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Superbugs and seasonal viruses: how we help hospitals cope

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

At this time of year, hospitals must cope with both superbugs and seasonal viruses, and REACT’s hospital cleaning services help them do so

Infection control cleaning and hospital cleaning from REACT
REACT partners with hospitals in the fight against superbugs and seasonal viruses

In hospitals and other healthcare settings, limiting the spread of bacteria and viruses is always of critical importance. The effect of healthcare-acquired infections (HAI) can be devastating when people are already clinically vulnerable. There’s the risk of antibiotic-resistant superbugs in hospitals year-round, while there is also a slew of various seasonal viruses at this time of year. The good news is that the risks of passing on these diseases can be greatly reduced by a good cleaning regime. By focusing on both clinical and public areas across healthcare, this can help shut down the spread of pathogens. In this blog, we’re looking at how REACT’s hospital cleaning services help in the fight against superbugs and seasonal viruses.

Superbugs: two bacteria that healthcare providers must guard against

Two bacteria are the leading causes of HAIs in the UK. They’re both often called ‘superbugs’, because they’re resistant to antibiotics and so can 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 with sometimes severe gastroenteric symptoms. And C. Diff spreads easily through contact with contaminated materials. There were 15,000 patients being treated in hospitals in England for C. Diff infection in the year to September 2022 (whether acquired in hospitals or in the community).

Seasonal viruses: stopping the spread of respiratory and gastroenteric diseases

As for seasonal viruses, they fall into two categories. On the one hand, we have something that has been front of mind for us for the last three years: respiratory viruses. This year, Covid-19 is still prevalent; and as it’s spread through the air it’s worse when people are indoors more during the winter. We’ve all known about influenza (‘flu’) for years, which can cause serious infection, especially among vulnerable groups. Other major respiratory viruses include RSV (respiratory syncytial virus, which can be particularly problematic for children) and pneumonia (which can also be caused by certain strains of bacteria).

On the other hand, there are gastroenteric viruses affecting the digestive system. The most common is norovirus, known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’ as it is more prevalent during the winter. It’s the UK’s most common gastrointestinal infection, affecting between 600,000 and a million people a year (though not all healthcare-acquired). 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 (as well as eating food handled by an infected person). This means outbreaks are most likely when people are confined in close proximity, notably in hospitals and care homes.

Cleaning is critical when it comes to healthcare

Given the risks all these diseases pose in a healthcare setting, it’s all the more important to limit the risks of acquiring them in the first place. As we’ve already mentioned, they can be life-threatening to certain groups of patients. But they can also cause severe staffing issues, if large numbers of health and care workers are sick at any one time. Moreover, health and safety laws mean that UK healthcare organisations must protect employees, patients, and visitors against the spread of bacteria and viruses.

For healthcare providers there are 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. NHS hospitals must demonstrate they’re thinking both strategically and operationally about cleaning. New national standards of healthcare cleanliness published in April 2021 served to reinforce and extend this further.

How our hospital cleaning services help

By contracting out their cleaning to REACT, hospitals can prove 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. We use a range of different decontamination methods as appropriate for the particular healthcare setting involved. We pay most careful 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 cleaning operatives are fit and well when they attend every cleaning assignment. REACT’s approach to limiting the spread of superbugs and seasonal viruses is simple: we aim to eliminate pathogens on every surface where they may linger.

To find out more about how REACT Specialist Cleaning’s hospital cleaning services help control superbugs and seasonal viruses, contact one of the team today.

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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