Lizabeth Cirillo is the owner of Pathogend NJ which decontaminates offices and schools etc for germs. It is getting a lot of demand as a result of the flu epidemic Viorel Florescu/NorthJersey.com
Pathogend of New Jersey was launched 10 months ago to offer year-round disinfection of offices, schools and other spaces.
How’s this for a sales challenge: convince businesses in North Jersey to spend money to get rid of a problem they can’t see, touch or smell.
Pathogend of New Jersey is a 10-month-old Wayne company that purges offices and other spaces of invisible viruses, bacteria and other germs. Its employees do this with the help of hand-held devices about the size of a cellphone that can test a seemingly clean desk or counter and detect the presence of living organisms.
“We show them the numbers,” said Toni Gallira, the company’s president. “The numbers are pretty convincing.”
Right now, the business is getting a boost from the flu epidemic, with requests for one-time “outbreak” treatments of office spaces spiking. But the company’s long-term strategy involves signing up clients for year-round disinfecting.
The company promises to provide hospital-grade disinfection that kills tougher germs than the flu virus, including staph, MRSA, salmonella and meningitis, as well as molds and fungus.
The numbers Gallira cites are the ones that show up when she swabs a by-all-appearances clean desk or floor to test for live viruses and germs using an ATP meter. (ATP meters detect adenosine triphosphate, a molecule that indicates the presence of live organisms.) Anything over 300 is a failing score. Gallira and her Pathogend partner, Betsy Cirillo, have found germ readings as high as 30,000. They then can show those numbers reduced to zero after a Pathogend treatment.
Pathogend of New Jersey is a branch of a company based in Florida that also has satellite operations in Georgia and Utah. It makes and sells the fog machines and other products used by the satellite offices.
Pathogend uses a combination of techniques to disinfect spaces, including manually wiping surfaces with a high-grade disinfectant and fogging rooms with a hydrogen peroxide fog. The fog, according to Pathogend, is odorless, leaves no residue and can safely provide whole-room decontamination for offices or schools.
Gallira was approached by Pathogend about opening a New Jersey division after working for almost 10 years for a company that sold decontamination chemicals and participating in a number of large-scale decontaminations.
During that time, relatives and friends would often ask Gallira for her help in sterilizing their homes, to protect a cancer patient, say, or to make it safe for a new baby. That convinced her there would be demand from businesses for disinfection services.
Cirillo, Gallira’s stepmother, who had been helping her with the disinfections, had recently retired from a job as a sales representative for North Jersey Media Group, which publishes The Record. Gallira asked Cirillo to join her in launching Pathogend of New Jersey. For now the company is mostly a two-woman operation, but Gallira and Cirillo bring in extra work crews for large jobs.
A big part of signing new clients involves convincing businesses that their traditional cleaning or janitorial services don’t eliminate all germs.
“We spend a lot of our time educating people on the difference between cleaning and disinfectant, and the need for a high-level disinfection and whole-space disinfection,” Gallira said.
Clients sometimes expect them to clean, as well, and Cirillo and Gallira have to remind them that they are not there to remove smudges or stains. “We don’t have mops and we don’t have vacuums,” Cirillo said.
Gallira and Cirillo also teach clients how to do the disinfection routines themselves and will sell them the equipment if they want to use their own maintenance staff for disinfection.
Mahmoud Attallah, the owner of Excellent Limo in Wayne, who employs Pathogend to fog and disinfect his limousines and party buses, said the education the company provides has been one of its most valuable services. “They have given us techniques and taught us how to maintain and clean the buses ourselves” to keep them germ-free between treatments, he said.
Attallah said he liked the fact that Pathogend tests for germ levels first, to see if a treatment is needed. “When they tested the first time, I was like, ‘Is that in my bus?’ ” he said, recalling his first glance at the company’s report.
‘A big edge’
Now he believes that being able to tell customers that his limousines and party buses are “disinfected and cleaned by a certified company gives me a big edge,” he said. “People feel very comfortable with that.”
Pathogend of New Jersey usually charges based on the size of the space that is being disinfected — typically at the rate of two to six cents per cubic foot, depending on the number of services required. Gallira said the company is trying to establish fixed rates for services, because clients often don’t “think in cubic feet” but want to know how much per room.
With the flu outbreak, a one-time decontamination of an average-size classroom typically costs about $250, Cirillo said. Regular maintenance of spaces like dentist’s and veterinarian’s offices can average about $800 a month. The company offers ambulance disinfection at rates ranging from $169 to $249 per vehicle, depending on how many are being serviced.
Heather Kim, the owner of J. Dermatology and Allergy in Fort Lee, said she has been using Pathogend to disinfect her offices and treatment rooms since October and has been pleased with the results.
She hired Pathogend, she said, because the building where her offices are located doesn’t allow tenants to open the windows. “We were worried about using a real deep germicide, but because we have doctor’s offices where they do procedures, we wanted to be pathogen-free,” she said.
She and her staff believe the office environment has improved as a result.
“Maybe its just in the mind, but everybody here feels a lot safer and healthier,” she said.
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