By Nic Ellis, Ph.D, B.C.E. and Technical Specialist at Western Pest Services
It’s no surprise the healthcare industry has zero tolerance when it comes to pests. And with the arrival of warmer weather comes an uptick in pest activity – making it more important than ever to be proactive with your pest control to help protect patients, employees, guests, and your reputation. Pests can be linked to all types of problems, ranging from property damage and food contamination to physical injury and the spread of significant diseases.
Due to the nature of the business, healthcare facilities see a lot of movement. Bed bugs love to hitchhike on boxes, bags, and clothing into your facility. They are frequently undetected due to their size, with adult bed bugs typically smaller than ¼ inch, making it easy to fit through even the tiniest cracks and crevices. Once inside, they head directly to darker corners to reproduce and spread.
A common misconception about bed bugs is that they are limited to beds. They are actually attracted to almost anything with fabric, including couches, throw pillows, clothing, and luggage. If you suspect a bed bug problem in your facility, be sure to check all these areas and not just mattresses. Signs of bed bugs include dark brown or black fecal stains on fabric, shed exoskeletons, or itchy bites on patients and staff. Bed bugs multiply quickly, so finding them quickly to stop them early on in their tracks is the most effective way to help prevent an infestation from occurring. And it is surprising to people that bed bugs are not associated with filth and unsanitary conditions, as cockroaches are. Bed bugs can thrive in bedrooms that are cleaned daily, and free of food and beverage spills, as long as they have people to bite, and a place to hide.
Just like humans, rodents like to break away from the summer heat—and many times they’ll use air-conditioned facilities as their escape. These pests are particularly harmful in healthcare facilities as they are known to directly or indirectly transmit 35 diseases, including Hantavirus, salmonellosis, and typhus. Because of their destructive ways, rodents can cause structural damage to buildings by gnawing on packaging, products, equipment, and structures, in addition to leaving grease stains and droppings on floors in their paths.
Rats can squeeze into an opening the size of a quarter and mice only need a hole the size of a dime to gain entry into your facility. They also can use the same doors and even windows your patients and guests are constantly opening and closing in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
A cockroach seen scurrying around your healthcare facility can not only negatively impact your health codes but can also ruin your reputation.
Cracks, holes, openings in windows – cockroaches will enter a building any way they can, even ways that can be overlooked, in order to find food, water, and shelter. Originating from tropical and subtropical climates, cockroaches are drawn to living in damp, humid, and warm conditions like cafeterias, breakrooms, and bathrooms. Not only are they alarming to many people, but their shed skins and feces can be responsible for causing various allergic reactions, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea. Roaches can also spread over 33 kinds of bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella.
Linens within healthcare facilities have the inherent danger of being contaminated by biohazardous materials, which also attract cockroaches. The biohazard storage areas where contaminated linens are held before being laundered should be monitored for pest activity regularly to locate an issue before it has the chance to spread elsewhere.
With the increase in fly populations during summer months, this nuisance pest can be hard to control. They can be annoying, but more importantly, they can be harmful. Each time a fly lands, they leave behind bacteria-laden materials that can transmit dangerous diseases such as E. coli, Salmonella typhi, Shigella, Staphylococcus, typhoid fever, dysentery, and food poisoning. Even when flies aren’t visible, they may be breeding outside in dumpsters or garbage, entering through doors and windows, or even traveling in with patients, visitors, and staff members that enter and exit your facility daily.
Fruit flies may seem less threatening than large flies, but they can become a huge issue in healthcare facilities. They are particularly drawn to food carts and dialysis areas because they love the sugar that can be found in fruit and dextrose – which is commonly given to patients intravenously to treat everything from low blood sugar to dehydration.
Pest management professionals with healthcare experience can help you develop a comprehensive pest management program by identifying the sanitation and structural deficiencies that are directly contributing to ongoing pest problems. They can work with you to help address your specific needs while educating employees on the best methods to help prevent further issues. In the long run, proactive measures can help save money and maintain a healthcare facility’s reputation. And with that customized program in place, you can rest assured your healthcare facility is protected against pests, especially during the summer months.
Nic Ellis is a Technical Specialist and Board Certified Entomologist with Western Pest Services, a New Jersey-based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern markets. Learn more about Western by visiting www.westernpest.com.