With Zika virus, Legionnaires’ disease, influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) posing ongoing threats, there’s a world of opportunity for Ecolab to help protect public health.
“It’s us against them, our ingenuity against their biology,” Ecolab’s chief public health expert John Hanlin said of the potentially life-threatening pathogens. “If we have the ingenuity to break their cycle of life, we win.”
Fortunately, ingenuity is alive and abundant at Ecolab. And it’s helping protect our customers and their customers from today’s most challenging public health threats.
“Ingenuity,” said John, “leads to impact. Our innovative programs are helping save lives.”
The horrors of Zika take our breath away: Newborn babies with birth defects and infected adults with possible central nervous system impairment.
That the bite of a single infected Aedes mosquito — ubiquitous in tropical and temperate climates — can lead to such harm adds to the fear.
Last year, a growing number of Zika virus cases were reported in Brazil and other Latin American countries and the first mosquito-borne Zika illnesses were confirmed in the U.S. states of Florida and Texas. As a result, resorts and hotels Ecolab serves in those places faced cancellations of sales meetings, trade shows and vacations.
Ecolab Pest Elimination Regional Manager Jason Camp and Assistant Regional Manager Jeremy Stallard, field managers in Florida, heard panic rising. “Our customers went from just asking questions to saying, ‘we need action,’” said Jeremy.
Rich Meska, a Pest Elimination corporate account manager for a global lodging customer, was on the front line. His customer wanted to get ahead of the crisis in Florida — to do everything possible to reduce mosquito populations, protect employees and guests, and allay the fear driving cancellations. “They asked us to help, not just with chemical treatments but with other strategies,” said Rich.
A half a world away in Australia, David Lilly, principal entomologist with our Pest Elimination business, had anticipated requests from hotels and resorts. Motivated by the Zika outbreak in South America, he and his team developed a multifaceted mosquito control program. It incorporated their knowledge of the mosquito life cycle as well as best practices Ecolab uses in the Asia Pacific region, where mosquitoes are among the most serious pests.
Working with lead entomologist Joelle Olson in Eagan, Minn., David and his team tested the Mosquito Program in Cancun, Mexico, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. To their delight, mosquito activity dropped, on average, by 80 percent and mosquito-related guest complaints fell by up to 90 percent in six weeks. “The Rio customer was very satisfied given both the reduction in mosquitoes and the more sustainable treatments we were able to implement,” said Luis Chavez, technical support manager, Latin America.
One result of this work was recognition for our Mosquito Program by the White House, which in turn led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to contact our Pest Elimination experts to meet and share insights on how to slow the virus.
Ecolab’s Mosquito Program provided the guest experience and environmentally friendly approach Rich Meska’s hotels needed. It reduced unpleasant fogging — spraying to control adult mosquitoes — and focused on less intrusive, longer-lasting controls, including:
- An assessment to identify mosquito breeding sites and other related risks.
- Treatments to prevent larvae from maturing into adults, applied only to breeding sites that can’t be eliminated.
- Treatments of vegetation and structures where adult mosquitoes rest during the day.
- Electronic mosquito traps near outdoor dining, pool and other guest areas that also serve as monitors of mosquito activity and provide insights to guide further efforts.
Results for the lodging customer were so positive that it requested implementation of our Mosquito Program at its other major Florida resorts.
“Customers love our program,” said Jason, who has fielded calls for help from hotels and restaurants as well as businesses outside the hospitality sector. “We’re able to show them things they can do themselves as well as things we can do to help. And now they have a good answer when customers ask what they’re doing about Zika. They can say, ‘We’ve engaged Ecolab.’”
IN THE U.S., THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE AFFECTED BY LEGIONNAIRES’ DISEASE GREW BY NEARLY FOUR TIMES BETWEEN 2000 AND 2014. IT HAS PROVEN DEADLY FOR ABOUT ONE IN 10 OF THOSE INFECTED.
The simple act of breathing Legionella-contaminated water mists and aerosols. That’s all it takes for some people — especially those with chronic lung conditions, a history of smoking or weak immunity — to be stricken with Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially deadly pneumonia.
Legionella-contaminated mists and aerosols from showers, faucets, cooling towers, decorative fountains and spa pools have been linked to outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, said Amie Cribari
Cooling towers were key suspects in Legionnaires’ outbreaks in the Bronx, a New York City borough, in the summer of 2015. Frantic to halt the outbreak that ultimately sickened 120 people and killed 12, public health officials issued an unprecedented order: Every cooling tower in New York City had to be inspected and disinfected within two weeks — or face hefty fines.
In record time, hotels, hospitals and building owners were on the phone to Nalco Water District Account Managers Dan Gillette and Hershel Zamechek asking for help. In an all-hands-on-deck, 18‑hour-a-day effort, the Nalco Water team applied corrosion and scale inhibitors, administered biocide treatments and scrubbed the inside of more than 500 cooling towers. The effort paid off: Every customer who asked for Nalco Water’s help met the deadline.
When the calls for help arrived, there was no question what to do. Nalco Water had a proven protocol for fighting Legionnaires’ disease — and the team and process to carry it out. “No competitor has our breadth of services to reduce the risk of waterborne pathogens,” said Dan. “No one offers the audits, treatments, technology and training we bring to managing commercial water systems.”
After the outbreaks, the city mandated twice-a-year disinfection for all cooling towers. “It’s good for our business but that’s not why it’s good. It’s good because it’s going to reduce a public health hazard,” said Hershel.
Another positive outcome of Nalco Water’s response to the crisis: “When our reps walk through a customer’s door, they feel like their importance has gone up tenfold,” said Dan. “They feel appreciated.”
Everyone who’s fallen victim to the influenza virus knows its miseries. But few appreciate its impact on public health and productivity. In the U.S. alone, the average employee misses 2.4 days of work due to the flu, and the cost of flu-related sick days and lost productivity is estimated at $7 million. Even businesses don’t fully recognize the flu’s impact — or the role they can play in preventing its spread.
Ecolab’s annual influenza awareness and prevention campaign, focused on long-term care communities and educational and institutional facilities, aims to change that.
“The more customers we can convince to fight the spread of flu, the fewer cases there will be — and the greater impact we’ll have,” said Vivek Raghavapudi, marketing manager, Facility Care and Long-Term Care, Institutional North America.
While vaccination is the primary method of flu prevention, frequent hand washing and effective cleaning and disinfection of hard surfaces and high-touch objects, such as door handles and elevator buttons, also are among best practices for preventing the spread of the flu virus.
“We want businesses to understand the financial impact and show them how they can lower flu-related risks and how Ecolab can help,” said Vivek. “Our field sales and service reps play a vital role in building this understanding and spurring effective action to prevent the flu.”
Ecolab also is tracking Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a deadly disease identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and now in nearly 30 countries on six continents. MERS is caused by a corona virus and produces symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. About one in three cases have resulted in death. Transmission appears to occur between people in close contact.