave Witham demonstrated how his company is testing the effects of UV on HVAC components such as filters, insulation and wiring. His company has created a testing chamber to help quantify those effects.
Richard Vincent, the author of many journal articles on UVGI, also touched upon the safety aspects of applying UV. Dr. Vincent is a recognized expert in the field and discussed the conclusions of a 7 year study on the effects of UV in homeless shelters.
The always entertaining Dave Marciniak of the GSA round-out the forum. His use of humor livened the sometimes dry details of government safety guidelines and regulations. Being the last speak in a forum is always tough but Dave did it with memorable style. My kind of bureaucrat!
Another highlight was a presentation made by Kathryn Worrilow Ph.D of Leigh Valley Hospital. Her talk was part of the TC 2.9 (thanks for the update, Mr. Bahnfleth) series, AKA Control of Infectious Diseases with UVGI. Dr. Worrilow, an embryologist, explained how the use of UVGI air disinfection led to better clinical outcomes in her lab. Her study, The Impact of UVC Radiation on Clinical Pregnancy and Miscarriage Rates in ISO 5 Cleanroom In Vitro Fertilization Laboratory was well received and is the latest in a growing body of evidence linking UV air sanitation with positive clinical outcomes.
Among the contacts VIGILAIR made at AHR is Ponkamon Aumpansub, a graduate student at Penn State. Her studies at the prestigious Penn State Indoor Environment Center deal with the complex issues surrounding the modeling and mitigation of contaminants in large buildings. AHR is first and foremost an expo to promote business. It is also important to recognize that tomorrow innovations will come from today’s engineering students such as Ms. Aumpansub. It is imparative for commercial entities to foster the relationship between research and commercial applications as their goals are connected.
The theme that seemed to resonate throughout the 1,800 exhibits this year is the emerging importance of IAQ in all aspects of HVAC. There is an awareness from front line mechanical contractors to multi-national manufacturers that HVAC is all about creating an environment of comfort and safety indoors. VIGILAIR and our partners at Steril-Aire are at the vanguard of implementing UV to meet those goals.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

ASHRAE Meeting off to great start

It's cold here in New York City as the annual winter meeting ASHRAE lives up to its name. With so many forums to attend, where do you begin.
This morning we attended an excellent seminar titled, "Hazardous Biological Agents in Hospital Air: When the HVAC Plant exacerbates rather than mitigates against HAI". Dr. Bob Scheir of Steril-Aire led the discussion on why Health Care Facilities pose unique challenges to HVAC engineers. The seminar was well attended reflecting the increased interest in airborne transmission of disease.
Tim Keane, a consulting engineer to Health Care clients, talked about the importance of maintenance programs, and how simple measurements can indicate if your system is fouled by microorganisms.
William McCoy, PhD of the life sciences company Phigenics, focused on Legionella in the Health Care setting. Dr. McCoy enlightened us on the unique relationship between protozoa and legionella. He also said that while our understanding of this pathogen has increased, much more research needs to be done.
The afternoon was spent in a lively technical meeting (TC 9.6-the subcommittee on Infectious Diseases). A spirited discussion ensued, led by Mike Keen. While much ground was covered, the meeting also highlighted how much more science is needed. But the good news is that the engineering community is starting to accept the idea that HVAC can prevent/cause nosocomial infection. The seminar was a good mix of experienced members and many younger engineers who are interested in this emerging topic.
That's all for tonight!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hand washing no panacea

I was delighted to hear the ABC song drifting from my bathroom last night.  It meant that my five year old son was following the instructions he learned in school to properly guage the amount of time he should wash his hands with soap and water.  Will he do this everytime? Probably not, but it is important to try.

The situation in my house is much like the situation in many healthcare facilities, according to an LA Tines article on the MRSA Watch blog site:

30 studies show hand washing neglect

Link: Beating the staph superbug - Los Angeles Times.

But, with a few exceptions, hospitals and public agencies have been slow to gear up against MRSA. More than 30 studies have shown, for example, that healthcare workers wash their hands about half as often as they're supposed to, even though washing before and after seeing each patient would drastically cut down on infection rates. Hospital surfaces and equipment aren't cleaned as often as they should be, and careless habits -- like touching potentially contaminated surfaces after hands have been washed but before touching the patient -- contribute to the spread. The first order of business should be to get a clear picture of MRSA. Where is it and how prevalent? An upcoming bill by state Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) would make MRSA a reportable disease and require hospitals and nursing homes to report their infection rates. In Tennessee, which tracks MRSA, it quickly became the third most common reportable disease in the state, behind chlamydia and gonorrhea. A similar bill was vetoed in 2004 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the recent news from the CDC should make him rethink his position, despite the almost certain opposition of hospitals.


I bring this to your attention to demonstrate that infection control is dynamic.  There is no silver bullet.  Infection control requires multi-layers and some redundancies.  Our technology, VIGILAIR®, does not replace other sanitary efforts--it complements and enhances them.  Like hand washing, VIGILAIR® is not a cure all.  It is a prudent and effective way to reduce the airborne environmental pathogens within your facility.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Brits love a healthy debate...

From Britain's Telegraph, news on a new government program to reduce antibiotic prescriptions as a way to reduce the superbug cycle. I've included a snippet of the article. It is the responses to the article that are just as interesting. In response to this topic, readers blame doctors, politicians and patients for the problem. These comments show the complexity of the issue and the passion of those seeking a solution. My favorite response is listed below in which the writer tells people to stop being wimps, suck it up and go to the doctor's office less.

Stop giving antibiotics for colds, doctors told

By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor
Last Updated: 12:09pm GMT 09/01/2008

Doctors are to be told to stop prescribing antibiotics for coughs, colds and sore throats because over-use of the drugs is fuelling the spread of killer hospital superbugs.

  • Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, says it is time to end the unnecessary use of penicillin and other commonly-prescribed pills, which cost the NHS £1.7 billion a year.

    Using antibiotics too liberally has led to bugs such as MRSA becoming resistant to treatment with the drugs. Most colds, coughs and flu are caused by viruses, which cannot be treated with antibiotics anyway, Mr Johnson points out.

    Announcing a £270 million campaign against superbugs, to be launched next month, he says it is vital that doctors adopt "less of a knee-jerk reaction to prescribing".

    The campaign, called Clean, Safe Care, will also include an extra £45 million for hospitals to spend on infection control nurses or antibiotic specialist pharmacists. All patients going into hospital will be screened for MRSA by 2009.


    Antibiotics fight "bugs", not viruses, so the basic premise is absolutely correct. Do not give antibiotics merely for colds or flu. BUT post viral conditions such as chest infection, infected sinuses and catarrh (and real sore throats) DO need antibiotics and I hope this will not change under the new guidelines. Perhaps doctors could prescribe a placebo antibiotic to anyone insisting on antibiotics who merely has a viral infection.
    Posted by graham wagner on January 9, 2008 9:59 AM

    Antibiotics are not the cure for superbugs, cleanliness is - and the hospitals simply aren't clean enough in the UK. Accountability is needed, not money, run a hospital like a fast food joint. "Clean as you go" and it is all staff's responsibilty to clean up, not delegated to the lowest bidder.
    Posted by Craig Douglas on January 9, 2008 9:55 AM

    So what is Alan Johnson's next big idea? Now wash your hands? Make sure you're wearing your face-mask? Or is he going to go round every surgery and tell the doctors what medicine to prescribe? What a joke! The trouble is this joker is in charge of the health service! That is more frightening than any superbug.
    Posted by Pinkie on January 9, 2008 9:27 AM

    The best solution for colds and viruses is to stop giving them to everyone else!
    If people stayed at home and looked after themselves when they became ill there would be a lot less general illness in the community, rather than battling on and infecting all and sundry.
    Surely we all know by now that antibiotics are not given out by GPs for colds - that has been common knowledge for decades - hence the barrage of cold 'cures' on the shelves.
    Posted by Annie on January 9, 2008 9:25 AM

    I am a GP and we know that we should not give antibiotics in the circumstances described; the patients do not always know this and it does not matter how many times we inform them they will keep coming back until they get them, in these circumstances another approach needs to be adopted and a debate needs to be taken on what this might be.
    Posted by Jonathan Allcock on January 9, 2008 8:50 AM

    Simple - don't go to your doctor - it's dangerous. I've been telling my patients this for years. The whole ludicrous thing is compounded by several factors: the great unwashed believe it's their god given right to be ill on a regular basis, a health service that is free at the point of delivery (if you offer free beer there's a queue that stretches round the corner and up the road), and a partially educated, disinterested and overpaid workforce.
    Posted by Andrew Renaut, Associate Professor of Surgery, Brisbane on January 9, 2008 8:36 AM

    The crux of the issue lies in the fact that many people are greedy and want immediate satisfaction. I have wrestled with people who demanded antibiotics for simple viral illnesses. The the patient wants to leave with something in his/her pocket and they are willing to go to any means to acquire it.
    There are also legal implications that are caused by the system. If a patient complains of not receiving the desired medication or a rationalized "standard of care", the legal system automatically demonizes the medical practitioner.
    I am all for placebo's in this instance.
    Posted by James on January 9, 2008 7:51 AM

    Yes suck it up. It is called illness. We are made of flesh and blood and mortal. It is normal for people to get sick off and on. You must endure illness sometime. If you find yourself going to the doc everytime you feel unwell then you likely are a mental case ie "nervous nelly". Anxiety /depression are a big reason why folks can't cope w/ minor illnesses. Quick being a wimp
    Posted by ER doc on January 9, 2008 6:59 AM

    Again the real cause of hospital infection is ignored. Unsustainable bed occupancy ratios, and out- sourcing of hospital cleaning. Blaming GPs is an irrelevant political ploy. Fight the real battle please.
    Posted by John Powell on January 9, 2008 6:47 AM

    Most experts talk around the Problem of Antibiotic Resistance. Your article headlines should say "ALL COLDS ARE VIRUSES, ANTIBIOTICS DO NOT KILL VIRUSES, THEREFORE YOU(DOCTORS) MUST NOT USE/ ANTIBIOTICS and start from there. Bacteria and viruses are as different as Gold and Lead. It is possible that a virus can make a person sick and that because of a compromised Immune System bacterial Infections can follow which can then require antibiotics to heal, It should also be pointed out that antibiotics tend to kill many neccessary bacterial species in the body and so lead to further problems-(example,life on the toilet) and Candida infections
    Posted by declan mansfield on January 9, 2008 6:13 AM

    Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/01/09/nbiotic109.xml

    Tuesday, January 08, 2008

    Airborne Germs and Handwringing — Sciencebase Science Blog

    An excellent blog that shows the growing understanding of the role that airborne transmission plays in disease.  The blog, www.sciencebase.com, is an excellent source for interesting debate on many scientific fronts.

    Airborne Germs and Handwringing — Sciencebase Science Blog

    Jan 7, 2008

    Airborne Germs and Handwringing

    Posted in Health at 1:00 pm by David Bradley -- 7 Comments


    Just before the Christmas break, right as my annual winter festival cold kicked in and I was up to my neck in end of year deadlines, I posted a link to a press release in my Geeky Bits science extra column. That page is a repository of the less worthy, but hopefully interesting stuff I come across. Occasionally, I see an intriguing headline, give it a click, give the text a quick read through, add the item to the Bits, and thinking nothing more of it, just as one might with a del.icio.us or StumbleUpon post.

    However, one regular Sciencebase reader, Churchill Fellow Grace Filby, was somewhat taken aback by my highlighting a timely press release from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (University of London) - and described it as “a load of misguided nonsense”. Unfortunately, there is no online feedback or comments form on that LSHTM press release through which we could open a public debate on its content.

    The press release was entitled - “If you don’t want to fall ill this Christmas, then share a festive kiss but don’t shake hands” - not the snappiest of titles but almost certainly one attempting to catch the wave of festive spirit seeing as it was released on December 19. However, both the title and the subheading of the press release (”The fight against all types of infections, from colds and flu to stomach bugs and MRSA, begins at home, with good hand hygiene, says first review of hand hygiene in the community.”) perhaps places too much emphasis on hand hygiene as opposed to the problem of airborne pathogens, believes Filby.

    First off, Filby says that the press release “deflects the public’s attention away from a major source of germs which is the air we breathe…handwashing is only a part of it.” She adds that, “It is the germs arriving in the air that need disinfecting or freshening before the germs land on surfaces that could be touched by hands and passed to other people.” Even the British government appears to be acknowledging this to some degree, according to The Times on Christmas Eve in a bulleted item on how air disinfection

    The press release states: “But a report just published warns that we may be far more at risk of passing on an infection by shaking someone’s hand than in sharing a kiss.” As far as we can see, the full text of the original 38-page report cited in the release the word kiss or kissing occurs only once. It’s almost as if the press office hoped to catch media attention with the mistletoe and seasonal kissing theme regardless of the science reported in the report itself. Moreover, there is nothing much about handshakes or shaking hands either.

    There are several other dubious details about handwashing: “but we believe that this targeted approach to home hygiene…” Is “believe” valid in a heavyweight scientific document of this sort, asks Filby.

    The press release concludes that, “Handwashing with soap is probably the single most important thing you can do to protect yourselves and your loved ones from infection this Christmas.” Probably - that’s good, but we also need to deal with airborne germs. Whatever would Florence Nightingale have said?

    Regardless, the main problem is that the press release ignores the primary source of respiratory infection which occurs from carrier to the next victim before pathogens ever fall onto a surface. In the case of many winter bugs, they spread quickly through sneezes or coughs when people don’t cover their noses and mouths.

    Of course, Filby and I could put on our cynical hats at this point and come up with some kind of plausible explanation as to why hand hygiene as opposed to air hygiene is considered important. “Perhaps it is worth noting that funding for research on air hygiene wasn’t forthcoming whereas for hand hygiene there are plenty of interested parties - soap manufacturers, handwash products and water companies,” says Filby.

    Hand hygiene is obviously part of the story and in the pre-Xmas rush for headlines one could forgive the LSHTM for highlighting it, but a broader perspective on all-round hygiene education and the promotion of other aspects of hygiene, as opposed to simple hand-wringing in the washroom, would have made more sense.

    Minor editing. Source, http://www.sciencebase.com/science-blog/airborne-germs-and-handwringing.html: