Winter bugs: are they getting more dangerous? – David Gibson – Eschmann

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  Posted by: Dental Design      6th December 2018

As winter approaches, Eschmann’s Marketing Manager David Gibson considers both the possible viral threats that dental practices face, and what could be done to fend them off.


Pathogens are an ever-present risk that continuously threatens the safety of staff and patients, but during the wintertime the possibility of contamination reaches new heights as viral infection prevalence peaks. This can be extremely stressful and dangerous for the clinical team, whose responsibility is to prevent infection from spreading; and 2018/19 is set to be no different.


In fact, the situation might actually be worse for the profession this year if the news is anything to go by, as there was a reported increase this summer in the number of people complaining of vomiting and diarrhoea. Although Public Health England were unable to confirm that these symptoms were caused by the norovirus, expert John Harris who lectures at Liverpool University was quick to voice his concerns about what this outbreak could mean for the winter.


According to Harris, when there was unusual activity in the spring and summer of 2002, not only was it later associated with the emergence of a new strain of the virus, but a noticeably higher prevalence of cases that winter than preceding years.[i]Now, 16 years on, he wonders if we are on the cusp of a new viral strain? And could there be a crisis on the way for the NHS and other healthcare services? Should that be the case dental professionals will have their work cut out for them this winter, as the norovirus is extremely contagious in areas where there is constant human traffic – such as the dental practice.


Transmission can occur through a number of ways, either by eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated, touching surfaces or objects with the norovirus on them, and coming into direct contact with someone who is infected. The practice team therefore has to ensure that all surfaces in the surgery are wiped down between each patient and communal surfaces such as doorknobs, taps and chair handles are disinfected as often as possible. Likewise, all other areas of infection control must be carried out extra diligently – including disinfection and sterilisation of instruments.


The other big concern this winter will be influenza if last year was anything to go by, as the UK was hit with one of the worst flu seasons in decades. As ever there were a number of strains that were to blame, but it was H3N2 from the influenza A strain (more commonly known as ‘Aussie Flu’) that caught the attention of the media. Amongst other things, it’s more difficult to control and has caused more hospitalisations and deaths in older people.[ii]Now, there is evidence to suggest that the flu jab provided no significant effectiveness against H3N2 last winter.[iii]


In a statement released by Dr Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director at Public Health England it was said this could have been due to a number of reasons, including “a suboptimal match between the main circulating A(H3N2) viruses and the vaccine.”iiiWhatever the reason, this news presents a major concern for dental practices that rely on the flu vaccine to help defend against the potentially dangerous virus, and indicates a greater need for more stringent infection control practices this winter.


In the main, dental practices are generally already working to the standard that is needed to prevent transmission of pathogens such as influenza and the norovirus. But if there are ways in which processes can be streamlined – for instance, upgrading the steriliser to the newest generation with up to date technology – then they are always worth considering. Equally, be sure to keep abreast of the latest research that might help you to stay protected. For example, it was recently announced that obese adults with flu symptoms are contagious for 42 per cent longer than other infected adults.[iv]Being armed with this knowledge might help to make a difference.


So as you approach the winter months, take heed of the warnings. It can be stressful at the best of times, but in light of recent events it might be worth adopting a more cautious attitude than usual. That way you will be better prepared for whatever is thrown your way.


For more information on the highly effective and affordable range of decontamination equipment and products from EschmannDirect, please visit call 01903 753322


[i]The Conversation. Norovirus: a summer outbreak could lead to a winter crisis. Published 24 July 2018. Accessed online 7 August 2018 at

[ii]The Conversation. Flu: why this year’s outbreak is one of the worst. Published 16 January 2018. Accessed online 7 August 2018 at

[iii]Gov.UK. Flu vaccine effectiveness in 2017 to 2018 season. Published 18 July 2018. Accessed online 7 August 2018 at

[iv]Maier HE et al. Obesity Increases the Duration of Influenza A Virus Shedding in Adults. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2 August 2018. Accessed online 7 August 2018 at

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