How healthcare cleaning tackles seasonal viruses and superbugs

In these autumn and winter months, there are a lot of seasonal viruses going around in the community. And of course, across the year, there’s the risk of antibiotic-resistant superbugs in hospitals. For 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. But hospitals and other healthcare settings can take a stand on reducing the risks of passing on these diseases. A robust cleaning regime in both clinical and public areas is essential. In this blog, we’re looking at how Fidelis’s healthcare cleaning services help fight against seasonal viruses and superbugs.

Seasonal viruses: a range of respiratory and gastroenteric diseases

Broadly speaking, seasonal viruses 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.

Superbugs: two nasty bacteria that can cause huge problems

Meanwhile, two bacteria are the 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 with sometimes severe gastroenteric symptoms. And C. Diff spreads easily through contact with contaminated materials. Some 15,000 patients being treated in hospitals in England had C. Diff infection in the year to September 2022 (whether acquired in hospitals or in the community).

Healthcare cleaning is critically important

Given the risks in healthcare settings from these diseases, 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 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. 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.

Here at Fidelis, we have healthcare cleaning covered

cleaning medical equipment in doctor surgery

Our range of cleaning services in healthcare settings helps limit the risks of pathogens spreading. Our janitorial and deep cleaning services provide regular cleaning of communal areas such as corridors and washrooms. And our Infection Control Service focuses more specifically on ensuring all surfaces are cleaned and disinfected. We use appropriate products which are effective but safe, and we follow strict infection control protocols to ensure complete decontamination.

We always encourage healthcare clients to make sure they have a good approach to hygiene and healthcare cleaning. 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 trained and vetted cleaning operatives are fit and well when they attend every cleaning assignment. The Fidelis approach to limiting the spread of seasonal viruses and superbugs is simple: we aim to eliminate pathogens on every surface on which they may linger.

To find out more about Fidelis Group and our healthcare cleaning services, contact one of the team today.

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Post by Jon Shaw

Jon is Managing Director at Fidelis Contract Services Ltd, a business dedicated to performance and professionalism in contract cleaning. Having been part of Fidelis for four years, and MD since December 2021, Jon knows the value of the company’s staff in building trust for successful long-term partnerships with clients in a range of sectors.

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