The growing challenge for professional cleaning and hygiene
The 21st century is already presenting an increasing challenge for professional cleaning and hygiene. While 50 years ago some people thought infectious disease was close to being completely conquered, the events of recent decades and trends now clearly established show the threat is increasing, not receding.
Microbes are evolving, as they always have done. New, more aggressive strains are appearing, such as enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (e.g O157), SARS-like viruses and new, potentially pandemic strains of ‘flu virus. Bacteria are evolving resistance to antibiotics such that infections once easily treated are again proving fatal. Medical and public health authorities are emphasizing the importance of improved hygiene as a response to this threat – focusing efforts on preventing infection rather than relying on cure is now more vital than at any time since the beginning of the antibiotic era.
Modern medicine is improving and extending the lives of millions, but many new techniques make the patient temporarily more vulnerable to infection. Highly invasive procedures from heart surgery to hip replacements, and therapies for cancer and other diseases involving suppression of the immune system, were impossible years ago. They depend absolutely on excellent hygiene to prevent infection during treatment and recuperation.
As the average age of the population increases as people live longer, the proportion who are more susceptible to infection is inevitably rising – now around 20% of the population. These ‘vulnerable groups’ include the very young, pregnant women, the elderly and those who are ill.
While societal trends such as these are increasing the need for hygiene, internal pressures and trends in many customer industries and institutions are making this task more demanding. Increasing complexity of processes and machinery, the trend to automation to control labour costs, and the more intensive use of increasingly expensive equipment, will intensify and complicate hygiene needs and reduce the time available to clean and disinfect.
Increasing use of automated cleaning and hygiene systems can help meet these increased demands, with computerized Management Information Systems providing feedback to optimize performance. So, too, can improved design and construction of factories and facilities to make cleaning and disinfection easier. The close collaboration between suppliers and users of professional cleaning and hygiene products and systems, which has developed in recent years, becomes ever more important.