Defining the Terms
Read all the articles from the July-August 2003 issue on cleaning and disinfecting your facility:
The Product Claim Game
The Bleach Niche
Great Points in the Fine Print
Being Chemically Balanced Is No Guarantee
Don't Let the Fomites Get You Down
Resistance Is Futile If You Clean Properly
BACTERIUM: A single-celled organism that lacks a well-defined nucleus but contains all the genetic information and all the tools needed to reproduce itself. The only life form on earth for 2 billion years, bacteria make food out of everything from sunlight to sulfur; they also feed off nutrients within the living creatures that host them. Most bacteria perform necessary functions, helping with food digestion, nutrient absorption, and elimination of toxic substances. But pathogenic bacteria produce toxins or attack tissues directly. Examples of bacterial diseases in animals include leptospirosis, brucellosis, Lyme disease, E.coli, salmonellosis, and bordetellosis.
FUNGUS: A single-celled or multicellular organism whose DNA is contained within a nucleus. Mushrooms and mold are fungi. Unlike plants, fungi contain no chlorophyll and therefore cannot make food from sunlight. Instead, they feed on living and dead organic matter after releasing chemicals that help them dissolve food sources for easy absorption. Like bacteria, fungi have a dual nature: While some have been employed as disease-fighting antibiotics, others actually cause disease. Fungi can spread through spores that are carried on the wind or in rain, or they can extend chains of fungal cells called hyphae. Fungi affecting animals include ringworm and cryptococcosis.
VIRUS: A tiny piece of genetic material that can infect animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria. Viruses aren’t exactly organisms, as they have no ability to reproduce on their own. Sitting on a surface or floating in the air, they might as well be dead material. But once they come into contact with a host cell, they take over that cell and commandeer its reproduction mechanisms. They are after only one thing: to make copies of themselves. And in so doing, they either leave the cell undamaged or cause the cell to burst (explaining why some species are simply carriers of viruses while others develop disease). Rabies, canine parvovirus, feline panleukopenia, canine distemper, feline leukemia, and feline immunodeficiency virus are examples of viral diseases in animals.
DETERGENT: A cleansing agent that helps remove dirt and debris by emulsifying grease and suspending dirt particles. Detergents clean with the help of a good scrub, but they do not disinfect. Some disinfectants, such as quaternary ammonium compounds, have detergent qualities in them; bleach, however, does not. Removal of debris with the help of detergents should be done prior to disinfection, as disinfectants can be inactivated by the presence of organic matter.
DISINFECTANT: A chemical solution that destroys microorganisms. What exactly a product will kill depends on its active ingredient and its strength. Some disinfectants are “low-level,” while others are “intermediate”- or “high-level.” Disinfectants must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, and specific efficacy claims must be tested in EPA-approved laboratories. Products labeled as “sanitizers” are not as strong as disinfectants and should not be used as disinfection agents in the shelter setting.
DEGREASER: A strong detergent designed to cut through the filmy layers that other detergents often can’t reach. Degreasers can penetrate the smeared body oils left behind on cage bars by sticky paws, wet noses, and other little greasy parts. Some shelters use degreasers every day, while others use them only once a week; frequency of use depends on intake, turnover, and the density of animal populations.