Monthly Archives: October 2014

Get shot of Halloween

Injection
Flu is not Ebola – but it can still kill you

Trick or treat. Jab or jolly. It’s your choice.

Best to go for the jab though – it’s that time of year.

Too many of those fruity shooters on the Big Night and you don’t know your whatever from your elbow.

Just a cold, huh?

You stagger home in the rain and sure as anything, it gets you. Only a sniffle, you think – with the room still going round the next morning.

Then you throw up on the Piccadilly Line on the way to the office.

“Wild mixing”, you mumble to your horrified companions.

“Ebola,” they shout – and you’re strong-armed off at Leicester Square by a bunch of hazmat hoodies.

Mistaken identity

You know the truth, but they’re not taking any chances. And how were you to know that first-week symptoms are the same for flu and Ebola? Or that tequila, peach schnapps and malibu rum would have such an effect?

Mind you, flu’s not nice at the best of times. Miserable, headaches, sore throat, aches in the joints – your own mini-Ebola.

Flu by numbers

Not to be played with either – 31,100 deaths in England and Wales last year (the Scots know better, they stick to whisky). Ordinary innocent people done in by what they call Excess Winter Mortality, a Whitehall-ese catch-all for colds, flu and pneumonia – doesn’t matter which, it will kill you anyway.

And those were figures for a mild winter – not the perisher we look set for after the warmest weather in yonks.

Ordinary common or garden flu, we’re talking – not the Spanish variety that killed 100 million back in 1918, more than the whole of World War One – or Hong Kong flu, a tiddler that only killed 33,800 in 1968.

Super-contagious – atishoo!

Yes, Ebola’s dangerous, but the current outbreak is low at 10,000 deaths world-wide. And you can’t catch it if somebody sneezes all over you on the Piccadilly Line.

Except your fellow passengers don’t know that.

To stop train, pull handle – penalty for improper use £50.

A worthwhile investment to avoid Ebola.

What’s up, Doc?

All of which says, get your Halloween shot right now. It’s the start of the season for goodness sake. Why go miserable when you could have a ball? And not just for Halloween, but for all 56 days until Christmas and beyond.

Do it it now.

Oh yes, and for Halloween night itself, take two paracetamol  and an alka-seltzer before you go to bed.

You might just make it on the Piccadilly Line.

Ebola rescue within reach

Rope Ladder
Avoid viruses and bacteria – take hygiene habits up a level

Wash your hands before proceeding further. Wash you hands before anything.

Because if Ebola really has you worried, that’s one sure way to avoid getting it.

Reality check

You’re not in Africa and you’re not sick. Sure, the nearest Ebola case is three thousand miles away. And sure, you have no connection with anyone from Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea.

But you’re worried all the same and want to be safe. Even though you’re ten times more likely to come down with flu, which kills hundreds of thousands more than Ebola every year – and even now you’re starting a sniffle.

Basic hygiene

OK, so wash your hands. Because if you’re that worried, you’ll already know that Ebola can survive on surfaces like glass for almost two months. And if you’re going to get it, it will be on contact. Touch the glass and you could be in trouble.

A bummer that, because you don’t normally think of it. Clean the tables and chairs, do the floor, use a good powerful bleach so it kills everything.

But forget the window that poor girl visiting from Monrovia leaned up against, wishing she was back home.

Well, she got her wish – to become one of the 520 cases reported in Liberia. let’s hope she makes it.

Clean is not enough

But you have a problem too, don’t you? Because when you go all out to disinfect a room, how many times do you remember the windows?

Or the walls come to that, or the tops of cupboards, the underside of tables, the armrest of chairs, the door handles, the… you can see where this is going.

Yes, cleaning all those surfaces is a good thing. But if you want to be safe, it’s not enough. Not against Ebola, not against anything. 50 days, Ebola can survive on that glass – and that’s according to the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

Safe by auto-robot

But you can take it out in twenty minutes. Sterilise the whole room clear of ALL virus and bacteria on all surfaces and in the entire air space too – total neutralisation.

Used increasingly in hospitals and clinics, hydrogen peroxide auto-robot sterilisers are protecting us more and more in every day life too.

A super-fine dry mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide is released into the room, spreading upwards and outwards to permeate across surfaces and into every crack and crevice from the ceiling down.

Germs eliminated

Any viruses or bacteria are grabbed by electrostatic charge and oxidised to oblivion – ripped apart by extra oxygen atoms they have no defence against.

Only water is left, in such small amounts it evaporates immediately. The room is safe – and so are you. No germs, no smells, no hazards.

Which of course includes the window glass – and anything else that might have been touched by anyone.

Didn’t know it was that easy to be that safe?

Count on it – sterilise the rooms around you, and Ebola can’t come near.

Ebola goes pop

Halloween Man
Weird, controversial –
as long as it kills Ebola,
who cares?

Halloween is weird, right?

Ebola party in Mayfair

Even so, top of the weird list has got to be Mayfair music club, The Scotch of St James, which this weekend will be hosting an Ebola-themed Halloween party.

As a high-profile celeb-infested landmark, The Scotch has predictably drawn plenty of negative comment – a “reprehensible” move, that “trivialises” matters “beyond the pale”.

But the Scotch is used to controversy – its list of “alumni” reads like a rock and roll who’s who – controversial every one of them, including Paul McCartney, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix.

Predictably though, the do-gooders have it back to front. As promoters for the event point out, it is actually a fancy-dress party based on “Saturday Night Fever” with Ebola as the focus for attracting donations to the volunteer network Médecins Sans Frontières‎.

Deadly memories

It is not the first time a deadly disease has caused celebrations, or triggered lasting traditions.

Across Europe the image of a doctor wearing a prominent beaked mask is still familiar, a memory of the bubonic plague epidemics of he Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.

Almost an omen of the full-face masks worn against Ebola today, the beaked masks were filled with  ambergris, lemon balm, mint leaves, camphor, cloves, laudanum, myrrh and rose petals to counter the putrid air that was thought to be the cause of infection.

Killer plague

In the Republic of Venice, Italy, where the plague killed 146,000 people in 1576, a commemorative pontoon bridge is built every year across the 330-metre wide Giudecca Canal from the city’s administrative centre in San Marco to the basilica of the Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore in Dorsduro.

A religious ceremony and lavish fireworks display enables relieved citizens and the city’s leaders to give thanksgiving in the two-day Feast of Rendentore in July.

The plague hit Venice repeatedly.  In 1630 almost a third of the city’s population was lost, salvation from which is commemorated  in the magnificent church of Santa Maria della Salute, an iconic domed landmark that stands close to the entrance to the Grand Canal.

Will the current Ebola crisis bring similar gestures of relief from such incredible human suffering?

Weirdly – it being Halloween after all – we already have one.

Ebola website

Pierre Omidyar, the entrepreneur who founded the online auction site eBay, had a fascination with the virus. In fact back in 1995, when eBay was launched simultaneous with the second major outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the website was mostly a collection of information about Ebola.

So, still uptight about holding a Halloween Ebola party?

Hey, whatever works.

As long as the world comes out of it safely, anything to help those poor people suffering from Ebola’s indescribable misery is worth it.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.