Workplace Infections

More Than Just a Cleaning Company

We Live in a world of germs.

Germs are behind every fever, runny nose, ache, pain, of every cold and flu you have ever had. When your in the midst of such symptoms, you might not stop to think about such germs (microbes) that are causing them.

Bacteria, viruses and other infectious organisms – germs – live everywhere. You can find them in the air, on food, plants and animals, in the soil, in the water and on just about every other surface – including your own body. These microbes range in size from microscopic single-celled organisms to parasitic worms that can grow to several feet in length. Most of these organisms will not harm you. Your immune system protects you against a multitude of infectious agents. However, some bacteria and viruses are formidable adversaries because they are constantly mutating to breach your immune system’s defences.

The following descriptions show the difference between bacteria and viruses:


Bacteria are one-celled organisms visible only with a microscope. They are so small that if you lined up a thousand of them end to end, they they could fit across the end of a pencil eraser. They are shaped like short rods, sheres or spirals. Bacteria are self-sufficient – they do not need a host to reproduce and they multiply by subdivision.

Among the earliest forms of life on earth, bacteria have evolved to thrive in a variety of environments. Some can withstand searing

heat or frigid cold, and others can survive radiation levels that would be lethal to humans. Many bacteria, however, pefer the mild environment of a healthy body.

Not all bacteria are harmful. In fact less than 1% cause disease and some bacteria that live in your body are actually good for you. For instance, Lactobacillus acidophilus – a harmless bacterium that resides in your intestines – helps you digest food, destroys some disease-causing organisms and provides nutrients to your body.

But when infectious bacteria enter your body, they can cause illness. They rapidly reproduce and many produce toxins – powerful chemicals that damage specific cells in the tissue they have invaded. That is what makes you ill. The oragnism that causes gonorrhoea (gonococcus) is an example of a bacterial invader. Others include some strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli – better known as E. coli – which cause severe gastrointestinal illness and are most often contracted via contaminated food. If you ever had strep throat, bacteria caused it.


In its simplest form a virus is a capsule that contains genetic material – DNA or RNA. Viruses are even tinier than bacteria. To put their siz into perspective, consider that, according to the American Society for Microbiology, if you were to enlarge an average virus to the size of a baseball,the average bacterium would be about the size of the pitchers mound. And just one of your body’s millions of cells would be the size of the entire ballpark.

The main mission of a virus ia to reproduce. However, unlike bacteria, viruses are not self sufficient – they need a suitable host to reproduce. When a virus invades your body, it enters some of your cells and takes over, instructing these host cells to make what it needs for reproduction. Host cells are eventually destroyed during this process. POlio, AIDS and the common cold are all viral illnesses.


Staphylococcus aureus or ‘staph’ as it is sometimes called, is a common bacterium found on the skin or in the nose of 25-30% of humans. While it is usually harmless, in certain instances it may cause moderate to severe skin infections. Less commonly, it causes more serious systemic infections e.g., bloodstream surgical wound and pneumonia requiring hospitalisation. One group of staph known as MRSA, (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) was first

identified in the 1960’s, and is now prevalent in most hospitals. The organisms are resistant to multiple antibiotics (specifically, all antibiotics known as beta lactams, as well as other antibiotic families), and are therefore cause for considerable concern. Because of resistance, vancomycin has often been the only drug able to successfully treat these MRSA infections.

A Newer form of Staph infection, Known as CA-MRSA (for community-acquired, or community-associated Staphylococcus aureus) has appeared with increasing frequency and is now epidemic within certain community populations. Whereas hospital MRSA is almost always found in persons with established risk factors associated with prior medical treatment, these are not present in CA-MRSA. Today in the U.S.A. and some parts of Europe around 50% of all MRSA infections are CA-MRSA. This form causes serious skin and soft tissue infections in otherwise healthy persons who have not been recently hospitalised or undergone invasive medical procedures.

A major difference between the two types of MRSA is that the community form (CA-MRSA) possesses a potent toxin called Panton-Valentine leukocidin, which attacks infection fighting white blood cells called leukocytes. The most serious form of CA-MRSA infection causes neocrotizing fasciitis, a severe, rapidly progressing and life-threatening skin infection. The CA-MRSA are genetically distinguishable from hospital associated MRSA


Influenza is a viral disease that is passed from one person to another, usually striking between October and May. It lasts from three to five days and can be followed by fatigue for two or three weeks. The disease infects the nose, throat or lungs, usually causing aching muscles and joints, headaches, cough and fever with a temperature of between 38 and 40C.

It often breaks out as an epidemic, which quickly spreads from town to town and country to country. Typically, an area can have epidemic conditions for a period of four to six weeks before it eases off. Although it can become a much more severe illness, leading to pneumonia, nerve and brain damage and even death, such complications are rare.

Because it is a viral infection it cannot be treated with antibiotics. The best remedy is rest while drinking plenty of fluids. It is possible to get vaccinated against influenza, which is especially advisable for the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases.

There are three types of influenza:

Type A: The most serious type with the most acute symptoms. It is also the most common form, usually breaking out every two or three years.

Type B: Similar symptoms to type A, but not as serious. The outbreaks happen every four to five years.

Type C: The mildest type, with symptoms similar to a cold.

Avian Bird Flu

The highly pathogenic Influenza A virus subtype N5N1 virus is an emerging avian influenza virus that has been causing global concern as a potential pandemic threat. It is often referred to simply as ‘bird flu’ or ‘avian influenza’ even though it is only one subtype of avian influenza causing virus.

H5N1 has killed millions of poultry in a growing number of countries throughout Asia, Europe and

Africa. Health experts are concerned that the co-existence of human flu viruses and avian flu viruses (especially H5N1) will provide an opportunity for genetic material to be exchanged between species-specific viruses, possibly creating a new virulent influenza strain that is easily transmissible and lethal to humans.

Since the first H5N1 outbreak occurred in 1997, there has been an increasing number of HPAI H5N1, bird-to-human transmissions leading to clinically severe and fatal human infections. However, because there is a significant species barrier that exists between birds and humans, the virus does not easily cross over to humans, though some cases of infection are being researched to discern whether human to human transmission is occurring. More research is necessary to understand the pathogenesis and epidemiology of the H5N1 virus in humans. Exposure routes and other disease transmission characteristics such as genetic and immunological factors, that may increase the likelihood of infection, are not clearly understood.

The Avian Flu claimed at least 200 humans in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, Romania, China, Turkey and Russia. Epidemiologist are afraid that the next time such a virus mutates, it could pass from human to human. If this form of transmission occurs, another pandemic could result. Thus disease-control centers around the world are making avian flu a top priority.

Common Cold

It is estimated that adults of all ages suffer 2-3 colds per year. The common cold, a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, can affect all age groups and can be caused by any of up to 200 different viruses. Rhinoviruses cause up to 40% of common colds. Other causative viruses include parainfluenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus and adenovirus.

Rhinoviruses are responsible for cases of the

common cold in the general community as well as in institutional settings. Rhinoviruses and coronaviruses have been found to cause a greater disease burden in elderly people living at home, compared to influenza virus or respiratory syncytial virus. Rhinoviruses cause infections all year round, with one peak in the autumn.

Colds tend to begin slowly, with the first symptom usually a sore throat, followed by sneezing, a runny nose and nasal congestion. Children may also develop a slight fever (raised temperature). The symptoms usually last for around seven days, but may last longer in some people, Viral shedding in nasal secretions can continue for up to 3 weeks.


Noroviruses consists of several groups of viruses that have been named after the places where the outbreaks occurred. They were previously referred to as ‘Small Round Structured Viruses’ (SRSV) or ‘Norwalk-like viruses’ (NLV). Common names of the illnesses are sometimes referred to as the ‘Winter Vomiting Disease’ even though it now occurs all year round.

A mild and brief illness usually develops 12-48 hours after infection and lasts for 24-60 hours. There are no treatments available but the disease is self-limiting and mild. The main symptom of infection is projectile vomiting. Nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache and mild fever may also occur. The virus is highly contagious and can spread rapidly from person-to-person via hands and surfaces. Good hygiene is key to breaking the chain of infection transmission to other colleagues.、


Escherichia coli (E.coli) are a large diverse group of bacteria. Although most strains of E.coli are harmless. others can make you sick. Some can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses.

A group of E.coli cause disease by making a toxin called Shiga toxin. The bacteria that make these

toxins are called ‘Shiga toxin-producing’ E.coli, (STEC). The most common STEC is E.coli0157. News report about outbreaks of E.coli infections are usually referring to E.coli0157. The symptoms often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 38.5C). Most people get better within 5-7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.

The time between ingesting the STEC bacteria and feeling sick is usually 3-4 days after exposure. The symptoms often begin slowly with mild stomach pain or non-bloody diarrhea that worsens over several days.

Swine Flu

Swine flu is a form of influenza that originated in pigs but can be caught by, and spread among, people.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. Outbreaks of swine flu happen regularly in pigs. People do not normally get swine influenza, though infections do sometimes happen. In the recent past, most human cases of swine influenza have been in people who were in

close contact with pigs, such as farmers. In the current outbreak the virus has been spread by person-to-person contact.

In the current swine flu outbreak, human infection with swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses has given rise to concern the the outbreak could become a pandemic flu – a global outbreak of flu that spreads quickly because it is a new type of virus that few, if any, people have resistance to.

Seasonal flu, caused by existing flu virus, is a common infection in the UK that usually occurs during a two-month period in winter. For most people, it is an unpleasant but not life-threatening infection. People who are more at risk from it, such as older people, can be given a vaccine each year.

Hygiene in the Office

With over 80% of bacteria and viruses passing from one person to another via surface to hand contact, removing the germs from all contact surfaces will mean cross contamination is not possible. This is the basis for the Hygiene in the Office program.

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