Is Ebola next door, under cover?

Crouching Man
What will you do if the unthinkable happens?

In front of the TV with a good cup of tea, it’s kind of hard to believe.

People in Africa are so desperate to improve their lives, they’re actually dying to get here.

Whatever it takes

A lot of them are genuine immigrants. Thanks to lapses by the under-staffed UK Border Agency, a lot of them are not. Half a million have already fallen off the list – and that doesn’t include the other half million or so living here illegally.

We seen it on the TV though – desperate young men, swarming aboard UK-bound lorries caught in tailbacks outside Calais. Crowds of them over-running the ferry terminals, badly-injured hopefuls hauled out from under Eurostar trains.

When you’re desperate, anything goes – including living as a fugitive once you get here.

Super risky

With luck and the right connections, a young man from Freetown in Sierra Leone might make it across Saharan Africa, over to Italy in a leaky boat, and north to Calais in as little as ten days.

A few hairy moments, scrambling aboard a lorry bound cross-Channel – and the dream world starts, living with friends and relatives in UK.

Dream or nightmare.

Without papers, signing on for any form of benefits is difficult. So is getting a job that pays. But with perseverance, a lowly washing-up job at an under-the-counter rate half the minimum wage is possible.

Which is when the problems start.

Is that the flu, or just getting used to freezing cold Britain?

More than a sickie

The fever, the chest pains, the loss of appetite and red eyes. Maybe it’s malaria. There’s lots of mosquitoes in Sierra Leone. Hard to stand for hours washing up when you’re sick – but you need the money.

Uh huh. Ebola has an incubation period of twenty-one days. A ticking time-bomb.

And look at the panic in New York.

Out of time

A young doctor, Craig Spencer, returns from Ebola relief work with Médecins Sans Frontières‎ in Guinea. He goes for a 3-mile jog, visits the local park, takes a ride on the subway, hails a taxi to a Brooklyn bowling alley. After six days the sickness starts – fever and diarrhoea. Ebola positive. Immediate isolation in Bellevue Hospital.

Not so easy when you’re illegal. So your friends cover up.

That nice African family next-door? Scared people with a guilty secret.

Out of luck

Because in the second week, it gets serious. Sore throat, headache, fatigue – you have to stay in bed.

But you’re not supposed to be here. You’re too ill to go to a NHS Walk-in and a doctor won’t come to you. Your friends care for you as best they can.

Reality hits. It’s not flu. It’s not malaria – you’re much too ill for that. And Ebola is haemorrhagic, you’re bleeding all over the place.

Your friends do their best. But they’re not doctors – and they dare not tell anybody. Your bloody towels and sheets go into a plastic bag in the wheelie bin outside. It’s a week before the council do a pickup.

Out of action

It’s a one-way ticket and you’re not coming back. But still nobody knows.

When the inevitable happens, your friends do they only thing they can. They’re illegal too and cannot risk exposure.

One of them has a car. At three in the morning, a bigger plastic bag is loaded up and dropped in the River Lee. It’s two days before police find the body, washed ashore in the Lockwood Reservoir.

Alarm bells

London’s first local Ebola case. A contaminated water supply. Where has the victim been? What contacts did he have? How many others might be infected? Where does anyone start?

Are we safe enough? Yes, probably.

Ebola spreads by direct contact and our medical teams are on the ball. And say what you like about the NHS, when the chips are down they’re as professional as anywhere in the world.

We shall overcome

We might not look like it any more – with so many of us also from other parts of the world – but we’re the Brits who stood up the the Blitz.

Next door, wherever – we can beat this thing and we will.

Originally posted 2014-10-24 12:46:41.

Is Ebola already here?

Fruit Bat
Now appearing at a street market near you – instant health hazard

Brace yourself.

Reports from West Africa all acknowledge that the likeliest source of the Ebola virus is by cross-over from animals, particularly fruit bats.

The disease does not seem to affect them, but they are undoubtedly carriers.

They are also prey to huntsmen across West Africa, a daily source of protein – regularly eaten in some areas, prized as a delicacy in others.

Bushmeat

Known throughout the region as “bushmeat” – such traditional food includes illegally-hunted monkeys, gorillas, chimpanzees and forest antelope – even snakes and porcupines – game meats that are known hosts to Ebola, anthrax, yellow fever and several other deadly diseases.

Nostalgic for home, bushmeat is equally popular with the half million or so West African immigrants living in UK, mostly in London. Traditional soups like egusi, efo and ofe isla rely on it, so does the spicy stew kedjenou.

Unlawful and unhealthy

But bushmeat is illegal – completely unregulated by any health or food safety laws – all 7,500 tons of it smuggled in annually from Abuja, Lagos, Monrovia and Freetown – feeder airports from where the Ebola epidemic currently rages.

Outside the law, the processing of bushmeat is murky at best. It is usually cooked or smoked before market, but techniques are primitive and often hasty. Raw or semi-raw meat  is common, even here in UK.

In the open air market at Ridley Road in Dalston, East London, meats dripping blood are a regular sight. They have arrived in foul-smelling packages, bloody animal corpses sneaked through Heathrow by regular couriers.

Ticking timebomb

Any one of them could carry Ebola, untraced and untraceable – until the three-week incubation period is up and suddenly symptoms of malaria or yellow fever appear. Another few days and it’s something worse.

The trade is unstoppable too – highly profitable, driven by big business and mostly underground. In Hackney or Brixton for instance, a single ape steak might cost as much as £20.

Out in Sierra Leone, British Army soldiers are hauling dead bodies, protected by full hazmat suits and chemical disinfectants. At Ridley Road, dead animals from the same area are butchered with bare hands.

It’s no longer if Ebola breaks out in Britain, it’s when.

Originally posted 2014-10-23 15:16:21.

Shock, horror – infections at work

Bugs at the Office
Count on it – if it’s going around,
it’s gonna get you

In hospitals they call them HAIs – Hospital Acquired Infections.

Outside medical circles, nobody’s started talking about Work Acquired Infections (WAIs) yet. But they’re gonna.

Controversial topic, HAIs.

A lot of people think they’re proof of incompetence – it’s a disgrace that infections should happen in the first place. Totally unfair and not very realistic.

Because if you’re in hospital for an accident or operation, you’ll most likely have some kind of cut or incision. And right there, is a major risk of infection. It can happen, even with the most stringent hygiene measures.

Not so safe any more

But the world has changed since the last time you looked.

Hospitals have an even bigger threat to face behind HAIs. Because we’re so gung-ho and Harry Casual about antibiotics, there’s a whole load of viruses and bacteria out there that have learned how to resist them.

You get an infection, the Doc can’t shoot you full of penicillin any more because a lot of the time it won’t always work.

Take MRSA, the first line infection most hospitals are so worried about. The name says it all – Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. Against that, antibiotics are about as useful as coffee sweeteners – your body just has to tough it out.

More hazards

Now think of that in the wider world.

Antibiotics are starting not to respond  – so if something happens to you, you could be in big trouble.

And things do. Accidents at work happen way more than you think. Check how the Health & Safety people see things happening in a year:

  • 133 workers killed at work (2013/14)
  • 2,535 mesothelioma deaths in 2012 due to past asbestos exposures
  • 78,000 other injuries to employees were reported under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences)(2012/13)
  • 175,000 over-7-day absence injuries occurred (LFS) (2012/13)
  • 1.1 million working people were suffering from a work-related illness (2011/12)

Those are the big dramas. But what about the little ones?

It’s just a scratch

You drop something, you cut yourself, something digs into you. What’s the bet hygiene levels at work are nothing like in hospitals?

Even an office can be anything but “harmless”.

Just think of it. Maybe thirty or fifty of you, all in the same room. All breathing the same air, all exposed to the same environment.

You don’t even have to have an accident, there’s plenty of germs ready to have a go at you. With so many people concentrated together – more viruses, more bacteria – the threshold is higher. WAIs are almost inevitable.

High germ thresholds for instance, are almost certainly the cause of “sick building syndrome”. Headaches, nausea – you’re not sick of the job, you genuinely have a health issue.

Germs everywhere

But you don’t have to. And as the effect of antibiotics not working becomes more acute, you’re going to see a lot of places taking active steps so you never do.

You’re probably already aware that desks and computer keyboards are breeding places of germs – as many as 20,961 microbes per square inch according to research.

Sure, your workplace gets vacuumed and wiped down every day by good, professional services – but they can’t do everything. What about under things, or nooks and crannies – or even the air itself?

Higher-level hygiene

Know how the smell of fish and chips lingers when everyone has gone? Germs linger the same, able to survive up to a week or more – floating in the air because they’re so incredibly small. An infection waiting to happen.

You guessed it, our hygiene habits need to ramp up a level. Clean isn’t necessarily safe. And once somebody catches a bug, sure as anything, you know it’s going to get everyone.

So the trick is to sterilise the place. Not just the desks and floors – those are done already, and look at the hazards we face. We need to do the air too – after all, it’s 80% of the space – and day to day, it never gets touched.

All automatic

Enter the hygiene robots – machines that take down germs and make the place totally safe from viruses and bacteria. They may be ultra violet generators or oxidising foggers – but they work, and very effectively.

Still feeling queasy at your desk? If it’s not lunch, maybe you should pressure the boss into getting the place sterilised every night. A hydrogen peroxide super-mister eliminates all germs in around twenty minutes.

It won’t stop infection if you get a cut of course. There’s germs on your skin and clothes from outside, so you still have to take all precautions. You’re less likely to develop problems though, because the germ threshold is less – at zero when you walked in this morning.

WAIs are likely to increase – but not on your watch.

Originally posted 2014-10-22 11:51:55.

Ebola: why we’re already under-gunned

Worried medical team
Our Docs are all committed – but they’ll have to sleep some time

“Keep Calm and Carry On” the poster says.

And as true Brits, we’re doing exactly that. Ebola looms large in most people’s minds, but we’re ready and not panicking.

Ready, yes. Prepared, yes. But seriously under-resourced.

The thin white line

Whitehall’s medical brass might reckon our health services are robust enough, there’s still only a thin line of white coats between us and staying on top of it.

Four hospitals across the country are on first-level alert for handling Ebola: the Royal Free Hospital in London – which rescued British nurse William Pooley from the disease – the Royal Hallamshire in Sheffield, the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

Currently, the Royal Free is the only specialised High Level Isolation Unit in the country. It has just two fully equipped containment beds.

A question of backup

But it’s not the number of beds. It’s the one-on-one backup to keep them going. And the backup for the backup – the hospital-wide services to ensure hygiene levels are maintained and all personnel are safe.

At the Ebola front-line, containment protocols are meticulous. Senior nurses scrutinise medicos prepping, watchful for any errors in scrub-ups or donning protective clothing. But such staff will only go on duty for an hour.

The one-hour rule

Sir Leonard Fenwick, chief executive of Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spells out why. “On the hour, the one-to-one staff ratio must change to ensure procedure protocol is strictly adhered to without exception. Together with constant vigilance and support, this is the overriding requirement.”

Hands-on carers routinely go through UV radiation to ensure they are free from any infection. The ultra violet kills all germs and bacteria by destroying their cell DNA. Outside their bodies, these staff are completely sterilised.

It’s not the same in other parts of these hospitals, where hygiene levels are maintained by traditional methods. Rub and scrub, mop and bucket – doing it the hard way.

Thin on technology

Only in a very few places is there technology to help – either UVGI units or hydrogen peroxide auto-sterilisers. Or as at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital, a second level designated Ebola facility, which has a negative pressure room – no air can escape, isolating any contagion.

Such machines would be invaluable and are easy to operate – 100 of the hydrogen peroxide type were recently sent to Nigeria, the one African country to have brought the present Ebola  outbreak under control.

At the touch of a button, hygiene levels move up to a very much higher level. Rooms are completely sterilised in around twenty minutes, freeing up valuable hygiene maintenance resources to be deployed elsewhere.

Fortunately at the moment, UK has no Ebola-positive patients. Some cases are inevitable. A large number of Britons – especially the armed forces – are involved with humanitarian aid in Sierra Leone, many in direct contact of Ebola victims.

The hard way

But when cases start arriving, it’s not the Ebola facilities that will be under pressure. It’s other departments feeling the knock-on effect – fewer staff, longer hours, yet more over-stretched resources.

Yes, we’re ready – but it’s going to be hard.

“Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Nobody said it was easy.

Originally posted 2014-10-21 13:09:53.

Ebola panic, or dying of flu?

Surprised girl in mask
No, it’s not Ebola.
But it could still kill you.

Our neighbour has Ebola. Dinkum. All the symptoms – bloodshot eyes, fever, chest pains, loss of appetite. She sends her apologies that we’re all going to die.

Or not.

Ebola Obsession

Because whatever symptoms are going, she’s always got them.

Which describes far too many of us. Too ready to panic and assume the worst. Too obsessed with the exotic to recognise the every day.

Yes, It’s the Flu

You see, these symptoms are shared not only with Ebola – but common or garden flu. Not even the imported variety like Spanish or Hong Kong – just plain old ordinary flu. With all the usual aches and pains and sniffles – we really should know better.

But familiarity breeds contempt right?

At least if we really thought it was Ebola, we might show some sense. Like stay in bed, out of circulation, and call for the Doc.

Coughs and Sneezes

Instead of toughing it out because it’s only flu – exploding with coughs and sneezes all over everybody in the Underground – and that unsympathetic bunch at the office.

More fool us, actually. Because “it’s only flu” is a dangerous attitude to have. It’s not sexy, like Ebola. But it still kills. In fact, throughout history, flu has probably killed more people than any other single affliction.

Yes, “it’s only flu” – and YOU COULD DIE.

The Winter Killer

Ever wondered why the government makes such a hoo-hah of flu jabs for the Over-65s? They’re seriously at risk – not just with advancing age – but with the growing list that all of us have of ailments acquired through the years.

Laugh it off if you dare.

If you sit with any of the “indulgence disorders” – COPD from smoking, liver problems from drinking, or any other underlying medical condition – a touch of flu could be the end of you.

Better get that sore throat, headache and constant fatigue seen to – before it escalates into something else. It doesn’t have to be full-blown pneumonia, you can peg off from flu just like that.

Reality Check

Time to wake up.

It’s not Ebola, it’s not 3,000 miles away.

It’s flu, it’s here – and you’re going down, if you don’t wise up.

Last year the Office of National Statistics put Excess Winter Deaths at 31,100 – a large chunk of them from flu.  That’s more than three times the anticipated total of the current Ebola outbreak – and it happens every year!

And another thing about flu. It lingers in the air. Circulates through air conditioning ducts.

Better do something about your daily hygiene. Because washing your hands and scrubbing down surfaces won’t help if you breathe it in.

Personal Protection

Start with something like Dettol – the aerosol disinfectant kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria including flu – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 3.

Or if Ebola-panic has really got to you, use hydrogen peroxide. The auto-robot thingy they use in hospitals and offices sends out an ionised spray that sterilises the whole place – 99,9999% of viruses and bacteria eliminated – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

By the way, it kills Ebola too. Oxidises it to pieces. So that sniffle is not what you think it is.

Bless you!

Originally posted 2014-10-20 12:13:36.

How Ebola could double your airfare

Aircraft at gate
Twenty minutes to sterilise a whole plane? And 99.9999% germ-free too.

An aircraft sits on the ground – quarantined for suspected Ebola. No confirmation or anything, a passenger just threw up on the flight.

Air sickness? Rich food? Nervous tension? Or good old norovirus?

Nobody’s taking any chances. So passengers sit to have their symptoms checked.

Time is money

And the meter is running – landing fees, apron fees, security, ground staff support, aircraft servicing, facilities supply, passengers transfers, aircraft valeting, sanitation.

At Heathrow, it could cost over £20,000 just to land. Once down, just sitting parked is around £200 an hour. None of the other fees are cheap either. You wouldn’t want them to be. Passenger safety and security is much too important.

It may be slightly cheaper at Madrid’s  Barajas airport. Where an Air France Airbus A320 landed on Thursday to be be immediately quarantined – because a passenger from Lagos was on board who displayed signs of the Ebola virus.

After getting the passengers off, a statement  by Air France said the return flight was cancelled and the aircraft would be disinfected. More time, more money.

And it’s starting to happen more and more.

Everyone in a tizz

Like Flight 1143, another Airbus A320, the Frontier Airlines aircraft on which Ebola victim Amber Vinson flew from Cleveland to Dallas on 13th October.

This one has the Americans in a total tizz. It’s been returned to service, cleaned several times following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines which themselves are vague, and now sits grounded in Cleveland – presumably awaiting major decontamination.

The same hesitation is all over – aircraft quarantined and then grounded. Emirates Flight 237 from Dubai to Boston on Monday. The KLM flight to Amsterdam from Glasgow three days ago. Another KLM flight from Amsterdam to Værnes in Norway back in August. The Gambia Bird flight from Freetown to Gatwick via Banjul the week before.

A lengthy process

It takes time to decontaminate an aircraft. And it’s a messy business. Recommended by the World Health Organisation, the preferred procedure after thorough cleaning is to seal the aircraft and admit carboxide gas – a mixture of 10% ethylene oxide and 90% carbon dioxide – pumped in under pressure and maintained at a constant temperature for 6-12 hours.

A second method involves ethylene oxide and Freon II for a similar period. Or introducing betapropiolactone in vapour form for two hours – which must be 98% pure, or it causes a sticky polymer to form on all surfaces.

But it has to be done. Though the Ebola virus can exist outside the body for only a short time, its incubation period is 21 days. During which time how many passengers came on board and what did they touch?

Do the math. Schedule an increasing number of planes through the process as Ebola cases multiply – and sooner or later, it’s going to hit your credit card.

The Nigerian alternative

Unless of course, the airlines choose to use hydrogen peroxide. Twenty minutes per aircraft and all viruses and bacteria that may have been on board are gone – a reduction of 99,9999%.

The same stuff is already being used to combat Ebola in Africa. Already more than 100 super-misting machines have been sent to Nigeria, the only country which can claim to have brought the outbreak under control.

Let’s hope the airlines are watching – before our fares go through the roof.

Originally posted 2014-10-17 15:06:15.

SWAT teams for Ebola as world markets catch a cold

SWAT Team Assault
High-risk bugs like Ebola stand everyday hygiene on its head

America has hit the panic button with Ebola.

Last night President Obama directed the US Center for Disease Control to send out rapid response SWAT teams to any hospital reporting patients displaying signs of the virus within 24 hours.

Taking chances

The entire system is clearly in a scramble as pictures emerge of an unidentified man with a clipboard fussing round Ebola victim Amber Vinson on her way to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

His only protection against Ebola? He’s out there in shirt-sleeves.

World-wide wheelspin

Such wheelspin and confusion quickly hit international markets, already reeling from pension fund and other losses . The Dow Jones fell 1.64% to 16047.88 – accelerated by a CDC statement that it was not clear how Miss Vinson had contracted Ebola.

Watch the panic snowball. Alongside Ebola, it’s the start of flu season. Up to 20% of Americans are likely to be affected, with as many as 200,000 needing hospital treatment.

Atishoo!

And here’s the scary bit. In the first week, flu symptoms are similar to Ebola’s – fever and fatigue. Already monitored at major airports, if too many sneezes happen on transcontinental flights over the next few months, the health system could go into meltdown.

But that’s just part of it. Already the World Health Organisation put the possible death toll from Ebola at 10,000 by December. Over-reacting politicians are contributing to international dread.

Over-reacting?

Lost in today’s Ebola-surge is a side report from Ghana, neighbour to the Ivory Coast which suffered an Ebola outbreak in 1994. Eight students at the Atebubu Teachers College of Education in the Brong Ahafo have died of cholera.

And cholera is way more scary.

First, it kills within hours, not weeks. Second, it’s highly contagious. According to the World Health Organisation, there are up to 5 million cases and 120,000 deaths every year.

The upside

The difference is that it’s treatable.

But so is Ebola BEFORE it infects anyone.

Like most viruses and bacteria – cholera too – Ebola is defenceless against being oxidised. Health authorities may be swamped handling existing cases – but they can prevent more by sterilising treatment areas with hydrogen peroxide or other oxidisers before patients are admitted.

It won’t cure the patients. But it will raise the resistance threshold for medics, care workers and support staff already risking their lives.

Safer at home

It will do the same thing too at your local supermarket, eliminating germs and odours.

Except that according to President Obama, the likelihood of a widespread Ebola outbreak is “very, very low.” So don’t expect your local Tesco to go spraying the place just yet.

Better go with the paracetamol then. And hope that an effective wide-scale treatment for Ebola can be found soon.

 

Originally posted 2014-10-16 12:47:48.

How Ebola could save your life

Operating theatre
Why die, when you don’t need to?

It’s the panic of the moment – and that’s why.

For the first time in forever, people are concerned about their level of daily hygiene. And they’re right to be scared.

There’s a huge difference between the daily shower and brushing your teeth to the full-body bio-hazard protection suits worn by Ebola care-medicos.

It is a good parallel though. Day-to-day, we go through life without any protection – constantly surrounded by billions of microbes, many as deadly as Ebola.

A recent BBC report cites “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the world’s deadliest to date.”  Deadliest among Ebola outbreaks, that is.

Not a new disease

There were others: in 1976 (Sudan, Zaire and 1 isolated case in UK), 1977 (Zaire), 1979 (Sudan), 1989 (Philippines), 1990 (USA – 4 cases caught from monkeys in quarantine), 1994 (Gabon and Ivory Coast), 1995 (Zaire),1996 (Gabon and South Africa), 1997 (Gabon), 2000 (Uganda), 2001 (Gabon and Congo Republic), 2002 (Congo Republic,  2003 (Congo Republic), 2004 (Sudan and 1 case in Russia from laboratory contamination), 2007 Congo Republic, 2008 (Uganda and Philippines), 2009 (Congo Republic), 2012 (Uganda and Congo Republic), 2013 (current outbreak – Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, United States and Spain).

But Ebola is by no means the deadliest. In the Fourteenth Century, mortality from The Plague was 95%. In the Twentieth, 300 million people died from smallpox. Every year, 100,000 people die from cholera. Anthrax, once inhaled kills 93% of victims. HIV/AIDS kills 80% and upwards if untreated. There are plenty of others. Spanish Flu, for instance, which killed 50 million people at the end of World War One.

And that’s why people are scared.

With so many dread diseases out there, what protection do we have?

The body at risk

Against direct contact, not a lot – physical touching, exposure to body fluids, contamination from coughing and sneezing, an open wound. Once any germ gets INSIDE the body, you are at risk. Which means care and consideration in our relationships with others never goes away.

But look at the Ebola protection suits. They’re out of body protection – admittedly against extremes.

Out of body protection

Day-to-day it’s a lot easier. Because on top of all the cleaning and janitorial we routinely do, there are varying degrees of sanitising and sterilising we can apply.

Most of us use disinfectants or have them handy in the event of hazard. Bleaching agents are also a tried and tested way of getting rid of germs. Unfortunately they only work on surfaces.
Because slowly but surely, the world is waking up to the reality that ALL Infection can be airborne.

But we’re not dead yet.

There’s a whole stack of ways to clobber pathogens in the air – viruses and bacteria both, including Ebola. All of which destroy their actual cell structures so they cannot survive.

Our pathogen defence weapons

Most effective of these is undoubtedly ozone, which kills by oxidising – shoving oxygen atoms at the microorganism and ripping their cells to shreds.

The downside is, it’s too powerful. Though it’s like oxygen with one extra atom, ozone is poisonous. It kills germs, yes. It also kills people. Which means wherever it is used, the place has to be evacuated first.

That is of course, ozone in its natural concentration. In milder doses, it’s used extensively as a kind of room freshener, particularly effective at getting rid of odours – which are in turn caused by germs. An effective defence against sick building syndrome and keeping infections at bay in old age homes.

Hydrogen peroxide is another effective oxidiser. It sterilises an average room in as little as twenty minutes. And as reported extensively in the fight against Ebola, ultraviolet generators are in increasing use, particularly in American hospitals.

We’re not yet at the stage where every home has an oxidiser. But it’s coming. Expect to see all of these defences in increasing use in the near future – in hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants, public transport – everywhere the people come together in large groups.

Ebola is dangerous. It’s also a life-saving wake-up call – to do something about our hygiene defences.

Originally posted 2014-10-14 12:22:48.

Ebola, pshaw! With all these antibiotic-resistant bio-nasties around, you could die from a paper cut

Woman in gasmask
You can run – and you can hide –
but you can’t stop taking precautions

No good hiding under the bed. The germs will get you there too.

Because washing hands is only the start. If we’re all going to survive, our whole hygiene habit needs a big re-think.

Like, what have you got in the house that kills germs?

Bleach? Disinfectant? Puh-leeze!

Against the kind of viruses and bacteria we have lurking around these days, they don’t even feel it.

And yes, you’re scared about Ebola. But you should be just as worried at catching the flu.

What does that poster in your doctor’s surgery say? “Unfortunately, no amount of antibiotics will get rid of your cold.”

They won’t work on a lot of other things either. Ebola is one. MRSA is another – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – a 9-to-5 germ that lives here in good old UK.

And if you’re not worried, your doctor is.

Because now there’s a whole stack of illnesses he can’t treat you for because the drugs don’t work any more. The whole medical profession is faced with going back to the Nineteenth Century. Maybe not leeches and blood-letting, but still pretty clunky.

But don’t just worry, do something.

Think twice about everything you do, and don’t take chances. That Spanish nurse in Madrid? All she did was wipe her face with her surgical glove. Ebola misses nothing.

Better yet, hike up your bio-resistance threshold.

Your bio-wha…?

Your bio-resistance threshold – your germ defence, the force field around you that protects you, your anti-germ shield.

OK, there’s not much you can do about that in the open – though with winds and breezes around blowing everything away, most of the time we’re safe enough.

Indoors though, is where we are most of the time. And with winter coming, we’re all set to pass on infections one to another. Kids in school. Colleagues at the office. If there’s a bug going around, we’re all going to get it.

But not if we’re smart.

Because right now it’s possible to sterilise the entire room you’re in in around ten minutes flat – the walls, the furniture, the floor, the space you move around in. No viruses, no bacteria, no anything. Every trace of a germ, gone.

It won’t get rid of the cold you’ve got. But it will lower the chances of anyone else getting it. Or you going down with the tummy twinges THEY had, lingering in the air from yesterday.

The quick way to do it, is with an aerosol can of ammonium chloride. Hit the button, mist the place up, germs gone in ten. Any viruses or bacteria are destroyed by being oxidised. You’re safe.

Thing is though, it’s like brushing your teeth. You have to do it regularly. Miss a day and the germs pile up. Because don’t forget, each of us is walking around in a cloud of maybe 3.5 million microorganisms – germs – every moment of every day.

But like we said, don’t worry, there’s also a cheaper, better way – almost two thirds cheaper – and 100,000 times better.

Trundle in that wheelie-bin-sized auto-robot and press the button. It releases a super-fine mist of hydrogen peroxide, oxidising germs just like ammonium chloride. But way more efficiently – 99.9999% – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

And sterile means sterile. It knocks out germs by shoving oxygen atoms at them. Out in the open instead of munching away inside your nice warm body, they cannot survive.  They are dead, killed, annihilated, destroyed, eliminated, sent to oblivion. All viruses and bacteria.

And because Ebola is a virus, it will be gone too – if it was ever there in the first place. Along with all this winter’s crop of the usual bio-villains – MRSA, E. coli, norovirus and Clostridium difficile.

Breathe easy?

You can. But you’d better keep watching for those paper cuts. You may not get an infection – but they still hurt like hell.

Originally posted 2014-10-10 12:38:30.

Welcome aboard! Gasp, is that Ebola sitting next to you?

Plane passengers
Let’s hope Ebola hasn’t got a ticket

Er, probably not.

Unless it’s an actual person who is infected.

But the actual virus, lurking in the cabin from an earlier flight? Hopefully not, though it’s getting to be a headache for the airlines.

You see, when you’re up there at 36,000 feet, you really are pretty safe. That air you’re breathing is totally refreshed 20 times an hour. Better still, it’s filtered and purified.

Running continuously under the floor is a set of hospital grade high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters – very effective at trapping microscopic particles like viruses and bacteria.

Because don’t believe that myth about aeroplane flu. If you get the sniffles, it’s more likely that the air is cold and dry – so that’s your mucous membranes  compensating.

So it’s not around while you’re flying.

Different on the ground though, when the aircraft powers down and the aircon goes off. That air is from exiting passengers. As your nose can sometimes tell you – if the turnaround’s a quick one and somebody forgets the air freshener.

And yes, you’re quite right – an air freshener won’t stop Ebola.

But hydrogen peroxide will.

Misted up so it fills the cabin, it takes out bacteria and viruses by oxidising them. They can’t survive the extra oxygen atoms, so their cell structure disintegrates. Bye, bye bad guys like Ebola.

Because it’s not just in the air that the hydrogen peroxide works. It settles on the seat backs, cushions, grab handles and tray tables. Zaps any germs that might be sitting there too.

Right now though, there aren’t too many airlines using the stuff. They’ve never needed to – and any vapour generating systems they might know about are big and clunky – massive trucks, manoeuvring on the ground. Not cheap or quick, either.

That may change real soon. Especially if health authorities start putting aircraft in quarantine. And not just parking in a remote part of the airport either – a complete lockdown for however long it takes.

Real quarantine.

Forty days that used to mean, when the word was first used back in the Fourteenth Century. From the Italian quaranta giorni – the time a ship would be isolated to prevent the spread of Black Death – a nightmare twice as deadly as Ebola will ever be.

But what airline can afford a fleet of multi-million pound Boeings, sitting going nowhere?

Especially when a couple of cans of aerosol ammonium chloride can do an emergency mist up in around half an hour?

Or a hospital-type auto-robot can be hauled aboard to do the same thing with IONISED hydrogen peroxide? Ten times more efficient than the vapour job – and done in half an hour at a cost of around a tenner.

A couple more scares and what’s not to like?

99.9999% germ reduction. No more Ebola. Gone.

So no, that’s not Ebola sitting next to you. Or MRSA, c. difficile, HIV, bird flu, norovirus – or any one of possibly thousands of bio-nasties.

More likely it’s the start of an on-board romance. Or a business deal. Or that well-deserved holiday that you owe yourself.

Enjoy the flight.

Originally posted 2014-10-08 12:33:33.