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Infection Control

Dealing effectively with MRSA?

September 19, 2010
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I am not going to talk about what industry specialists and experts have discussed in the past, regarding the CDC and EPA protocols and procedures for MRSA control.

I am going to go out on a limb and assume that all proper procedures and practices are being followed by readers of this publication on a per-shift or daily basis, as conditions warrant.

I also assume that you or your personnel attend seminars or hold seminars by leading specialists for your employees to learn how to perform the job needed.

MRSA threat spreads
MRSA has entered the mainstream and is infecting children and adults in the most unlikely of places.

Historically, this menace was limited to the institutional health care environment.

Today, schools, gymnasiums, public transit, school buses, athletic clubs, and hotels and motels have reported incidents of this super-resistant bacteria strain.

It is spread from skin-to-skin contact and from being in contact with daily use areas, such as gym mats and urinals.

Doing the job right
Would you use a screwdriver as a hammer? Of course not.

Then why would you use an all-purpose cleaner or a disinfectant which does not claim to kill MRSA in a known MRSA environment?

Or why use a neutral cleaner and or a disinfectant cleaner without a MRSA claim?

I am a believer in the use of an effective two-step program of a higher alkaline cleaning step, followed by an EPA-registered disinfectant detergent, RTU, or concentrate.

A thoroughly cleaned surface allows the disinfectant to do its job properly.

If organic, oily soils are left over, there is a possibility that the disinfectant will not be able to do its job, as it may become weaker due to the contact with organic soils, and the germ becomes stronger.

After proper cleaning, allow the disinfectant solution to remain wet on the surface(s) for 10 minutes.

Remember, substandard procedures and substandard practices yield substandard results.

Years ago, health care and other public and private institutions started using less aggressive methods for cleaning and controlling microorganisms.

Neutral cleaning of rooms, classrooms, and equipment in the immediate patient and use areas became the norm, and remains so today in many institutions.

However, ignoring proper procedure with the proper product is almost like doing nothing at all, and may be worse.

Personal experience
My mother passed away 18 months ago from MRSA-related complications in the acute care facility she resided in.

In her six months there, she contracted MRSA five times.

Furthermore, this incident happened in a major metropolitan hospital.

Twelve people in my mother’s 15-room wing had a MRSA infection.

MRSA and vancomycin, the drug used to treat MRSA, effectively weaken the body’s defenses, making the patient susceptible to catch MRSA again and again until it makes the patient so weak, he/she cannot fight off infection anymore.

I watched the housekeeping staff clean and I could see that they were using neutral wipes on movable tray carts, bed frames, floors, and restroom surfaces.

But these surfaces weren’t clean.

I would bring several products to my mother’s room to clean and disinfect.

Once, I measured the pH of the mop solution (on the sneak) and it measured 8.0 on the indicator strip (no quat content).

Following the housekeeper on my mother’s tray table, bed frames, night table, etc., I then wiped some of these surfaces with my fingers and it was immediately dry with an oily, slimy feel.

Then, as the housekeeper damp mopped the floor with a neutral cleaner, I asked “Why a neutral cleaner, and why no disinfectant step, especially on floors and contact surfaces, where applicable, with an approved EPA-registered disinfectant afterward, leaving it wet, based on the directions”?

The housekeeper looked at me like I was from Mars and replied, “Price, honey, price. This is what they give us, this is what I use.”

When I inquired about this to the Infection Control Nurse, I was told about “protocol and procedure” that the staff follows, which they follow on a daily basis.

“We only completely disinfect when the patient leaves the room for good,” she said. “We don’t have the time nor the staff, nor the resources to provide the daily disinfectant procedures you are talking about. We do what is required by law. My administration wants to save money.”

I couldn’t believe that this facility didn’t have “enough resources” to provide an EPA disinfectant cleaning product and procedure to protect patients, visitors, the public, employees, and the institution from MRSA.

Importance of hand-washing and good air
I also, astonishingly, watched caregivers between patients neglect to wash their hands with soap and water.

Sometimes they splashed their hands with alcohol gel and did not even allow it the proper spreading over the skin to sanitize.

The skin care soap, on each wall at each wash station, was hardly ever used.

Since we were children, we have been told that the best way to prevent the spread of germs is to wash our hands with soap and warm water.

Today, we recommend hand-washing with agitation, which can remove at least 99 percent of harmful germs.

In the past, institutions quarantined patients with MRSA.

Since it is so common today, it is all right out in the open.

I also inquired about indoor air quality and the sanitizing of the air in this institution.

Filthy air goes from ward to ward and duct to duct, which means the entire facility is breathing filthy, infected air.

Expense was again the excuse.

I argued, “You’d rather give vancomycin to the whole population than correct the in-house protocols, procedures and practices”?

There is more money to be made from treating the problem than there is in correcting the problem.

The amount of effort and product that it takes to do the job right is minuscule compared to the loss of life, pain, suffering, and trauma endured by MRSA-infected people.

Not to mention a family’s mourning over the needless loss of a loved one.

If your detergent-based cleaning and disinfectant program utilizes concentrates, or ready-to-use formulas, follow package instructions specifically to allow for the effective removal of microorganisms from surfaces.

If your disinfectant (RTU or concentrate) has a MRSA claim, use it properly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Again, make sure that you use an EPA-registered product that has the claim needed to perform the particular disinfectant function you or your institution are looking for.

Having the right product does not guarantee success.

Manufacturers have spent millions of dollars to research and provide materials and manuals for the proper use of these products.

Please use the right tools to get the right results.

Gregory Robinson is managing member of Griffin Chemical Co., LLC. Griffin markets product under the name of W.O.W! Brand Products (, Buffalo, NY. Griffin Chemical is a green chemistry specialties manufacturer that produces W.O.W! brand cleaning products. The company also provides highly effective chemical specialties for the industrial, institutional and consumer chemical specialties markets.
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