Monthly Archives: September 2015

Ooh! Norovirus does the dirty on your wallet too

Businesswoman worried
Being sick costs money – and who can afford an unhealthy bank balance?

It’s that time of year again.

Not that norovirus ever takes time off.

Ask any cruise ship passenger, this stomach-churning nasty strikes in warm weather as well as cold. Blue sky holiday? Holiday blues, more like.

Norovirus season

Right now it’s on the rampage again. Sixty children out of action at a New Forest school last week. Another 32 off yesterday.

90 out of the school’s 350 total – a whole quarter absent and the place is still open!

It might not be an epidemic, but it’s pretty damn close. Because – highly contagious and a hardy survivor – norovirus never lets go.

Contagious is right – 1,000 times more virulent than any flu virus. And if you’ve ever seen how fast coughs and sneezes spread through a bunch of junior school kids, you’ll know what a runaway wildfire flu can be.

Plus norovirus takes 24 hours to happen. So infected kids can mingle with the healthy ones without anybody knowing. The slightest touch is enough to transfer it. Playing tag with stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

The hands have it

Then there’s the fomites. The things children touch that others touch too. Desks, chairs, pencils, pens, door handles, computer keyboards, gym equipment, toys, and everything in the lunch hall.

Norovirus can survive on surfaces without a human host for a week, ten days, or more. Any child touching them catches the bug and perpetuates the spread. Touching other surfaces and other kids, keeping the infection going.

Which is where the costs start snowballing.

Most norovirus outbreaks focus on medical issues. But the money side is just as bad.

In a people-intensive place like a junior school, it’s not just children who go off sick, it’s teachers too. But they have to be paid for, even though they’re not there. So do the supply teachers who come in to substitute for them – assuming the school remains open.

If it gets really serious, closing the school is another cost. The whole staff have to be paid, even though they’re doing nothing.

Piling on the pounds

Then there’s containment. No school can keep the books balanced if it’s closed. So specialist crews have to go in and disinfect the place. Crews that cost money.

They need to be thorough. Most “deep clean” procedures have little or no effect. The virus hangs on in cracks and crevices – even in the air itself. And if the contact time with bleach or whatever the purifying agent being used is too short, the infection bounces back again.

In 2002, the Holland America cruise liner Amsterdam suffered repeat outbreaks on four consecutive cruises, despite rigorous cleaning. A whole cruise liner aborting its mission, four times in a row. 1,380 passengers at a time. 1,380 refunds, 1,380 grumpy complaints to friends who chose other cruise lines.

Plenty, plenty lost revenue.

The deep cleans didn’t work. So the only thing was to take the ship out of commission and disinfect thoroughly – a major income-earning unit off-line for more than a week. With expensive hand treatment right down to the fomites of bedding, TV remotes, bibles – and all the poker chips and currency in the casino.

Not good enough

The New Forest school could easily be the same. Germ-killing bleach is fine if it gets everywhere, but normal wipe-clean methods never do. The virus lives on, under, behind, or on top of things. In inaccessible places, clinging to the walls, the ceilings, the light fittings.

Which means JAM (Just Add Money) and the school remains closed. Because the job has to be done again. And again. Until it’s either fumigated properly, or so long passes that the virus dies out.

Meanwhile, the infected children are all at home. Not in isolation either, there’s other family. Mums running ragged, probably with other children to worry about too. And Dads, escaping to the office, but not immune either. All at risk, because who of any of them ever remembers to keep washing their hands?

So businesses in Southampton, Bournemouth – and all around south Hampshire where these Dads work – start having norovirus outbreaks as well. Key staff off sick and not producing. Work projects stalled, orders not being filled, revenue not coming in.

Suddenly, a price tag that could run into millions. And misery – financial and otherwise – for thousands of people along the South Coast.

All because little Jimmy, or Kieron, or Sally-Anne, or Marguerite did not wash their hands – nine times out of ten, the way norovirus starts in the first place – the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

Can it all be avoided? The outbreak contained? All these costs controlled? Life return to normal?

It could be a long process – and a lot of pounds down the drain before anything happens.

To the rescue

Unless of course, Hypersterilisers are brought into play – not just for health’s sake, but to protect everybody’s bank balance.

These deceptively innocent-looking machines destroy ALL viruses and bacteria in a room in around forty minutes. Their super-fine spray of ionised hydrogen peroxide plasma is electrically charged to reach into every remote corner and crevice, grabbing and oxidising germs to oblivion as it does so.

It might take a while to do a whole school – overnight perhaps, running each machine from one room to the next. But once it’s done, the whole place is sterile – no germs of any kind – totally safe.

Of course, once the children come back, they bring their germs with them. Most of the time, OK – assuming they’ve recovered – but often carrying others. Flu, other tummy bugs, MRSA – all kinds of bugs that can’t be detected, because they’re too small to see.

And they’re there alright. Each of us trails a bio-cloud of germs with us wherever we go – and leaves traces behind, wherever we’ve been.

Nae problem.

First, a rigorous drive to get everyone to wash their hands – always after the loo, always before food. Next, nightly treatment with a Hypersteriliser to clobber any germs.

Next morning, back to safe again. No more costs – and bank balances as healthy as the kids.

How to eat nothing and still catch food poisoning

Disagreeing woman
It’s not just what you eat – it’s everything you touch as well

It can’t happen.

But it has.

For whatever reason, you’re not eating right now.

Nil by mouth – you’re going for blood tests, trying to lose weight, or simply purifying your system.

Why me?

And now out of nowhere comes the cramps and the vomiting. Some kind of gastro, probably norovirus.

Weird though.

The family all went out for eats, but you stayed home. Not off your food or anything, just not eating now.

So they came home full of the joys, but 24 hours later were all as sick as dogs.

You too, though you never touched at thing. Anyway Mexican disagrees with you – all those jalapeños, burn your insides out.

Ah, but you touched them, didn’t you – the rest of the family? And they touched you.

It’s on your fingers

And that’s all it takes when there are germs about, especially a potent nasty like norovirus. Like the lady who came down with it from NOT eating oysters.

Norovirus spreads on contact – and it’s highly contagious, 1,000 times more virulent than flu.

A hug or a cuddle, and you’ve got it too. Transferred from skin or clothing – or something others have handled. Irises from the florist they brought back for you. The mobile with the pictures they took to show who was there. The car keys in the dish in the hallway.

Could you have stopped it?

Probably.

But like most of us, you don’t think you’re under threat until something happens. And with norovirus – which takes 24 hours before it shows itself – it’s too late when it does.

Which is always the thing with germs.

Invisible killers

They’re there all the time, even though you can’t seem them. Too small, unless you have a very powerful microscope. Out of sight, out of mind.

And your immune system kicks in most of the time, before they do damage. Day-to-day, you have no idea there’s a war on.

But, being so potent, norovirus only needs a touch. And it’s lighter than air molecules, so it could be floating around in suspension too. Somebody pulls off a heavy sweater and a whole cloud of microbes is flung off – to breathe in, catch on your skin, lodge in the soft tissue round your eye

Or simply get swallowed.

Same thing if it’s on your hands – the hug, remember?

And your hands touch everything.

Which is why we call norovirus the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

Because it is.

We don’t see germs, so we’re not worried about them.

And there’s a kind of shared grudge against having to wash our hands all the time.

We know we should. But we seem to be in denial. Even the fussiest of us kicks at always charging off to the washroom every five minutes.

Sloppy hygiene

Fact is, our hygiene habits are so sloppy, it’s a wonder we’re not sick more of the time.

Which straight away shows how easily food poisoning happens.

And how easy it is to avoid.

Wash Hands LogoWash hands, use an antibacterial gel, use antibacterial wipes – whatever. It’s better than being ill. Better than the pain and discomfort of the cramps. Better than the indignity of vomiting and diarrhoea.

OK, we’re lazy, but norovirus is not a bug to play games with. In the US, around 20 million people come down with it every year – 10% of all Americans. 400,000 of them wind up in A&E and 800 actually die.

All because we’re afraid of soap and water?

That doesn’t wash, does it? If it’s so easy to be safe, why the heck aren’t we?

And if we backed up washing hands with a Hypersteriliser, we’d be even safer.

It makes rooms sterile by destroying all viruses and bacteria – oxidising them to nothing with hydrogen peroxide plasma.

OK, you can start eating again.

With your hands clean and the germs gone, you know you can safely enjoy it.

A big chomp of pizza – and 3.971 million germs

Pizza girl
Are you having 3.971 million germs
with that?

Yum!

Eating with your fingers.

Is anything better?

You bet.

Eating with your fingers AFTER YOU’VE WASHED THEM.

Germs for sure

Because however nice your chosen favourite is – it’s not worth the tummy cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea that visits you at 2.00 in the morning.

E. coli, norovirus – take your pick.

It could be any one of thousands bacteria or viruses on your fingers at any one time.

Collected through your morning until now…

Off the money in your purse, your Oyster card, the STOP button on the bus, the door handle of the coffee shop, the face of your mobile, the front door to your office, the lift call button, your computer on switch, the keyboard on your desk, the mail in your In-tray, your desk itself, your office phone, the photocopier start switch, the door to the loo, the tissue paper you use there, the flush handle, the bag of doughnuts for coffee break, the parcel from the printing company, the felt-tip pens for the update board, your face, your lipstick for touch-up, the conference room table, the overhead projector, the overhead slides from sales, the meeting microphone on/off, the stairway banisters, the lunch-time news-sheet, the pizza-joint window choosing while you queue in the street, the bag they put it in to take back to your desk…

Er, excuse us.

Where was “wash your hands” in all that?

Our minds go blank

Don’t look so surprised. Most of us forget, even though we’re sticklers for clean.

Yet everything we touch, every second of every day, is covered in viruses and bacteria.

We are too. Billions of them on our skin and clothing.

Billions more inside us too. Over 6 billion in our mouths, more than the number of people on Earth. More than 100 trillion in our gut – partners in helping us digest.

So when we pick up that pizza with our fingers, there’s plenty stuff for us to swallow that we’re not supposed to.

Yes, we’ve got bacteria inside us already – but the right ones, they’re supposed to be there. And most of the time, even the wrong ones are OK – our immune systems are too strong to let them take hold.

But the stuff on our fingers is dodgy. Often in quantities big enough to give us grief. And often really yucky stuff we’d rather not know about. Like if you didn’t wash your hands when you went to the loo, there could be poo on there.

Hold it!

Don’t take that bite!

Put it down and wash your hands first.

Be safe.

And don’t reckon you can blame the pizza company if you come down with something.

Those pizza oven are way too hot for germs to survive – 800°F, or even more.

And nobody touched your super-size slice. Straight off the pizza shovel, gloved hands on the cutter wheel, into the box, and bagged into your own hands.

Wash your hands and everything’s hunky. Quattro stagioni perfetto.

Forget and take a chance – you could be in hospital sooner than you think.

More than 800 people die from norovirus every year. More than 5,000 from e.coli. Add c.difficile, Delhi Belly and rotavirus – the numbers jump to over 80,000.

Don’t be one of them.

A wrong-way encounter with any of these nasties will be more than you can chew.

After you with the soap.

Chicken campylobacter: really a packaging issue

Happy supermarket shopper
No more getting sick from chicken – problem solved

From the headlines, you’d think we’re all going to die.

There’s this deadly killer bacteria – three-quarters of all chickens have got it – just touch one and you’re dead.

Yeah? So where’s all the corpses outside KFC? It’s the most popular meat in the country, the bodies should be piled in the streets.

Back to reality

Instead of which, there’s all these kids, munching on drumsticks. They look pretty healthy, bouncing round like kids do. Grown-ups looking pretty good too.

Wassup?

Misplaced hysteria is what.

Because campylobacter disappears when chicken is cooked – in the same way that germs are destroyed when you boil water. And who in their right mind eats raw chicken? It’s not sushi!

Yeah but 75% of all birds are infected – you can’t eat diseased food.

Infected, huh?

So why aren’t they sick and dying too? Where’s the world-wide poultry disaster?

Check out the birds. Go see what the truth is, then decide.

Oh sure, there’s the whole thing about they should be free range, not reared in broiler houses – but that’s another issue.

Eyeball the birds for yourself and you’ll see they’re all healthy – the farmer would be out of bizz if they weren’t.

Not sick. No infected. Perfectly normal.

Not infected, naturally colonised

Yeah well, campylobacter occurs naturally in birds. That’s why so many have got it.

Like we have bacteria in our own gut – more than 1,000 different species. They’re supposed to be there too – without them we couldn’t digest anything.

So campylobacter is right for birds, but wrong for us.

OK, so we take care of it before eating. Problem solved. Like deboning a fish, peeling an orange, or taking the pip out of a peach. Not rocket science.

Things is, campylobacter is all over raw chickens – inside and outside. Which is why they say don’t wash it. The contaminated water gets everywhere – on knives and other utensils, on chopping boards – and on your hands.

You see, it’s not the cooked chicken that brings you the vomiting and diarrhoea. It’s the raw chicken water from your unwashed hands getting in your mouth.

Our own bad habits

For sure. Because it’s a fact of life that we touch our faces 3 to 5 times every minute – unconscious reflex. And most of us never bother to wash our hands at any time, not just preparing food. So the stuff goes down our throat and there we are – instant infection.

Right, so how about the hoo-hah that chicken makes your shopping unsafe? Get home with all your stuff, put it away and boom! Nausea, cramps, and the whole toot in just hours.

Yeah, well. The first thing is wash your hands – the best protection against any germs, whatever you’re doing.

The second thing is, check the packaging.

Shrink-wrap, right? No wonder your shopping gets contaminated. Any liquids from that bird are free to leak all over the place – inside your shopping bags, onto your hands, and dripping on everything else inside your fridge.

OK, so first things first.

Always keep chicken separate. In its own bag when you buy it. In its own bag when you bring it home. In its own bag at the bottom of the fridge – so it can’t leak, but if it does, it’s underneath everything else.

Next, wash your hands and everything else, every time you handle it. Except when it’s cooked of course, that’s when it’s safe.

Long term of course, it’s up to the Food Standards Agency.

Instead of running round wringing their hands that chicken farmers aren’t preventing campylobacter getting into their birds, they should be fixing the packaging.

Leak-proof, or else

Vacuum sealed, not shrink-wrapped.

No leaks, no contamination, no problem.

Enforceable by law that they’re empowered to declare.

Not spending millions on technology – boxing smart, round the problem.

Allowing for administrative fumble time, maybe six weeks at the most. And another three months after that for producers to get their compulsory vacuum-sealing machines into place – job done.

Heavy fines and pulled licences otherwise.

And nobody sick with campylobactor anywhere.

Then it should be onto a real food poisoning issue – like scombroid contamination in canned tuna. They’re the Food Standards Agency – get on with it.

And that wraps that up.

High-powered job stress? More likely germs

Businesswoman with problem
Nothing feels worse
than being out of control

We know how you feel.

Everything getting to you. Tense. Uneasy. Pressure head when you least want it.

Reckon it’s the job, not you?

Come on, now. You knew the odds when you took it.

Good money, good prospects – and you can smash the glass ceiling.

Bigger than you

So what happened?

Where’s the confidence? The get-up-and-go? The sure conviction you can rule the world?

Better man up – or it’s down the tubes.

No more flying high, back to the grunt.

Not you though, is it? Always the winner. And savvy with it. Able to handle pressure. Able to handle yourself. Cool and easy with it. More than equal to the office bully. Better than your boss – who’s pushing you forward, all the time. Sure promotion material. The only way is up.

OK, so you’ve got the job taped – as long as you get over this downer.

So it’s not you either, what the heck’s going on?

Ever wondered why it’s easier at home? Why that sick, grey feeling is gone at week-ends?

There’s the clue, right there – sick.

You don’t feel sick – leastways, not out of the office. But that doesn’t mean you’re 100 per either.

Why you’re not yourself

Ever heard of sick building syndrome? You think it’s you, not coming up to the mark. You notice the lapses in concentration – but not the headaches or nausea, or shortness of breath. Too busy, giving it your all – the job’s got to get done, right? And it’s got to be competitive.

But it exists – sick building syndrome. Not a fig of people’s imaginations. Not just old buildings either. Often new ones – stylish, smart, and misery-makers for everyone who works in them.

Sometimes it’s just unlucky – like the building vibrates because of where it’s situated. The ground resonates with passing traffic and low frequency vibes play with everyone’s head. Or the Underground twangs the building foundations with every train – a shudder you feel, but can’t hear. Shaking you to bits.

More common is mould – from dampness in the walls. Not visible where you work, but in the cavities behind. Flat roof not sealed properly, leaking down from the top floor. Or condensation because the temperature insulation is too darned efficient.

Mould spores in the air, breathing problems, itchiness, feeling ratty and tired. You’re not you because of what you breathe.

Hold that thought. It’s not just you that works there, right? There’s a whole team of you, mostly in open plan. Human beings together, interacting with each other.

Outnumbered by bugs

Except there’s a lot more to human beings than you might think.

Bacteria for a start. Living naturally in our bodies and co-existing with them. So necessary, we could never survive without them. So numerous, they outnumber our own body cells more than 10 to 1.

Like several hundred trillion of them live in our gut, handling the digestive grunt our own bodies can’t. It’s where we get our gut-feel from. Our bacteria need our bodies to survive. If we’re threatened or in danger, they alert the brain. Butterflies in your tummy is a real sensation. Ignore at your peril.

It’s not just our gut either. It’s everywhere throughout ourselves – and hovering in clouds around us too. Everywhere we go, we trail a bio-cloud with us. An aura of bacteria and viruses – some good, some bad, depending on the health balance of our systems.

But of course, everybody’s different. What works for you may not work for others – and the other way around. And we’re moving around and though each other’s bio-clouds as we work – giving off our bacteria, getting others back. Sometimes bad ones – breathed in, or absorbed through the skin.

Or more than likely, ingested through the mouth or the sensitive tissue round our eyes and nose. Without realising it, every one of us touches our face 3 to 5 times a minute – 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. Whatever our hands touch can find a way in.

And our hands touch everything, don’t they? Clean, dirty, whatever – buttons, door handles, grab-handles touched by thousands of others too. And the BLT you’re about to have for lunch – because like most of us, you eat at your desk. The job’s too important to take a break – besides, it’s wet out there and all you do is spend money.

Uh huh.

Get protection

Have you washed your hands?

Bacteria from all those things you’ve touched, from your colleagues’ bio-clouds too – you can’t see them, but you can bet they’re on your hands. Transferred to your BLT before you’ve even taken a swallow.

Are you lucky, or unlucky? Because even lurking on your own desk is the chance to catch anything from colds and flu to norovirus, e.coli, MRSA, c.difficile or worse. Knock you out for a few days, or even put you in hospital. Worst case scenario, make you dead.

Uh huh, again.

So if you want to get your mojo back, better do something.

OK, you can’t wash your hands every five seconds – it’s impractical and you’ve got to stay with the action. Projects to sort, phones to answer, conversations to jump into. You’re one of the decision-takers, a hands-on honcho who mustn’t miss a trick.

Step one, keep a pack of antibacterial hand-wipes on your desk. They take off goo better than gel and can sanitise your desk too in just a jiffy. No more germs on your hands, your BLT is safe.

So how about the bio-clouds? Every night when you all go home, some of everybody’s bacteria signature lingers in the air, waiting for you tomorrow. If there’s a bug to catch in that lot, you’re at hazard, even if the carrier has moved to the other end of the country.

Hyper high-powered

Step two, strong-arm the boss into getting a Hypersteriliser. Your nightly protection when the office closes.

Any viruses or bacteria – in the air, or on surfaces – is oxidised to nothing by the fine mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide that gets in everywhere – even cracks and crevices. Walk in next morning and the whole place is sterile – no bugs anywhere, totally safe.

Wanna bet you feel better after that?

For sure.

And feeling good does things to your performance too. Builds optimism. Pumps up confidence. Inspires you more than anything else on the planet.

Stress, what stress?

From now on, everything’s a doddle.

Staff pulling sickies – your fault or theirs?

Businesswoman thinking
Isn’t providing a germ-free office part of duty of care?

Wait a minute, there’s a blame game attached to this?

Sadly, yes.

But don’t feel too bad, we’re all in this together.

Handling the hygiene habit

Because their being off work is legit enough.

Though because of you or them is up for grabs.

Well, think about it. How many times is it just ONE staffer who clocks off ill at a time?

Rare, right?

Unless they’ve just come back from holiday and a bug they caught along with catching rays drops them as they return.

More often it’s a clutch of staffers at the same time, yes? Sickies all come at once.

All with the same symptoms, whatever they are – either something flu-ey, or else tummy troubles. Viruses going round – and not the computer kind.

Catching bugs

Which flags up immediately that your people caught it at work. But no nasturtiums on you, they spend most of their daylight hours here, so where else would they catch it?

But WHY did they catch it?

Only two causes.

The germs were already lurking round in the office, waiting in ambush.

Or your poor team ingested something that gave them the bug.

The first one is your concern. The second is theirs.

Though in fairness to you, they COULD have prevented things.

How?

Most illnesses happen by ingestion. Somehow or other, a virus or bacterium is taken in through the mouth. Next thing, someone isn’t feeling too good.

Not always from food either – though around a third of us eat at our desks.

If ever you’re worried about who’s committed or not, just check out who’s on deck, munching a sarnie in their lunch break. The great British work ethic is stronger than you think. Not all sickies.

So no, it’s not the food – all those lunch places would go out of bizz if it was. It’s the hands that eat the food. Or more accurately – what’s on the hands that eat the food.

The hands have it

Because how many of those staffers washed their hands before tucking into their graze? Or if they have, what viruses and bacteria are skulking on their desks, waiting for them to touch as they eat?

From greasy fingers on keyboards, multiple hands on the phone, on pens or documents – or simply from the dust bunnies collecting behind everybody’s plasma screen?

And don’t forget, every one of us touches our face 2,000 – 3,000 times a day. Unconscious reflex, gateway for germs to enter through mouth, eyes and nose.

Bad, hey?

And not at all what everybody says about work acquired infections (WAIs) – picked up through the HVAC system, everybody breathing the same air.

That happens too of course, but not from ventilation. Every one of us trails around a germ cloud of trillions of bacteria, some good, some bad – but all intermingling in the common air spaces we share.

Most of them are harmless, but in flu season they’re not. While some don’t affect us personally, they clobber colleagues something terrible.

Hand-washing, the grudge habit

So what is it about people and not washing their hands? Everybody knows it’s necessary, yet most of us seldom do. Like around half of us don’t, even when we’ve just been to the loo.

No, we’re not in denial. It’s just not on the radar.

The same thing that drives people to work and eat at the same time makes them gloss over making their hands safe.

Not good if among them are your top performers – about to dial themselves out, just as that million-pound deal nudges up for them to close. Out of action at home at the critical moment – and all that business out the window.

OK, so get smart. Make it so they don’t have to leave their desks, but still their hands are safe.

You already provide loos and a washroom if they get caught during the day.

So for less than a pound a go, put a pack of antiseptic hand-wipes on their desk every day. To protect hands from germs – wipe them away from high-touch areas of transmission – keypads, phones, door handles, lift buttons.

Good for starters.

But remember the germ cloud? The medics call it a biome, and it’s kind of like our own biological signature – an aura of bacteria unique to each of us, that trails everywhere we go.

And stays behind when we leave too.

So when the team goes down in the lift at the end of the day, residual clouds from all of them linger behind. Some good, some bad, right? Some harmless to us, but horrible to others.

Residual germs that could trigger all kinds of things.

Like infection in a common office mishap like a staple stab.

Bad? It could be gangrenous – or worse, sepsis. Hospital emergency and total immune system shutdown. Life-threatening.

Protecting the business

Except all those germs can be clobbered themselves with a Hypersteriliser.

Everybody goes home, the cleaning team moves in – and finishes off misting up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide. Forty minutes later, all germs are oxidised to nothing. The place is sterile and your staff are safe.

So are you.

Better still, there should be no more sickies.

Or if there are, they’re picked up outside.

You’ve protected your living assets, flexed your duty of care – and you’re well on the way to being the winning team you know you are.

Have a nice day.

SURVEY: Spray-mist Anti-infection Systems

Judging Panel
If they save lives, all machines are winners

The hard-slog wipe-down with bleach.

It might be the Twenty-First Century, but good old labour-intensive scrubbing by hand is still the way most of us think of disinfecting anything.

The old way, the hard way

It’s slow, it’s tedious – but because it’s combined with actual cleaning, it sits in people’s minds as a visible dirt removal process, not a focused decontamination in its own right.

It’s also woefully inadequate. Germs escape round it, easy-peasy.

Even “deep clean” applies only to work surfaces and floors, seldom anything else. Not walls, ceilings, or cupboard doors and sides. Not under things, behind, or on top of them.

And certainly not to the air space, which is around 80% of any room.

Which means airborne germs are invisible and untouched – free to continue infecting – with even professionals none the wiser.

Hygiene technology

All that changes with misting systems.

Yes, the schlep of rub and scrub is still necessary to remove physical dirt. But any viruses or bacteria are taken down by an airborne germicide – once ethylene oxide, but now almost universally by hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen peroxide is a known germ-killer since the Nineteenth Century. The body produces it naturally as part of its own internal defence.

In a spray-mist decontaminator it is mixed with distilled water and pumped into the air to spread and dissipate, killing germs as it goes. The hydrogen peroxide does this by oxidising them – shoving oxygen atoms at them, which destroys their cell structure and DNA.

Different machines use different strengths of hydrogen peroxide solution, depending on achievable “spreadability” – sometimes with a booster, either ammonia, acetic acid or colloidal silver.

Silver itself is also famed as a germ killer. The ancient Greeks used it. So did doctors in the Middle Ages. It’s one of the reasons why we eat with silverware today. In World War One it was THE germ-fighter to use before antibiotics were discovered. And it’s still a first choice on antiseptic dressings.

Steris Corporation – VHP Victory – From £150,000 and upwards

Steris VHP VictoryThe VHP Victory is an industrial-level heavyweight best suited to large-scale government applications and the military – a heavy-duty unit that weighs in at 140 lbs (64 kg) and uses high cost Vaprox Hydrogen Peroxide Sterilant. It generates a mist of vaporised hydrogen peroxide in a strong 35% solution that takes 2 – 8 hours to work effectively. An add-on catalysation unit and additional sensor are available to shorten the operating cycle and ensure even distribution. The 35% concentration is necessary as the mist vapour is heavier than air, which cuts airborne germicidal performance time before it sinks to the floor. The heavy strength makes it severely hazardous to humans and is corrosive to metals and plastics. The VHP Victory easily handles rooms up to 20,000 cu. ft – and can be ganged with additional machines linked by Ethernet to accommodate even larger areas. The heavy concentration and long exposure time achieves 6 Log decontamination. This machine appears to replace its smaller brother, the VHP 1000ARD.

 Bioquell UK Ltd – Bioquell BQ-50 – around £35,000

Bioquell BQ-50 suiteExpensive but compact, this latest suite of units continues Bioquell’s long-standing dual-machine decontamination method – a necessity with vaporised hydrogen peroxide which requires a high concentration level to perform in the air. It also generates high moisture levels, which why there are two machines – one to disperse, the other dry out afterwards. Like a siamese twin version of R2D2, the droid in Star Wars, the 45 lb (20 kg) master unit rolls easily like a pull-along suitcase. It plugs into one, two, or three stand-alone 22 lb (10 kg) aeration units as necessary – and to the pedestal controller, which is operated remotely from outside the treatment area. Mist is via pre-bottled proprietary 35% hydrogen peroxide solution, vaporised in the core unit to treat an average-sized room in around one hour. All caution is needed in operation, as the strong solution is harmful to nose and throat and attacks various materials. The BQ-50 suite achieves 6 Log decontamination, but in a lot less time than the previous two wheelie-bin sized Q-10 machines, which could take up to two days.

Hygiene Solutions Ltd – Deprox and IC4 – from £18,000

Hygiene Solutions DeproxBoth these machines are well-tested in hospital environments and easy to use. The essential difference is the high frequency ultrasonics to “aerosolise” the hydrogen peroxide, allowing a milder and safer concentration – and ensuring better vapour spread. Cycle time for the average room is about two hours, from pre-bottled proprietary solution. The machines are programmed by external computer connection, with automatic calculation of dosage volume and exposure. Log 6 decontamination is claimed for both.

ASP Johnson & Johnson – Glosair 400 – about £18,000

ASP Glosair 400From one the world big manufacturers, the Glosair 400 is a spin-off from the company’s highly successful range of Sterrad medical instrument sterilisers. With the same low temperature hydrogen peroxide gas plasma technology, the Glosair 400 deploys a mild 5% solution laced with silver cations from a special cartridge dispenser at the rate of 30 ml per minute, treating an average room in around 40 minutes. Decontamination ability is Log 4. The unit is a fairly hefty 120 lbs (55 kg) to lug around, made easier by the large wheels.

Oxy’Pharm – Nocospray – around £2,500

OxyPharm NocosprayAt just 12 lbs (5½ kg) this is easily the lightest of all the popular options – simple too, basically a cartridge container releasing directly into a turbine venturi, not unlike a vacuum cleaner. The 6% hydrogen peroxide is both heated and ionised in the venturi, achieving good spread and dispersal for a Log 4 decontamination. Three models offer different software to accommodate varying room sizes.

Biorite Ltd – Aerosept Compact 250 – from £7,500

Biorite Aerosept 250Another unit light enough to lug around by hand, the Aerosept Compact 250 claims a decontamination capability of Log 6 – remarkable for such a small machine, achieved by the release of acetic acid into the mild 6% pre-bottled hydrogen peroxide solution as it is heated for dispersal. This heating does take time, as does the machine’s priming of itself to begin. A dispensing trolley with space for replacement bottles of the Aspetanios Ad disinfectant solution is also available.

Amity International – Airdecon 200 – price not available

Amity International Airdecon 200With the dual option of dispersing 7.5% hydrogen peroxide straight, or boosted with ozone from an on-board ozone generator, the Airdecon 200 claims an astounding Log 7 capability. The unit is mobile and self-contained, loading Amity HP 75 solution directly in bottles. A built-in control panel inputs room size and other data to calculate dosage and exposure time.

Hyper Hygiene Ltd – Sentinel Hypersteriliser – about £10,000

HypersteriliserPerhaps the simplest and easiest of all the machines, the Hypersteriliser is fully mobile and completely automatic, using a safe 6% hydrogen peroxide solution boosted with colloidal silver from an internal reservoir. The spray is ionised in the nozzle by high-voltage electricity, creating a charged gas plasma that releases hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet. Exposure time for a typical room is 40 minutes and decontamination efficiency is a well-documented Log 6.

 

Keep hand-wipes handy – or get wiped out!

Cabin attendant
Welcome aboard. Please make sure your hands are germ-free for take-off!

Seat 11B is a nice place to be.

Next to your squeeze. In front of the wing. Nice big window to check the scene on approach.

Weekend getaway. Or company perk.

Good to get some time to yourself.

Just don’t touch that tray-table in front of you.

At least, not until you’ve wiped it.

Not with a tissue either, but with those antiseptic hand-wipes your bought before boarding.

Unwanted passengers

That THING carries more germs than anywhere else on the plane. Eight times more than the flush button in the loo. And way more than any place in your home – 2,155 colony-forming bacteria per square inch.

That’s 337,796 bacteria crammed onto your lap-sized 16½ by 9½ inch eating space!

Not surprising when you see how some people leave the place when they get off. And the poor airline’s only got twenty minutes on the ground before they’re up and flying again. No chance.

OK, so you’re not going to eat. Spoil your dinner at that posh restaurant you’re going to when you land.

Spoil your dinner anyway if you touch that thing without wiping it down.

But just sitting there with your iPad means the backs of your hands are in contact. And you’re not going to believe it, the average person touches their face 3 to 5 times every waking minute – an unconscious reflex that all of us have.

So you may not ingest those germs from eating, they’ll get in anyway through your mouth or eye openings – you do it to yourself without knowing.

And what surprises can you expect to find?

Stowaway germs

Poo for a start. Those tray tables sometimes get used to change nappies. But poo anyway because so few people wash their hands after going to the loo. Which means high risk of everybody’s holiday favourite norovirus at the very least.

Rhinoviruses (common cold types), influenza, MRSA, E-coli and listeria too.

So it’s not just the tray table you’re going to wipe is it?

You’re going to do your hands too – probably more than once. Whenever you think about it. Whenever you touch something that could harbour germs.

And since it’s a few hours before you land, you’ll have time to reflect on the need to keep doing it when you get off the plane too.

That posh restaurant for example, your special reward for yourself. There’s other people there too, all dolled up to the nines like you.

Impressive, yes. But when did they last wash their hands?

Maybe they showered coming straight from the office. Or maybe they just togged up and ran. Don’t want to waste valuable drinking time – sorry, socialising time.

Unseen party-killers

Except part of this place’s charm is self-service. Eat-as-much-as-you-like – smorgasbord, salad bar, you name it. And all those other people are touching the same serving spoons and forks that you are. You with your antiseptic-wiped hands, them straight in off the street.

Which is why you keep wipes on you all the time of course. You can’t always get to a washroom. And they wipe goo off your hands, which always seems to get on there when you don’t want it – something those antiseptic gels just can’t.

Worth it too – it only takes a few moments. And the food is every bit as amazing as you hoped it would be.

Those other folk from the plane are eating here too. Another getaway couple. Give them a wave. They’re not carrying wipes like you are, so that e.coli attack is going to mess up their whole time here.

Shoulda-woulda-coulda.

All the time, always

Yup, now you’re thinking, it should be a life-time habit.

Not just for your hands. Not just for your tray table. There’s your office desk as well. Didn’t you read somewhere that the average office desk has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat?

Come to that, the office should get a Hypersteriliser as well. So should this restaurant. Sterilise the place properly.

People walk around with 10 million viruses and bacteria on their hands most of the time – trailing a whole bio-cloud of several trillion others. Locked in here overnight, they’re just waiting for new victims to walk in tomorrow.

But not if they’re knocked out with hydrogen peroxide plasma. The whole place is sterile – safe like your hands are.

Hmm, what will that couple do when the e.coli strikes?

Claim food poisoning? Sue the restaurant? They wipe themselves out, then they want to wipe out their hosts.

Which could never be you of course.

Your hands are clean.

Safe hands – are we soft-soaping ourselves?

Hand washing woman
Wipes are better – your antibacterial soap isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Maybe the penny’s beginning to drop.

That we need to keep our hands clean to avoid germs.

Which is kinda important because more and more antibiotics aren’t working against them any more.

Danger, health hazard

So dirty hands mean we’re going to get sick.

Whoops! What do you mean, dirty hands? They look alright don’t they?

Besides, washing your hands all the time is a mission. Most of us skimp on the job – or avoid it all together.

Disagreeable facts

Which kinda underlines a recent report that antibacterial soap isn’t any more effective than your actual El Cheapo from Tesco. Apparently the bio-active goodie in the soap, triclosan, doesn’t kill germs with the usual exposure time most people give it – it actually needs NINE hours.

That’s because ‘Elf & Safety or whoever only allow a very small amount to be in your soap – so its real germ-fighting ability doesn’t amount to a row of beans.

Not that our regular soap is likely to be any better. Most of us hardly ever use it. We shake our hands around for five seconds under the tap – and reckon that’s it. Spreading more germs as we shake our hands afterwards – while the air dryer blasts the rest all over the wash room.

Fact is, we don’t LIKE washing our hands – even though we know it’s necessary.

So yeah, we feel a twinge of conscience if we sit down in a restaurant for a slap-up meal – IF we even think of washing our hands at all.

Too much PT, don’t bother.

The soap and water alternative

Except that some of us have got clever and we’re using gel or wipes – handy for pocket or handbag, we never need to be caught out.

Oh sure, the Parent Police will have a go at us for using them. Shielding our kids from exposure to germs retards their immune systems. At least, that’s the received wisdom.

But let’s be practical. Are your hands going to get clean or not?

The bathroom’s down the hall anyway – away from the action. Far better to use a gel or wipe. They’re instant and now. And at least you take care of the germs.

OK, that’s the soap and water story nailed. So which is it, gel or wipe?

Both have antibacterial action – the real kind. So which should it be?

Horses for courses.

Though for our money, wipes work better.

Easy gel

Yes, with gel, it’s easy-peasy. You put the stuff on, work your hands around, shake ’em about a bit for the stuff to evaporate – job done.

Still prefer wipes. If there’s visible gunge on your hands, you’ve got something to physically wipe it off. As good as a face cloth or a sponge. And the antibacterial job gets done too. No viruses or bacteria, you’re safe and good to go.

Oh right, you still have to get rid of the wipe.

So what are we, helpless? Into the bin – or a bag you can keep it in until you find one. Or your pocket.

Disposable wipes

What do you mean, carrying germs around with you?

You’re not wrong, that’s why the bag. Don’t you keep one handy because the shops all charge for them these days?

We shouldn’t be squeamish either. Back in the day, we’d blow our nose on a hankie and carry that around with, full of gunk. A tissue would get dumped ASAP – and so will a moist-wipe.

Works for us. We HATE washing, so we carry wipes. So we never get caught out – clean hands ALWAYS before meals and after the loo.

End of the grudge habit

It’s not like some secret ritual either. Nobody looks too worried if you’re wiping your hands at table or outside in the passage. Probably even miffed that they didn’t think of it themselves.

Plus it pays off too. No, no, norovirus – the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease – it just doesn’t happen.

And can you remember the time you last had a cold or flu?

Safe hands – yes, of course.

El Nino freezeups coming: brace for superflu threat

All frosted up
Don’t worry, superflu can’t get you –
as long as you can protect yourself

Brr!

The way this winter is already shaping up, get ready for superflu.

No, no, not the German pop group, you’ll find them here.

National Danger

We mean pandemic superflu – 30 million of us out of action and 80,000 dead. Listed as the UK’s biggest danger after “catastrophic terrorist attacks” in the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.

Certainly looks like we’re getting the weather for it. The El Nino effect is already happening in the Pacific – which means super-cold winter like we saw in 2010.

What makes it a superflu?

However hard medics and researchers try to second guess it, we’re just never ready. For either a superflu virus, or any other kind of fast-spreading superbug.

Yes, we can clobber existing strains – this year’s vaccine protects against the H1N1 “swine flu” virus that struck in 2009, plus two other predicted variants.

Deadly mutants

But the trouble is, viruses keep mutating all the time. As fast as we come up with the vaccines to throw at them, they develop resistance and start again.

And there are lots of strains. For instance, H5N1 is a deadly virulent bird flu that originated in Asia. It’s rare, but 60% of the people who catch it die.

To make things worse – like the common cold – all flu types spread rapidly. Which is why a pandemic is top of the hit list for natural disasters. When a new flu strain strikes, it takes six months to develop a new vaccine against it.

During that time of course, everyone is exposed. Unprotected except for their own daily hygiene habits. Which is where the worst-case scenario figures come from – 30 million infected, 80,000 dead.

Uh huh.

So we’re not just going to be cold, we have to be prepared.

To up our daily hygiene habits and keep those germs at bay.

Get ready

It starts with soap and water. And now it’s deadly serious. Not just a rinse under the tap, but a proper rub and scrub every time we put ourselves at risk.

Always before meals – and always after the loo. Because this winter, our lives could depend on it.

Our surroundings need anti-germ treatment too. We spend winter all closed up and indoors – sharing the same space, breathing the same air. Any germs in that lot and we’re in for it.

Best is a Hypersteriliser.

Mist up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide and no viruses or bacteria stand a chance. In just forty minutes, they’re oxidised to nothing and the room is totally sterilised, safe.

All germs are gone – to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6. That’s 99.9999% destroyed, or 1 in a million.

OK, so the germs are coming.

But they always are.

So it’s not just superflu we’re protecting ourselves against, it’s all the other bugs as well. Especially the superbugs – the nasty ones that have become resistant to antibiotics and other medicines.

MRSA, c.difficile – that other winter misery-guts, norovirus – and all the others.

Vaccine or not, our own hygiene can protect us – come what may.

But don’t forget to rug up well.

It’s going to be cold out there.