Monthly Archives: November 2014

Better than your GP – better than A&E

Healthy woman
What if you never had to go to the Doc ever again?

Staying healthy is important, right?

It’s the key to a happy life, doing what you want to do, being yourself – everything.

So would you take pills to help you keep well?

Nearly a quarter of us do, gulping down all kinds of keep-well tablets and nutritional supplements – a booming business expected to be worth £786 million by 2018 according to Euromonitor.

Do nothing – and suffer

But hold up there a minute. If it’s that important, why haven’t you had your flu jab?

More to the point, why haven’t your kids?

It’s free, you know, to under-fours. And not even an injection. A quick sniff from a nasal spray and they’re done.

Yet so far this year, only a third of children in this age group have been vaccinated. And according to chief medical officer Dame Sally Owens, these are the “super-spreaders” – the ones who cause the rest of us to catch the bug, especially grandparents and relatives.

What are we, round the twist or what?

Antibiotics don’t work

Because if we get a sniffle, most of us run to the Doc and demand antibiotics.

And antibiotics don’t work a damn against colds and flu – or any virus for that matter. But we pressure the Doc anyway – adding to the frightening reality that over-use of antibiotics means they don’t work any more.

That’s of course if you can get to the Doc, who’s all bunged up with people like you coughing and sneezing so there’s less time for Mrs Johnson who really has got a problem with her arthritic hip.

No problem, if the Doc’s overcrowded, maybe you’re one of those who runs to A&E at 10.00 in the evening because that’s when your TV programme’s finished. Good luck with getting through the triage wait – you’ll be a while after the girl in cardiac arrest from the three-car accident.

But that’s not you, is it? You’re much more thoughtful. Your local clinic and the A&E are busy places, so you stay home and suffer in silence.

Ill and iller

Except when you’re not well, you’re not well. And not doing something about it can only make things worse – may even make them irrecoverable.

It’s why too many cancer patients in Britain succumb for example. Staying away in the hopes of getting better could be the death of you.

So why run the risk of getting ill at all? If we’re spending over £20 every week or so for a bottle of vitamin tablets, what’s wrong with a flu jab for only £12?

What’s it worth to stay well and never have to visit the Doc at all? Or sit in A&E with some drunk heaving all over you?

No germs, no nothing

Here’s a few sums.

Central heating might set you back £3,000 to shut out winter. Double glazing could cost you £6,000 and over to stop the draughts. And insulation to prevent heat loss, £500. That’s £10K, just to keep warm and comfortable.

So how much for never getting sick because your house is sterile?

No viruses, no bacteria, so there’s nothing around to bring you down. That won’t stop little Katie from bringing something home from school of course. But it will raise the hygiene threshold so there’s less chance of catching anything.

No it doesn’t have to cost £10K, you can buy it for £100 a week. A completely automatic Hypersteriliser that eliminates health hazards completely.

About the size of a small wheelie-bin, it sprays each room with an ultra-fine mist of hydrogen peroxide. The stuff is ionised so it reaches out and grabs germs by static charge, ripping them apart by oxidising them.

Exactly the treatment you would want to give anything that makes you feel so lousy.

No germs in your home, you don’t get sick. No visits to the Doc or A&E. You may not even need the keep-well tablets either. You and your family are safe and protected from all the bugs that make life so miserable. Norovirus, campylobacter, salmonella, e.coli, flu, the works.

There’s beasties out there

You still need to take care of course. Step outside and you’re back in the thick of it. Out in the cold too – and the wind, and the rain, and all the other things that being out of nice, warm central heating can throw at us.

Worth it though, don’t you think – to keep all those nasties away?

Just don’t forget your flu jab.

That girl with the glasses in Accounts is sneezing all over the place.

Killer viruses: get yourself some protection

Eye make up
You do it every day
and it could be utterly deadly

Blink and you might miss it.

Tucked away amongst today’s latest is a nifty device to sterilise make-up brushes . A few minutes and no more bacteria.

Never thought of it before?

Right in your face

Actually make-up brushes are a major source of possible infection – especially in salons, used on multiple clients. That unexpected rash or worse started right in front of the mirror.

With use, make-up oil and dirt build up on your brushes, trapping all kinds of bacteria that spread over your face. Sure, you notice that they get dirty, so from time to time you probably wash them.

Because they take ages to dry, more bacteria develops within the hairs, making things worse not better. You use the brush again, close to your mouth, eyes and nose, all passages that viruses and bacteria exploit to invade your body. Next thing, rhinovirus or goodness knows what.

Ultra violet magic

So this latest Brush Medic gadget takes care of it – basically a mini vanity-slab-top drying cabinet with a UV generator built in. The ultra violet light irradiates the brushes, killing viruses and bacteria by destroying their DNA. Next time you use your brush, it’s sterilised safe.

Uh huh.

That takes care of your face, but what about the rest of you? And how about where you live – the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom? If germs can build up on your face, aren’t they everywhere?

All around, and inside you

If you could see them, you might be terrified. Because billions and billions of them surround us every day. We’re not aware of them because they’re too small to notice – smaller than the smallest grain of dust. And every one of us pulls around an aura of 3 million or so, every single second.

So why aren’t you sick?

Well one microbe by itself can’t do very much, your body’s protection system is way to clever. Your skin for instance has an acid mantle, that’s why its pH balance is so important. A single germ lands on you and it’s quickly history.

But not when they gang up on you, like in spray from a sneeze. And not when they find a way into your body through a cut or something you eat. They can even get in through your eye if you rub it, exposing the sensitive moist part.

Ah, but this Brush Medic doohickey has started something with its UV generator. Ultra violet light gets used everywhere to kill germs. Those brave medics who’ve gone to Africa to fight the Ebola disease go through a UV tunnel every day before work.

Beyond your face

Closer to home, you can get a handheld UV sanitising wand you can wave around, zapping germs as it goes. It’s fine for a once-over, like a spray of aerosol Dettol. Sanitising, not sterilising – bringing the risk down to one germ in a hundred.

The medical jobbies have way more firepower, using pulsed xenon to generate shortwave ultra violet – so potent that people using it have to keep clear. Real sterilising power down to one germ in a hundred thousand.

But like we said, germs are everywhere. And you can’t go humping a great ultra violet unit on castors with you everywhere you go. Like what happens where a lot of people get together in the same place? Restaurants, offices, schools, wherever.

Well in most places, nothing – as you probably know. People don’t think of germs, so they don’t do anything about them.

Not so wise when you think about what they do to you.

Medicine-resistant germs

Yes, you can get sick and possibly die. But don’t count on your doctor to rescue you. Right now the whole medical profession is in a flat spin because germs are becoming resistant to antibiotics. You don’t get better because your medicines won’t work.

Ah, but that’s why the make-up brush gadget is so good. It stops you getting infections before they start. And if the medicines don’t work, prevention is better than cure.

Grown-up hair bleach

Which is where another super germ-fighter comes into play – one you’re going to start seeing often. It’s a wheelie-bin sized auto-robot that mists up enclosed spaces with an ultra-fine hydrogen peroxide spray. Yes, the same hydrogen peroxide that whitens teeth and bleaches hair.

That fine spray is ionised so it reaches everywhere – up, under, around, inside. With a static charge that grabs at viruses and bacteria like a magnetic snatch. At the same moment, it releases oxygen atoms, oxidising the germs so it rips their cells to shreds. Serious sterilising down to one germ in a million.

All you do is close the windows and doors, press the button and get out. Twenty minutes later the place is sterile. The restaurant kitchen, the school toilets, the hotel room, the tanning salon, the fish and chip shop.

Worth keeping an eye on when you read about campylobacter, or norovirus, or whatever else is doing the rounds.

Gems are never safe, but you can be.

Say your bye-byes to stinky germs in the car

Woman smelling rose
Supersafe Supermum’s
got germ problems licked

It was brand-new, out the box. A glittering German 4×4, perfect for climbing up kerbs to park on pavements.

A Chelsea tractor, yes, they knew that. So Arthur named it Fergus – they had an old Ferguson tractor rusting by the gate at the farm next door when he was growing up.

Bundle of trouble

The baby was new too. A thumping giant at eight pounds and seven ounces, definitely a rugby player – lock forward at least, maybe even a scrum half.

Gwen chose the name Lance – as it had to be with a Dad called Arthur and living in a house called “Camelot”.

Wow, but the car was amazing to drive. Top of the range, four-and-a-half litres – pure indulgence and why not?

Both of them were at the top of their game, Arthur in the City, Gwen with her own PR outfit. High-earning DINKS (Double Income No Kids) they could afford the odd reward – like the skiing holiday they took in Austria six months before Lance arrived.

Lance was amazing, of course. So intelligent – definitely a transplant surgeon or nuclear physicist.

Reality and babies

Messy though. Every lunch bowl upside down on the floor. Every sterilised bottle dribbling on its side. And the nappies – better not to go there.

It got better when Lance graduated to a drinking mug. Two handles to hold and he liked using it. Best of all, it calmed him down. So Gwen let him have it, strapped in the back seat on the way to the office.

Sign a few cheques, crack a few heads, a quick trip to the park to feed the ducks, and home.

Mistake.

They were on the M25 going great and Lance had his special – a weird mix of formula and blackcurrant, but what the heck, he liked it.

Not all the time though.

Somewhere on the long Surrey stretch between Leatherhead and Chertsey, the mug went upside down on the brushed cloth seat. Gwen knew nothing because Lance was quiet and the whole lot had leaked out when they got to Shepherd’s Bush.

It didn’t mop up and it left a mark.

Worse, on the return trip Lance did a repeat performance with a full load of OJ.

Sponge and detergent when she finally got Lance down. Then the miracle gop when Ocado delivered. It got the stain out. But when she parked in the sun two days later, the residue made the inside as high as a kite.

Germs, germs everywhere

A full-on cyberchondriac Mum, Gwen knew the score. Salmonella, listeria, campylobacter, and e. coli at least. Probably a whole bunch more.

Fergus was an infected death trap on wheels and Lance was in danger.

Fergus went to the dealership to have the seat replaced and Gwen started using taxis. Until some driver gave her lip about kids upchucking in his cab.

More germs, more danger – Arthur had to drive them everywhere strapped in in the Lexus, with Gwen riding shotgun, holding Lance’s bottle while he drank. Less than ideal and a real pain until Fergus came back.

Gwen promised herself, no more drinking mug in the car – the very same afternoon that Lance screamed his lungs out through every inch of a four-and-a-half mile tailback. Another idea that never flew.

The next OJ hit was a day later.

Gwen screamed and climbed on the laptop. Somewhere out in Cyberdom there had to be an answer. Come on Google, make your magic.

The stuff arrived two days later – £8 extra for express delivery.

No smells, no germs

More formula by that stage. And a split milk carton in the luggage space, thrown there in a strop after a barney with some woman in the checkout queue.

Ammonium chloride it said on the label, an aerosol misting spray.

She got to it late one afternoon when Lance was down. Shut all the windows, put the can in the car, pressed the button and got out of there. Mist was right, more like fog – the kind that shuts airports down for three days.

Arthur came home in the middle of it. Leapt out of the Lexus scrabbling for the fire extinguisher. “For Pete’s sake, Gwen – your car’s on fire.”

She stopped him just in time. Arm wrestled the extinguisher away from him. Opened the door and let the mist escape out. Strong lemony smell, no trace of sour milk.

She gave it another bash the next day, Supermum on overkill. Again, no trace of sour milk – and the miracle gop took care of the stains. She loaded up Lance, suspicious as hell.

Except the smells were gone and Lance was happy as Larry. No sniffles, no dodgy tummy, full of the joys of spring. Still lethal with the drinking mug of course – Sir Spillalot. They averaged a new hit every one-and-a-half journeys.

Gwen got more of the stuff. Misted up the car every two days. No smells, no germs – it oxidised viruses and bacteria to nothing, could even handle that horrid Ebola.

Next coffee club morning with all the Mums complaining about colds and tummy bugs, she just sat there with Lance smelling like a rose.

No, Ebola doesn’t know it’s Christmas

Black Baby Christmas
Taking away love
is the cruellest death of all

Among the lyrics nay-sayers are objecting to in the new Do they know it’s Christmas song just released by Bob Geldof  & Co is “Where a kiss of love can kill you…”

It’s a heart-breaking reality for the people of West Africa, whose love and compassion is denied them by the highly contagious infect-on-contact nature of the virus.

The dignity of dying

It’s been much reported that the custom of touching and kissing the dying and the dead is a major cause of spreading this dreadful affliction.

How dare we be so heartless and uncaring!

We would all be better people for demonstrating such humanity. To show love to the dying is one of the greatest gifts of all. Unfortunately, with Ebola around, it will kill you.

Except maybe we’re not that uncaring – just misplaced in our thinking and unobservant of the ways of others. And maybe a little insensitive.

Here to help

This week, more volunteers flew into Sierra Leone – thirty NHS professionals, advance guard of over 1,000 highly motivated and committed young people.

As trained medics, it will be ingrained in them that patients must be isolated and contact restricted to professionals wearing proper protection. Not wrong, but itself adding to the crisis.

To locals they are the “spacemen” who take loved ones away, denying them the care and support of their family when they need it most. To avoid such heartbreak, they hide sick family members from them, stealing into the jungle to even more remote havens.

But unfortunately not they’re havens at all.  How ever far they run, Ebola will kill them for their love. Giving and loving is not on the agenda.

Where’s the love?

That makes it a bleak Christmas for everyone. As a celebration of love and compassion it belongs to the world – for Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Hindus every bit as much as Christians. Love and compassion are qualities we all seek to show in our actions, 365 days a year.

In fitting tribute, in Germany, Japan and several other places round the world there are shops devoted to Christmas all year round. Such glitz and razzmatazz might overpower the underlying love, but the motive is still there. We care, we need to show it, Happy Christmas.

Which brings us back to Sierra Leone. If we need to show compassion anywhere, it’s here.

Yes, it’s amazing what’s happening. Professionals from around the world – particularly Britain – giving of themselves and risking their lives to be there. Money and resources can buy a lot of compassion.

But where is the love the locals need to show their own?

Well-meaning but insensitive

With our Western ways and perceptions, we steal it away from them just as surely as Ebola does. They can’t touch, feel, kiss, or be together. We rip them apart without knowing we are doing so. No wonder they flee to the jungle.

How would we feel if we were denied access to our own? Our own children, soul mate or parents taken away from us – as if we have committed a crime?

This is the REAL Ebola crisis, isn’t it?

How to let people show love.

And how to be genuine about it.

Big deal

So a bunch of pop stars get together to make a fund-raising song – they waive their fee but generate more publicity for themselves than they might otherwise have got on their own.

So the concerned among us make donations – dumping the guilt bucket and wallowing in feelgood.

So the gung-ho professionals arrive in West Africa – troops, medicos, nurses, gofers – boots on the ground, determined to stomp out this terrible virus once and for all.

But where’s the Christmas?

Where do the people of Sierra Leone get to show their love for the family who are suffering and dying? How do they show their love and respect for the dead?

Can we solve it with pastors, imams, rabbis and priests?

The hurt is in the heart

Have we any idea how hard it is to ask those people to let go? To get them to accept that it’s out of their hands, those lives are gone – unless by some lucky chance the medical professionals can bring them back again?

All we can do is think of them and try in every way we can. Recognise they all face the long good-bye and try to put ourselves in their position.

Because unlike them, we’re not good with dead bodies. They scare us, even when they’re our own family. A throwback maybe to 350 years ago, when we ourselves were faced with The Plague and in our ignorance we thought the slightest touch could do for us.

Be kind to these people, they’re humans just like us. Take them to your heart and love them in your own way. If the world shows love, maybe losing a loved one may not be so heart-breaking.

Love is the greatest gift of all and Ebola can’t have it.

Today’s health: queasy tum, germy, flu later

Deluge of germs
Look out!
There’s a germ storm coming!

You wear a raincoat if it rains – probably carry an umbrella.

But how about a germcoat?

Every day, every one of us moves around with a personal aura of around 3 million microbes – smaller than raindrops or dust, hanging onto us by our own static charge.

Germ clouds gathering

Some of them are viruses, some of them bacteria. A few of them are even benign.

But count on it, the rest are out to get you any way they can – they just can’t reach you, floating around as individual cells. Your skin is too thick, you blink too often, your nose filters them out, and  you keep your mouth closed.

There’s more of them out there in clouds as well. Billions and billions. Norovirus, rhinovirus, e.coli, campylobacter, salmonella, c.difficile, AIDS – so many, some of them don’t have names yet.

Don’t worry though, as long as they’re not inside your body, you’re safe. Just don’t give them a chance by letting your hands get dirty or wolfing down some dodgy food.

Always at hazard

But it”s not that easy – things can happen.

That bloke next to you in the Underground suddenly explodes and a mist of vapour and ewwy bits flies through the air. Not single germs any more – just one gob of snot is loaded with millions – enough to gang up and enter your body if you’re careless enough.

Luckily you have handiwipes in your bag and can clean the stuff off. You’re only exposed for a few seconds, hopefully you’re OK. Not so easy with the stuff you might breathe, though. You’re right to try to move away.

Right to wipe your hands too. Unconsciously, most of us are always touching our faces – wiping eyes, rubbing cheeks, gesturing up to our mouths. Entry ports for germs if you just let them.

Never thought about any of this?

Out of sight, out of mind

Most people don’t. Out of sight out of mind.

Not like those dark winter clouds above, or the rain splattering down around us.

Germs, microbes, pathogens – they’re all too small to see. Several million could fit on the head of a pin – so to have 3 million or so always floating around us means they’re actually quite sparse – an empty day for them.

You’d freak if they were dyed with colour so you could see them though. Hit by the sudden reality that you’re not as safe as you thought you were. Threatened at every second.

Well, not exactly.

You’re not attacked by wild dogs every time you step outside your front door, are you? Creepy buzzards don’t swoop down from the sky.

The same with germs. Except they’re always with you on the spot and ready, waiting –  while the nearest pack of wild dogs could be several hundred miles away.

You’re no safer indoors, either. You can’t escape a germ cloud like sheltering from the rain.

Wrong.

Safe places

Indoors is the one place where we can make ourselves safest. But – out of sight, out of mind – we never do it.

Out in the open, there’s no holding germs back. And they’re out there all the way up to the troposphere – scientists have found bacteria happily thriving nine miles up and beyond, no problem.

Indoors is different. In a closed environment, we can control the air.

Look at hospital operating theatres, clean rooms and computer data centres. By pumping up the pressure greater than outside, no air or germs can get in, everything is pushed out.

The air can be filtered too. Protected by high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filters that are fine enough to trap many of the pathogens that threaten us.

Protective measures

We can even sterilise the place – eliminate viruses and bacteria immediately.

The quick way is with short wave ultra violet light. A few seconds exposure at close range and BAM, it attacks the germ cells’ DNA and destroys them.

A whole room of course takes longer  – more time to reach places further from the light.

Better still is hydrogen peroxide, well-known as a germ-killer back in the Nineteenth Century. Souped up for the Twenty-First, it’s even more effective. Experiments have proved that in the gaseous state, it’s many times more efficient.

Difficult to work with though, as it decomposes easily. So the trick is to ionise it in liquid form and spray it out like a mist. Dispersed like this, its performance is formidable.

Ionising gives it a static charge that makes it spread more quickly, ultra-fine so it rises easily and reaches into cracks. The static charge also attracts it to germs, which it kills by oxidising – shoving oxygen atoms at them.

Neither viruses nor bacteria can survive this treatment – their cells are ripped to pieces. In twenty minutes – that’s all it takes – the average room is completely sterile. No germs, nothing.

Makes quite a difference to your health forecast, doesn’t it? If there aren’t any germs around, there’s nothing to touch you. You don’t get sick, you’re totally safe. And all it costs is about a fiver.

So why don’t hospitals, hotels, restaurants and schools use it all the time?

Well, why aren’t you wearing your germcoat?

Out of sight, out of mind. And most of the time, we’re healthy enough to get away with it.

Unless – cough, wheeze, sniffle – we’re careless or unlucky.

Yes Ma’am, this is a worldwide threat

Commando aiming rifle
Malaria is a bigger killer than Ebola

Worse than Ebola? Yes, definitely.

But not so ugly. Not so compelling to our morbid fascination with blood and pain and suffering.

Yesterday, Her Majesty the Queen reminded us* that our top-of-mind preoccupation with Ebola is deflecting us from an even greater threat.

One that kills more victims every day than the current Ebola outbreak has in total.

Malaria.

A threat to us all

You see, Ebola might be lethal, but we CAN actually kill it.

As a virus out in the open, we can attack it by oxidising, which rips its individual cells to pieces. Or we can blitz with ultra violet light, which destroys its DNA.

But malaria is not a virus. It’s a parasite spread by mosquitoes.

And like Ebola at the moment, there is no vaccine for it.

Make no mistake, malaria is way more deadly.

In 2012 the World Health Organisation put half the world at risk from malaria with 207 million cases reported and 627,000 deaths. Most of these were children under 15 – from parasites passed on by their mothers.

In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 200,000 infants die from it every year.

One child every 60 seconds.

So Her Majesty is right, we’re taking our eye off the ball.

We need to beat both Ebola and malaria in the same way.

Treat cause, not symptoms

Our mothers taught us this, but we never seem to remember – PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE.

Get to both of these killers before they get to us, and we’re safe.

In fact striking the first blow is fast becoming our most effective weapon.

Because right now, health professionals around the world are seriously worried about resistance to both these diseases.

Yesterday was European Antibiotic Awareness Day – underlined by the threat that more and more bacteria are developing immunity to treatment by antibiotics.

Widespread use, particularly through agriculture, has led to many antibiotics becoming completely ineffective. At a stroke, our major defence against infections – particularly in hospital surgical procedures – is gone.

Which means as soon as we find a cure for Ebola, it may be defeated. We need to clobber it first.

It’s the same with malaria.

Get those mosquitoes

Saturation use by agriculture of the insecticide DDT – originally intended as an indoor residual spray (IRS) – led to mosquitoes developing an immunity and a return to epidemic levels in poorer parts of the world like Ivory Coast, Angola, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Mali. The parasites are also drug resistant.

Sure mosquito nets help, especially those one treated with pyrethroids – made from an organic compound found naturally in the flowers of pyrethrum lilies. Harmless to humans, it attacks the nervous system of the mosquito and kills it.

Problem solved – but with a downside.

It’s also toxic to bees, fish and cats.

Bees pollinate the flowers of fruit trees and other food plants – and already this year bees in Britain are becoming scarce because of the warm, wet summer. Fish of course, are part of a whole long food chain. And cats have a whole army of people on their side.

So it’s back to DDT, as long as it’s used indoors. But pyrethroids work and are highly effective at killing mosquitoes. Along with other insecticides, they just need care.

Same thing with viruses and bacteria. They’re easily oxidised – particularly by ionised hydrogen peroxide. A quick spray of super-fine mist and ALL germs are gone – the whole place is sterilised.

Problem solved again – but also with a downside.

Oxidising kills ALL viruses and bacteria – including the useful ones. So again care has to be taken in how it’s done. Treating empty indoor areas room-by-room works best. Without people present there is no hazard and sterile rooms are safe to use afterwards.

Care and diligence

As long as we are watchful and careful, both Ebola and malaria can be overcome – and other dread diseases besides.

Thank you, Your Majesty, for bringing us up to the mark.

*At the launch a new leadership academy at Chatham House in London.

Luvvy-Duvvy Dentist Saves Lives

Indian Beauty
Pulsed ultra violet –
protection against pathogens in seconds

Blame British Airways. It was their sirloin steak that collapsed the tooth filling at 36,000 feet.

The very next chomp brought agony at 2.00 in the morning as the side of the tooth broke off onto the plastic plate.

Four more hours to Mumbai. With the paracetamol from the cabin attendant doing nothing at all. A pounding headache and cheek swollen out like a puffer fish.

Hurry up and wait

Murder at the airport. Ten hours to get a passport stamp, though it could only have been ten minutes. The hotel sent a car, hooray. Except the driver spoke no English – happy-happy cruising like we had all day.

Not nice to die at sunrise – in a strange place, thousands of miles from home.

Except the manager was brilliant. One look and he reached for the phone.

“Emergency please, doctor luvvy-duvvy.”

A mistake, surely. Or an unfamiliar Indian name.

Doctor Lavi Davi, that seemed about right.

The manager spun the driver round and shoved him at the car. “Jaldi karana,” he yelled and slammed the door.

No cruising now. Lewis Hamilton on steroids. Schoolkids, bikes, bullock carts, buses – all the people on the planet crammed into the single road ahead. No need for pain-killers, just triple double tranquillisers.

Another ten minutes that felt like ten hours.

The Empire sleeps on

Quieter side streets. A crumbling wall. A short dusty driveway to a broken down colonial relic of a house from the days of the Raj.

Doctor Luvvy-Duvvy in big letters on a purple signboard.

Out of the car in a cloud of dust. Through a crowded waiting room into air conditioned coolness and a waiting dentist’s chair.

The door shut.  Ah, sanity!

A big 4×4 pulled up outside. A flashy designer job for climbing up on pavements. Mercedes or Porsche or something. This would bend the debit card.

A nurse set up the chair. Flashy was right. The latest recliner model with all the goodies. She set up the splash-bib and Health & Safety glasses. Just like home.

“Doctor will be here now.” She nodded at the car outside the window.

A vision stepped in. Straight from a Bollywood movie. Poised, elegant and drop-dead gorgeous.

She pulled a purple smock over her head. The heart-shaped badge said Luvvy-Duvvy.

“Doctor Geetha Khan,” she said. Melodic, like wind chimes. “Let’s take a look.”

Silky smooth, surely a goddess. “The hotel said it was life or death.”

The gentle dental touch

Her fingers were careful, bred to handling crystal. The touch was confident. She knew her stuff.

Another ten minutes. Ten hours for discomfort. Ten seconds while this magical creature worked her miracle. Pain gone, swelling gone. Relief at being human again.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” It couldn’t be said enough.

She smiled. The whole world sighed.

Sitting up, slightly giddy. “Please tell me, I’m new to your country. Why Luvvy-Duvvy?

The smile broadened – somewhere the light shone brighter and flowers opened their petals.

Ultra violet germ killer

“Over there,” she pointed to a grey box on wheels, the Luvvy-Duvvy badge big across its front panel. “We named our practice after it – it saves lives.”

Luvvy-Duvvy?”

“Come.” She took my hand – instant, irreversible love.

Back into the crowded waiting room, the nurse coming too. The Doc-goddess had a remote in her hand. She pulled the door to, not quite closing it.

“Watch.”

Reflected purple light flickered off the wall panels inside.

Pulsed ultra-violet,” she said. “This is a hot country. People come straight in off the street, bringing all manner of germs. Take your chances outside, operating theatre inside.”

She nodded at the door. “Luvvy-Duvvy for the UV. That thing sterilises my operating room before and after every patient. Five minutes, bang.”

She pushed open the door. A long glass tube was subsiding back into the machine. “No viruses, no bacteria. I work with people’s open mouths every day. No infections on my watch.”

The crowded waiting room was watching.

“Please excuse me, this is a busy day,” she said. Wind chimes again. “Enjoy our country while you can. Just don’t chew on that side for a day or two.”

A miracle place, India. Can’t help loving the place.

Luvvy-duvvy me.

Deadlier than Ebola et al – Panic

Panick Woman
Relax,
you’ll only catch it
if you’re careless

Dread diseases are all around. But you don’t see people dropping like flies, do you?

Headlines scream and a shiver goes down your spine. There’s a case of avian flu up in Yorkshire – 6,000 poor ducks getting the chop. H5N1 possibly, or H7N9. Maybe B747 or A380 – the numbers are meaningless, but not the implication.

We’re all going to die.

Or not.

Isolated outbreaks

Because that one case is already taken care of. Yes, there’s turkey farms all round, but don’t worry – we’ll all be safe for Christmas. At least, that’s the story.

But just to set your mind at rest, the Dutch have had a case too. H5N8, this time – not R2D2. And wait for it, this month there’s further cases in Germany, China, Japan and South Korea.

What about Ebola? Don’t people know there’s an epidemic on?

Well, no – and that’s not surprising.

Safe in the West

Most of us lead a reasonably healthy lifestyle – well protected by tight industry standards. If there’s anything in the food chain that threatens us, it’s usually such an exception no wonder the headlines scream.

A tarantula in a bunch of bananas from Waitrose. And don’t forget how obsessed we are about sell-by dates. The supermarkets are too – but they could get fined or even lose their licence – so let’s keep our perception firmly fixed on “paranoid”.

Because there’s no doubt about it, Ebola’s going to be here on the next flight from Sierra Leone. And that sore throat we’ve got is not going to shift with a quick swig of Histalix.

Yup, it’s panic stations de luxe. And way more contagious than any disease.

Already we’ve had flight crews lock passengers in the loo because of vomiting. Forget flight nerves or air turbulence. Or why there’s the bag that’s found in every seat pocket. Lock ’em up and call the health services, fumigate the place now!

Then there’s that bloke in the Underground. Looks a bit leery – sweating, eyes rolling round his head, unsteady on his feet. And the smell, strong and bitter, like liquorice and disinfectant. He must have come from some hospital. Just get out at the next station and wash your hands ASAP.

Ah!

Common sense by default

At least we’re washing our hands!

If there’s one good thing about Ebola, it’s that we won’t come down with norovirus because we skip washing hands after going to the loo. The pushy ones are even telling us to do it and getting away with it. “Hey, wash your hands. You don’t want to come down with Ebola, do you?”

More ignorance and paranoia, right there.

Pretty well any kind of contact is hazardous. Difficult to achieve though, with the nearest case approximately 3,000 miles away. Doesn’t stop us going crazy though, does it?

Seen the rubber-neckers veering away from crime scene investigators in their CSI outfits yet? Some poor dear had her bag snatched and fell. Put everyone in a tizz.

Don’t be so surprised, check the mind-set.

Because it’s not a crime scene at all, is it? The authorities are covering something up. That’s why the cops are there, moving people on. Nothing to see here? The whole street will be down with it before the end of the day.

Uh, huh.

Like the poster says, “Keep Calm & Carry On.”

The Six O’Clock News is not a horror show, it’s just the six o’clock news. And about the only thing that’s going to impact any of us is that petrol is going up – again.

Take two tablets and call me in the morning…

Time to get a grip.

And be thankful that the health professionals who look after us – especially the much-maligned NHS – are more than capable of protecting us, even if an outbreak does happen within our shores.

They can’t protect us from ourselves though.

But hey, this paracetamol stuff is amazing.

Don’t worry, it’s not Ebola – you just need a flu jab

Chicken Running in Snow
Brrr! Ignoring flu in cold weather could do you a lot of no good

The symptoms look the same in the first ten days. Headache, feverishness, sore throat, fatigue.

And make no mistake, flu CAN be a killer. More people catch it – and more people die from it every year – than all the Ebola cases put together.

Relax – there’s no need to suffer – you can get a flu vaccination just about anywhere.

Protection for everyone

It’s quick and easy too – just about anyone can have it.

And it’s not just the oldies who get it for free.

It’s anyone at serious risk of getting the the flu, expecting mothers, or people with a serious condition like asthma or diabetes.

Even your kids can have it – not from a jab, but a nasal spray.

So if it’s that easy, what are you waiting for?

Winter is coming

Because don’t be taken in by all this mild weather. It might be the warmest year in centuries, but this is Britain in winter – and it WILL change. And when those double figure temperatures dip, that’s when your body is vulnerable.

Your GP can do the jab and so can your chemist. If you’re over 65, you’ve probably already had a text message from the NHS, reminding you to book one.

Yes, you do need to book – there’s a few questions to ask first, to make sure you’ll be OK.

Get it done at your desk

You can even get it done at work. Every year, employers face a staggering £1.1 billion cost for lost working time, so maybe you can strong-arm the boss to have it on your company’s medical scheme like BUPA.

There’s also lots of companies that come in to the office and do it on the spot. A quick two minutes and a deserved coffee break.

If you pop into your chemist, reckon on it costing you about £12.

Some places do charge a bit more, but you’ll get extras like a nasal spray and vitamin C tablets thrown in as part of the deal.

Effective protection

Does it work?

Definitely – though since we’re all different, it’s better for some people than for others.

It depends on the type of flu too. The vaccine will cope with most, but there are thousands of varieties and new ones developing all the time. This year’s includes protection against:

  • H1N1 – the strain that caused the swine flu pandemic in 2009
  • H3N2 – a strain of flu that infects birds which was active in 2011
  • B/Massachusetts/2 – another strain that was active in 2012

It’s because these strains keep changing that you need to have the jab every year.

And it’s worth doing because flu can very quickly get serious if you’re not careful.

Don’t take chances

Risk going out when it’s cold and wet and it could turn into pleurisy or pneumonia.

In 1626, the famous philosopher Francis Bacon died from the after-effects of stuffing a chicken with snow bare-handed, trying to win an argument that cold preserved food better than salt.

The chill that he caught turned to acute pneumonia in a damp bed and that was the end of him. A ghost chicken reportedly haunts Pond Square, Highgate to this day.

Perhaps it’s a way of reminding you.

Don’t be chicken about getting your flu jab!

Drop dead – antibiotics won’t save you any more

Bandaged Mummy
Hike up hygiene habits –
or it could be the end of us

At time of writing, current world population is 7,274,081,952 and counting – already up 2,300 since starting this sentence. Check it out on the amazing Worldometer.

“Over-population” cry a lot of experts – and in certain circumstances, they might be right. Not for the whole planet, but for the bit they’re putting under the microscope.

Too many people for local food production, not enough water resources – whatever.

Human beings by numbers

One hundred years ago, we weren’t even half that number of people – with a whole great horde of us recently killed in World War One (34 million), or in the Spanish flu epidemic that followed (up to 50 million).

Seems every so often, if we get to be too many, a war or disease comes along and chops us back.

Well yes, but only on a local basis.

An island of us

If you really think there’s too many of us, it’s kind of a jolt to think that every single one of us alive today could fit shoulder to shoulder on the island of Zanzibar – 7,274,082,381 of us (and counting) in just 1,023 square miles.

A lot of things make us so prolific – advancing technology, clever agriculture – and most of all revolutions in medicine.

Joseph Lister’s first insistence about washing hands was in the early 1800s. Our population doubled.

Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery of pencillin – the first true antibiotic – was a hundred years later. Our population doubled again – and kept right on going.

How far will we get?

That depends on our hygiene levels.

No more miracles

Because the latest nasty is that antiobiotics are not the miracles they once were.

All kinds of bugs have learned how to resist them – and more are developing every day.

One by one, our defences are failing.

Now according to the National Academy of Sciences, neither another World War, nor a global pandemic would be enough to stop our rocketing climb in numbers. We’ll top 10 billion by the end of the century, easy peasy.

Uh huh.

Everything at once

Except how about more than one pandemic at once?  A whole storm of them all at the same time? Like Ebola, the plague, smallpox, SARS, flu, polio and AIDS – all clobbering us together with no treatment against any of them?

Are we about to be wiped out?

Hey! Back to Earth!

It was Lister who pushed our numbers up by telling us to wash out hands, remember?

But be honest, how many of us do that as often as we should?

And how many remember WHY?

To stop the germs getting to us,right? To give those viruses and bacteria no chance to touch us.

Hygiene habits

If we did nothing else – if we washed our hands all the time – we might survive.

But to be certain, we need to hike our hygiene habits a whole lot higher.

It was right back alongside Lister that Louis Jacque Thenard discovered hydrogen peroxide in the Nineteenth Century.

As a germ killer, it was immediately a trailblazer – safe and easy to use, no virus or bacteria could survive contact with it.

Two hundred years later, the technology has moved on.

Force field

Ionised and dispersed into an ultra-fine mist, hydrogen peroxide reaches everywhere, grabbing at pathogens by electrostatic attraction, oxidising their cells to shreds by shoving oxygen atoms at them.

Our antibiotics might not work, but our first line of defence sure as hell does.

Like a force-field round a spaceship, hydrogen peroxide takes out any germ that comes at us. We’ll be OK, though we might not make that magic 10 billion.

Why?

Well, not all of us have access to hydrogen peroxide or the auto-robots that disperse it.  And not all of us will remember to be careful and practice high-level hygiene at all times.

At least we stand a chance though.

So when the Doc looks at you and shakes his head, it might not be the end of the world.

As long as you’re not relying only on antibiotics, you’ll live.