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3 superbugs we shut down via infection control in hospitals

We shut down healthcare-acquired infections caused by MRSA, C. Diff and norovirus via infection control and decontamination in hospitals.

We’ve all been forced to think carefully about how pathogens spread over the past year and a half. We’ve been constantly reminded that clean hands, covered faces, and social distance can reduce coronavirus transmission. Of course, in hospitals and other healthcare settings, limiting the spread of bacteria and viruses is always front of mind. When people are already clinically vulnerable, the effect of healthcare-acquired infections (HAI) can be devastating. And the risks of passing on these diseases can be greatly reduced by a good cleaning regime. That’s why we have our specialist infection control service, to shut down the spread of pathogens in clinical and public areas across healthcare. In this blog, we’re looking at three of the most common causes of HAIs: MRSA, C. diff and norovirus.

Two ‘superbug’ bacteria for healthcare providers to guard against

Two bacteria are leading causes of HAIs in the UK. They’re both often called ‘superbugs’, because they’re resistant to antibiotics and can therefore be difficult to treat. First up, we have MRSA (or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus in full). Around 1 in 30 people carry MRSA harmlessly on their skin and can pass it on by touching everyday surfaces and items. MRSA can survive on surfaces for weeks, spreading to people who touch a contaminated surface and causing infections if it gets into a wound. This infection (MRSA bacteraemia) is a particular problem for post-surgical patients, who can develop life-threatening symptoms.

The second bacterium under our microscope is Clostridium difficile (colloquially known as C. Diff). About 1 in every 30 healthy adults have these bacteria in their digestive system, but other bacteria normally found there keep it under control. Unfortunately, some antibiotics taken to treat other infections can interfere with this bacterial balance, causing C. Diff to produce toxins that make the person ill. Symptoms range from diarrhoea, nausea, and stomach cramps, through to serious bowel damage. And C. Diff spreads easily through contact with contaminated materials. Some 13,900 patients in hospitals in England suffered C. Diff infection in the year to May 2021.

One virus that can spread fast in hospitals

Completing our trio of troublesome pathogens, we have norovirus, known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’. While it usually spreads during the winter months, it can occur throughout the year. It’s the UK’s most common gastrointestinal infection, affecting between 600,000 and a million people a year (though not all of these cases are healthcare-acquired). Symptoms of infection are nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting, and the virus spreads very easily from close contact with someone infected. It can survive on surfaces or objects for many days, so can pass on through touch (especially if someone touches an infected surface and then their mouth). It can also spread by eating food that's been prepared or handled by an infected person.

This means outbreaks are most likely when people are confined in close proximity, notably in hospitals and care homes. Technically, norovirus isn’t normally called a superbug; as it’s a virus, it can’t be treated by antibiotics anyway. But we’d argue that it warrants the term, as it can be a serious problem. It can be difficult to keep vulnerable patients properly hydrated. And it can cause severe staffing issues, if large numbers of health and care workers are sick at any one time.

Cleaning is critical when it comes to healthcare

Given the difficulty of treating all these diseases, it’s all the more important to limit the risks of acquiring them in the first place. While the HSE doesn’t publish guidance on dealing with these three pathogens, there is specific advice for the NHS. For instance, online advice recommends anyone who has had symptoms associated with Norovirus stay off work or school for 2 days after the symptoms have stopped, as that’s when they're most infectious. In hospitals, patients are usually isolated for up to three days after symptoms have cleared. See the leaflet>

Moreover, health and safety laws mean that UK healthcare organisations must protect employees, patients, and visitors against the spread of bacteria and viruses. General health and safety advice about cleaning and infection control is available on the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website. Read the advice here>. For healthcare providers, there are more specific measures in place. The Health Act 2006 code of practice places clear responsibility on the care provider to clean properly, leading to a revised specification for cleaning hospitals published in 2014.

Cleaning culture sits at the heart of our response to HAIs

NHS hospitals must demonstrate they’re thinking both strategically and operationally about cleaning. By contracting out to REACT, they’re proving that they’re resourcing specialist cleaning properly and setting out clear lines of responsibility. Our janitorial and deep cleaning services provide regular cleaning of common areas such as corridors and washrooms. And our Infection Control Service focuses more specifically on ensuring all surfaces are cleaned and disinfected. In healthcare settings, we pay particular attention to surgical areas such as operating theatres and post-operative care facilities. We use appropriate products which are effective but safe, and we follow strict infection control protocols (test, clean, disinfect and test again) to ensure complete decontamination.

We always encourage healthcare clients to make sure they have a good approach to hygiene. This includes making sure employees don’t come to work if they’re sick, or that patients and service users report if they become ill. We follow our own advice too, by ensuring all our workers are fit and well when they attend each and every cleaning assignment. Our approach to limiting the spread of these three pathogens is simple: we aim to shut down superbugs on every surface on which they may linger.

To find out more about REACT Specialist Cleaning and how our infection control service is effective against superbugs in hospitals and other healthcare settings, contact one of the team today.

  • Telephone: 01283 550 503

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Post by Shaun D. Doak

Shaun is the CEO of REACT Group plc., a business dedicated to specialist cleaning, hygiene, and decontamination. He is deeply committed to making sure that every one of our company’s clients receives the highest possible level of service. An expert in HVAC and commercial and industrial cleaning methodologies, Shaun has extensive experience in the facilities management and renewable services sector.


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