Monthly Archives: January 2016

Norovirus tummy bug – always the blame game

Woman - arms folded serious
Yeah right, norovirus is always somebody’s fault – and never the person who comes down with it

Reality is, there’s only ever one cause for norovirus.

Somewhere, someone doesn’t wash their hands.

Then they touch food, somebody else swallows it – quick, call the Doctor, I feel terrible!

Accusations, accusations

Your fault or theirs?

Never anybody’s.

It wasn’t me.

Yeah, right.

But make no joke, whoever it happens to, norovirus is always the pits – really unpleasant, the end of the world – and in bad cases, life-threatening.

It’s the end of the world if you’re running a business too.

Lots of fingers pointing – negligence, carelessness, unhygienic conditions – no matter how spotless your place or professional your staff. Difficult to prove anything otherwise.

Somebody on your side

So here’s a little common sense, to help you figure whodunit. Because if it is your fault, you’ve got to take action fast. Norovirus and bad press can put you out of business.

OK, reality again – who did, or did not, wash their hands?

Your customers will deny it, but them’s the usual suspects. Check the evidence:

Uh huh. And if you think about it, when was the last time ANY of your customers might have washed their hands before they came to you? Five minutes ago? Before lunch? If at all?

Now the common sense bit.

So someone’s moaning norovirus. Is it one person or a handful?

If it’s just one person, you can suspicion a mouse.

Customer Zero

Like how come, if you serve several chicken liver pâtés over a day, that only one was off? You’re a business, right? So most of your stuff to some degree or other is all made in batches – it saves time and stops the customer waiting.

So if one of your pâtés was off, they all should have been, right? You should have a dozen complaints about tummy cramps and upchucking, not just one.

And if all the others were OK – batch-made, remember? – why was that one portion different? They were all the same when they went to table, the only difference was the customer they went to. You can’t prove it, but that one customer’s norovirus misery was probably self-inflicted.

Same thing if it starts with just one customer – and then a handful more, hours or days later. Norovirus spreads by transfer. So your customer had his mitts all over the butter knife or salad servers and the rest of his table picked up the bug.

Bad this, because the ripple effect can spread wider. A few hours more and a whole stack of customers are moaning and clutching their tummies. Either by touch, or through the air, the norovirus has got to them and is giving them hell.

A whole lot of people out of action, but all triggered by Customer Zero – the common denominator.

When you know it’s you

Because if everybody all comes down with it at once, you know it’s YOUR fault. Something or someone engaging with your customers is contaminated – they’re all exposed at the same time, they all come down together.

OK, you know what to do – or do you?

Maybe you’ve read about those hospitals and cruise ships where norovirus keeps coming back. The same will happen to you if you’re not careful.

This stuff is highly contagious and VERY efficient at spreading. With violent vomiting particularly, norovirus gets everywhere. It’s a virus too, don’t forget. Which means every cell is tiny. Small, as in, it can fall THROUGH a roofing tile without stopping.

Which means among all the other things it is, it’s airborne. It rides the air – swirling, twisting, spreading, turning – so light that it may never reach the floor. So it’s on the walls, on the ceiling, on the light fittings, and under the tables all at once. In the air throughout your whole place too. Blown around by the air conditioning, the rush of air as people come in the door.

And it can survive in all of these places for up to ten days or more.

Impossible, impossible

So you scrub the place down with carbolic and everything – and next day one of your waiters walks into a floating cell that takes him in the eye. Four hours later, he’s vomiting too – and you’ve only just re-opened after clearing up the last lot.

Or it could be somewhere else. On the maître d’s lectern, all over the PDQ machines. First person who keys in a total – boom, they’ve got the runs within hours.

And if not there, there’s plenty of other places. All unreachable or just never thought of. Brushing against people as they walk through the curtains. Among the cushions on the banquette. Or the one everybody forgets, all over your stack of menus.

How long is it going to take to clean all those places? Can your cleaning cloths reach into those cracks where a virus only 2 microns across might lurk? There’s millions and millions of places, can you be sure to catch them all?

Eliminating the odds

Actually, yes, you can. With a Hypersteriliser.

Press the button and it mists up your place with an ionised cloud of hydrogen peroxide – electrostatically charged to spread everywhere, actively reaching out and oxidising viruses and bacteria as it does.

Forty minutes, an hour, and the place is sterile. No more norovirus. No more repeat infections either.

Until the next customer breezes in straight off the street and climbs straight into the stuffed olives while the table’s main course is processing.

There’s a cure for that too. Don’t put anything on the table until every customer is handed an antiseptic hand wipe, courtesy of the house.

OK, now let them blame all they like.

Ooh my tummy, I’m going to hurl, blame, blame, blame.

You’ve taken the precautions and you know.

It isn’t you. Never, never and never again.

Picture Copyright: brendan80 / 123RF Stock Photo

Killer poison on hands – saved by Cornish pasty

Hungry miner
Thirteenth Century rescue from death – the crimped pastry edge of Cornish pasties was effective protection against arsenic poisoning

It’s a fatal choice to make.

Your lunch, or your life.

Because down in the dark of a Cornish tin mine, those hunger pangs could be the end of you. No chance of getting back topside to eat, your shift is all day. Time is money. Stay down till you drop.

Dirty and deadly

Hard work this, deadly too. Tin ore produces arsenic dust. Which of course gets everywhere – on your clothes, on your skin, in your hair. There’s no such thing as an OLD Cornish tin miner.

Pickaxe, shovel, crowbar – the blokes are all starving.

“Oggy, oggy, oggy!”

(Pasty, pasty, pasty – the real D-shaped Cornish jobs – potatoes, swedes, onions, chopped beef, salt and pepper – with thick pastry and a heavily crimped, curved edge.)

It’s the wives and sweethearts up top, ready with hot Cornish pasties. They lower them down and the smell drives you mad. The lads’ mouths pucker in the flickering lamplight.

“Oy, oy, oy!”

The answering yell rings off the rock face.

Yum, pasties.

But your hands are filthy as hell, already going yellow. Arsenic trioxide – deadly if you swallow it. Stomach troubles, prostate, all kinds of cancer.

Nowhere to wash though, down here underground. Except seepage down the one wall, deep yellow in the light of the candle. More arsenic in the groundwater, the deadliest wash ever.

Like your mates around you, you grab for the basket.

Heb grev. No problem, as they say in Cornwall.

Poison protection

The deeply crimped pastry edge down the side of the pasty allows you to snatch it up with poisoned fingers without touching the meaty middle.

High-tech Cornish cooking – Thirteenth Century style.

You eat your fill of the middle and throw the pastry crust away. It’s your gift to the Knockers – the little folk who live in the mine and make mischief if they’re forgotten – like a rock-fall on a man’s leg.

You get the message.

Eight hundred years ago we already knew that eating with dirty hands could be fatal. And our thanks to the Cornish pasty experts at Ginsters for bringing this to our attention.

Doesn’t look like we’ve learned though. Just about everything we count as a favourite is finger-food today – burgers, pizzas, pies, rolls, wraps, sandwiches, fish and chips.

Scoff any of that lot and you’re a shoo-in for norovirus – the Don’t Wash Hands Disease.

Four days of cramps, runs and upchucks – all self-inflicted because soap and water is not on the radar.

Well it’s not, is it?

The price of dirty hands

How many times a day do you wash your hands? C’mon now, don’t be shy. We’re all just as bad – thinking we’re safe, when we’re setting ourselves up for misery.

For instance:

Try that in old Cornwall and you’d be dead.

Because how many other fast foods are smart enough to have grab handles, so you can eat them with polluted paws and not come unstuck? Or are you going to tell us you sit at your iPad and actually eat with a knife and fork?

Yeah, pull the other one. We’re quick enough to point the finger and say “food poisoning” – when all the time we’re probably the victims of our own carelessness.

OK, norovirus is not arsenic – but it CAN kill. And there’s plenty of other nasties out there that can do the same.

Campylobacter for instance, next stop irritable bowel syndrome – and a life-time of embarrassing discomfort. Or salmonella, with high expectations of diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure and high blood pressure.

Yeah, enjoy your meal!

But if you’re not going to poison yourself, you might want scrub up first.

Picture Copyright: siberia / 123RF Stock Photo

Food poisoning for real, or customer trying it on?

Fingers crossed
Just because you can’t SEE germs, doesn’t mean our hands aren’t loaded with them

Not used to issues like this, are you?

It raises an uncomfortable question – not for you, for your customers.

Because right up front, how many of them wash their hands before they eat?

“Ew Factor” could cost you thousands

But you already know the answer – can probably say exactly how many guests get up from their table before food is served and go to the restroom.

Yeah, right. A handful maybe, depending on the size of your place. Certainly not everybody, your restroom’s not that big. And all those people moving around at once would upset the other diners – never mind your staff twisting through with hot plates.

Which means everybody else is straight in off the street and you don’t know where they’ve been. Or more to the point, where their hands have been.

OK, so put yourself in their shoes, what do you reckon?

Did they wash before leaving work? After their ride in the taxi/Underground? And if not, what were they doing before that? What did they touch?

Or to stop the pussy-footing, what’s on their fingers RIGHT NOW that could give them collywobbles if they swallowed it?

Collywobbles meaning norovirus, or some equally unpleasant bug spread by direct contact.

Poo on their fingers

Yeah, they call it the “winter vomiting bug” and other round-the-houses names  – but the elephant in the room is that it spreads from unwashed hands. And unwashed hands in a food business like yours is an unspeakable but major problem.

Not staff hands, CUSTOMER hands – because they’re the ones touching everything and actually going into mouths.

Sure, your own staff need to be careful too – but they know the odds. Poor hygiene, bad rep, nasty lawsuits, shut the business, no more job. Not worth the risk.

Not like your customers.

Yeah, sure – loyal to you, enthusiastic about the experience you offer, nice enough on the surface.

Except like most of us, they don’t take criticism – and certainly would never accept it’s THEIR dirty hands that made them ill, not something wrong with your food.

They’re customers, see? Never wrong. And probably in denial that their personal hygiene is ever less than perfect. Like, their hands don’t LOOK dirty, do they?

Push comes to shove, it’s likely they’ll win any court case, even though it’s probably their own fault.

How can we dare to say this?

Because when you look at the facts, our day-to-day hygiene is so bad, it’s a wonder we’re not ALL of us in hospital with dysentery or something worse.

So there you are, busting a gut, doing everything to make your food safe and your place spotless. And there’s Mr Money-Bags, all too ready to squawk at the slightest hiccup, let alone tummy-ache – sitting posh as you like, quite probably with poo on his hands.

Or just as likely, on the cash or credit card he’s going to shove at you at the end of the meal.

Food poisoning? Yeah, pull the other one.

Except there’s not a lot you can do is there? Certainly not diss your customers or lay blame on them. And there’s no way you can FORCE them to the restroom.

How to start winning

But you can get ahead of the game. Turn it round and make it work for you.

Remember the last time YOU went on a splurge? Hit some swanky restaurant or flew first class – swanning around like you owned the place, at least for one night?

OK, remember the hot towels? All terribly la-di-da, offered to you with white gloves and a pair of tongs – a courtesy to wipe your hands and face.

Right, so you pull the same stunt.

Only instead of hot towels, YOU offer YOUR guests individual sachets of antiseptic hand wipes. Mr Money-Bags is not going to refuse is he? Mrs Money-Bags will probably even open it for him. And your staff look like paragons of virtue – especially with a silver tray to collect the used wipes afterwards

Which means if either of them has poo on their hands, the problem has gone away. Food poisoning isn’t going to happen because you’ve removed the cause. And your customers think you’re a million dollars for being so thoughtful.

To ram it home, you pull the stunt even further. Sterilise the whole place so guests know you’re serious about offering a good experience and caring for their welfare.

After trade every night or before you open next morning, you mist the place up for an hour or so with ionised hydrogen peroxide. One button on the Hypersteriliser machine does the trick.

No more viruses or bacteria anywhere in the treated areas. Not on tables, chairs, glasses, cutlery, light fittings, anything – not even in the air around them. Safe, secure, sterilised for your protection.

Customers still trying it on?

We don’t think so. Not unless there really IS something off with your food.

But somehow, you’re not likely to let that happen.

 Picture Copyright: citalliance / 123RF Stock Photo

Mind-bender antibiotics: hello date-rape obesity

Scared fat woman
You never know it’s happening, until it does. Copyright: xavigm / 123RF Stock Photo

Just a little pill, maybe a capsule.

But not slipped into your drink or hidden in your food – taken by you voluntarily.

Because your doctor prescribed it. A nasty chest infection perhaps – or in your urinary tract. UTIs are dangerous and need immediate attention.

Beware, beware

But that pill is dangerous too – to your particular system. An antibiotic that kills germs, yes – but also knocks out so many of your own bacteria inside your gut, you’re suddenly out of kilter.

Out of kilter, out of control, powerless and knowing nothing about it – as treacherous to you as the date-rape drug, rohypnol. Because now, against your will, you’re going to get fat – overweight like two-thirds of British adults already are – another victim of the obesity epidemic.

Fat, from one little pill? You’re probably on a course of them 3 times a day for 7 days, 500 mg each, serious stuff. First to tip you out of balance – and then to keep on shoving.

As we’re only starting to recognise now, our bodies are filled with microbes. At least 100 trillion bacteria live in our gut, more than ten times our total of human cells. There are even more viruses than bacteria, maybe 1,000 times more – and fungi too, we’re host to a whole micro-world we’re never aware of – mostly beneficial, some dormant, some hostile but unable to do anything because they’re so out-numbered.

Wow, a whole new entity of our bodies we never knew about – our living life force, possibly more important than our brain, heart, lungs and all of the rest of us put together. Teeming and breeding, doing all the heavy lifting we always thought we did ourselves – like digesting, driving our feelings, regulating our body balance and controlling our immune system.

Disaster explosion

OK, so you can imagine what happens when a dose of antibiotics suddenly arrives among this lot out of nowhere. Antibiotics kill bacteria, so it’s like a terrorist letting loose with an atom bomb, then shooting in all directions with a machine-gun.

If your Doc is clever, this antibiotics bomb will mostly target the bacteria that’s giving you grief, the cause of your UTI. Your body balance changes, your bloodstream goes around, and your kidneys get reinforcements against what ails them. That’s the upside.

Yeah, but in your particular case – we’re all as individually different in the variation and numbers of microbes we have in our systems – your balance has gone for a ball of chalk. Lots of “good guy” bacteria have died, allowing more “bad guy” bacteria into their place.

And if you’re unlucky, that could mean enterobacteriaceae, a bacterium that interferes with food extraction capability and telling your appetite when you’ve had enough, sending false signals to your brain. Enterobacteriaceae, the obesity pathogen.

Maybe the bacterium triggers your brain into eating more – and eating compulsively. Maybe it doesn’t. Could just be that it squeezes every last ounce and energy out of your food, way more than normal. Is your poo less? Less body waste, there’s a clue right there. It depends on your metabolism.

So say you don’t bulk up immediately, your size 12s still fit if you breathe in first. Then you start to notice – always feeling tired, always thirsty, always busting to go to the loo – beginnings of type 2 diabetes.

Because you don’t just get fat on the outside, you can get fat on the inside too. Around your liver and pancreas spells trouble – diabetes without even LOOKING fat.

Antibiotics tsunami

But maybe it’s not enterobacteriaceae at all, you’re being manipulated by something else – still just as powerless, still a victim against your will. Unconscious brain washing.

Any farmer could probably guess right away. It’s the El Dorado of modern farming – feed antibiotics to your livestock and body growth accelerates almost immediately – from calf to cow in 18 months instead of 4 years – bigger, fatter, worth a lot more money.

Ew! Antibiotics have skewed your bacteria to fatten you up, just like a pig for market.

Which also means you’ve been on antibiotics long before the Doc gave you your current prescription bomb. All your life in fact – even right back, before you were born.

Because antibiotics have been so successful at growth promotion in the food production industry, they’re used everywhere and all the time – for livestock, pigs, poultry, fish – even vegetable, fruit and grain crops.

Pretty well whatever you eat has antibiotics in it – either directly in feed, or indirectly through manure boosting feedstock growth, lacing the soil, or leaching into our rivers and drinking water.

And every time they hit your gut, even in drip-drip little quantities, they kill more bacteria, shove your balance even more out of whack, reduce the vital biodiversity your body needs for all the many functions it has to perform. Leaving only the stronger, tougher basics – descended from the crude essence of the first life forms on Earth millions of years ago – able to withstand cataclysmic volcanic eruptions, meteor strikes, earthquakes, acid seas, drought and extreme temperatures.

You will survive. But price is, you’re going to be fat. Fat and increasingly unhealthy too. Not just from obesity and probable type 2 diabetes – from all kinds of other illnesses as well.

Not feeling so good

Yes, your appetite system has been massacred, but so has your immune system. And your Mum’s before you – and her Mum’s before her – three generations of continuous bombardment, so that our biodiversity is 30% less than it was the day antibiotics were first discovered.

And it’s not just you, it’s all of us. Two-thirds of adults, a third of our kids are already affected – by a slow-motion rape that is only just beginning.

Not the kind of thing you can go to the cops for though. Better to get clever.

OK, so if antibiotics are out, what protection is there against dread diseases and infection?

Not a lot once you’ve got them, except the expertise of your doctors and meticulous attention to hygiene – oh, and the one proven treatment before antibiotics, fighting external infections with silver.

Which means get a paper cut at work and you’re still reasonably safe – wash it out well and use an antibacterial silver plaster from Boots, £2.50 for a pack of 10.

Rediscover hygiene

And there’s key right there too – wash, wash, wash. Keep yourself clean and safe and your internal microbes can’t be touched. Mist up the air with hydrogen peroxide and the bugs in the air can’t get you either. And they’re there alright – flu, colds, TB, pneumonia? Everything else too, these microbes are so small just about all of them ride the air, even though they’re not normally airborne.

Eat right and careful too. If you can reduce enterobacteriaceae, you change the balance for other bacteria to take their place. Like if you’re lucky, christensenella, a bacterium that might actually make you thinner.

Away with 18s and back to the 12s.

There’s nothing nice about being raped – or being violated by obesity. But your soul can only feel better for being yourself again.

Gut feel says Dame Sally is right – and it IS all BS

Woman with tummy trouble
Our defences are down – so we need better hygiene

Nannying, yes. But Dame Sally is absolutely right.

And the proof is in our own gut – our gastrointestinal tracts.

Down there, where more than 100 trillion of our own body bacteria are hard at work, providing the life force by which we are who we are – the essence of every one of us.

Our microbiota reality

Our bacteria are possibly the most important body component of all – more than the brain, the heart, the lungs, or any of the rest of us. Simply because, without them we wouldn’t exist. No digestion, no energy, no power, no immunity, no emotion, no opportunity to think – the OS software to drive the body machine.

Pretty vital, right? But already under very serious threat.

Because to fulfil all those functions and enable the many thousands more that we’re capable of, the nature of those bacteria needs to be as diverse as possible – an app for every life eventuality and challenge, our body’s answer to everything.

Great, but nothing like as resilient or all-capable as it was. In the last 50 years, the biodiversity of our internal bacteria has dropped by 30%. Not as many varieties, not as many in each category, whole swathes of them killed off and gone.

Result, we’re not what we were – underperforming 30%. Not so well regulated or running so smooth. Prone to glitches and weaknesses. Out of adjustment and out of balance. Less able to resist hostile bacteria from outside. Liable to infection. Drifting out of control.

All this from bacteria? All they do is eat, right? So how come?

When things go wrong

Ah, but it’s what they eat and how they eat it – and whether they do or don’t. Whether that’s the right thing to do, or something’s not happening because they’re not there anymore.

Like the bacteria that react to taste and hunger satisfaction.

When the body needs energy, the taste boys trigger the brain – and we start lusting after food to suit, whatever the need is. Carbohydrates one way, protein another – which the brain translates into chocolate cake or burger and chips, according to our food experience.

Likewise, when we’ve had enough, the hunger satisfaction boys pull the plug. We’ve eaten, there’s fuel in the tank, we’re good to go for the next few hours.

So what happens if these two glitch? The taste boys go berserk for Coke, bacon sarnies and endless indulgence. The hunger satisfaction boys switch off altogether – can’t be bothered, or can’t remember what they’re supposed to be doing.

Whoops – binge eating. Gobbling mindlessly because we’re out of control. Noshing for the sake of it. Addicted to taste rewards and stopping at nothing to get it. Meal times, snacks in between, constant nibbles – a one-way ticket to obesity. Not a conscious thing in the mind, but compulsion by the body.

All because our bacteria are not all there, or not functioning properly. Dead and gone or missing and damaged.

So what kills bacteria, or graunches them like this?

Enter, the killer

Nothing less than the miracle drugs that have changed modern medicine.

Antibiotics – the phenomenon that has made the impossible possible – heart transplants, brain surgery, hip replacements, everything. And they’re used for everything too, the magic muti that people demand for even the slightest ailment – even against viruses, where they never work. Little Jimmy’s got the flu, give him some streptomycin.

Use and over-use, de luxe.

Er, they also make things grow – faster, bigger, better – bulking up to twice the size in less than half the time.

Sixty-five years of continuous use and farmers are using 65,000 tonnes of the stuff every year. Shovelling antibiotics into livestock, poultry, fish, plants and grain crops like there’s no tomorrow. Millions and millions and MILLIONS of examples that antibiotics promote growth.

But hang on a moment, that’s the stuff that WE eat! If they’re full of antibiotics, that means we must be too. We eat them, it’s their fattening growth promoter that winds up in OUR stomachs.

Nah, nah! Got it all wrong mate. The authorities know about residual antibiotics, so every farmers keeps a withdrawal log to show when he stops dosing them, ready for market. The stuff metabolises into the animal’s system – ten days or two weeks, we’re jake – no antibiotics.

Yeah, right

Which with respect to Dame Sally, is where the BS comes in – and we do mean cow-poo.

Yeah OK, all those animals go through withdrawal. But like they’ve done all their lives, they generate poo by the ton. Beef cattle for instance excrete between 80 – 90% of the nutrients they consume. Along with a lot of the antibiotics they’ve noshed too.

Some of that poo gets processed and fed back to them again – it’s still got lots of nutrients, why not?

And cow-poo makes manure – which fertilises the grass they eat, and a whole stack of cash plant crops too. Including maize meal, corn, rapeseed and sugar beet, which cows get to eat as well – many of these crops also boosted by their own antibiotic growth promoters or blight defence.

You can see where this is going.

The farmer might pull the antibiotics his cows get – they’re still mainlining on the stuff coming through in the crops grown to feed them. BS from start to finish – animals and plants are still full of antibiotics – and we keep eating them, three meals a day, every day from child-birth on up.

Double whammy

OK, Dame Sally, that’s TWO sources of antibiotics everyone has. The medical one, dosed up when sickness strikes, but often silly stuff as well. And the food one, with a residual dose coming through in everything we eat – the water too, because the cattle run-off flows into the streams.

Yup, they’re right there in the Thames – trimethoprim, oxytetracycline, ciprofloxacin and all your other favourites. How do you like them apples – which, by the way are also routinely sprayed with streptomycin and oxytetracycline?

Uh huh.

So now you expect the standard rant about antibiotics resistance and how medicine faces a crisis.

Sorry Dame Sally, but we’re out of our heads about much worse than that.

First off, the obesity epidemic that already has two-thirds of adult Brits overweight and at risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and all the others. The cows were overweight, so we are too – in a slow-motion epidemic that will take decades – quite different from the rapid-fire flu disaster of 1918, or the months-long onset of AIDS.

Second, the lowered resistance and defence capability of our internal bacteria. We’re 30% more susceptible to illnesses and disease – along with unexplained malfunctions in all parts of the body, allergies, deficiencies and other types of failure – probably autism and mental issues too.

And that’s why you’re right to nanny us, Dame Sally. Why we should carry tissues, wash our hands, drink tea not wine and step away from the Jammie Dodger. We’re more at risk than we’ve ever been.

Because in our biologically impaired and deficient state, we’re more likely to catch germs and fall sick, more likely to go off the rails eating the wrong stuff, more likely to wind up in hospital.

As you’ve said yourself, many times, Dame Sally – we need to tighten up on the way we care for ourselves – we need to rediscover hygiene.

Up our game, or else…

And as the pace of this crisis accelerates, that means way more than hand washing. It means the living space around us too. Janitorial companies make a lot of noise about deep cleaning to get rid of germs. But it’s not just surfaces that need attention, it’s the very air around us too.

Viruses and bacteria are so microscopically small, they’re most of the time airborne. Which is why we need a Hypersteriliser – to mist up the air with ionised hydrogen peroxide so that everything is sterilised, safe. Our internal bacteria are safe – the external ones are all oxidised to nothing.

Yeah, we gotcha Dame Sally.

The BS stops here.

Once ALL antibiotics go phut, what do we do?

Helpless doctor2
When the drugs don’t work and your system is down, better be seriously careful
with your hygiene

You take the pill, you swallow, it does absolutely nothing.

The Doc changes your meds, and gives you a shot.

Still nothing.

You’re going downhill fast and this bogey is gonna get you.

Miracle drugs failure

Because when antibiotics don’t work – and they’re beginning not to Big Time – there’s not a lot medicine is able to do.

Why DON’T they work?

Shoulda listened to the heavies when they warned us years ago.

Overuse of antibiotics has triggered an unstoppable wave of antimicrobial resistance – superbugs immune to whatever we throw at them. Already there are some that are resistant to ALL antibiotics. Soon that will be the norm. The cupboard is bare. No more miracle drugs to save us from expiry

As Sir Liam Donaldson – England’s Chief Medical Officer before our charismatic Dame Sally Davies – said back in March 2009, “Every antibiotic expected by a patient, every unnecessary prescription written by a doctor, every uncompleted course of antibiotics, and every inappropriate or unnecessary use in animals or agriculture is potentially signing a death warrant for a future patient.”

In other words STOP USING ANTIBIOTICS.

Not good if you’re already on the slippery slope.

But sound advice considering the damage that antibiotics have done.

Double-edged swords

Damage? Aren’t they supposed to be life-savers?

Once upon a time, yes. But that show left town.

You see, antibiotics work by killing bacteria. Which means round about now they’ve been killing bacteria inside our bodies for sixty-five years.

Not wrong, but oops!

We may not know it, but down in our gut, our bodies are home to several hundred trillion bacteria. They outnumber our human cells by more than 10:1 – and as we’re starting to learn more and more, they’re absolutely essential for our survival.

Because it seems they’re not just along for the ride, they do important things that affect our whole bodies. Like handle digestion, produce proteins, regulate our immune system – even shift our emotions and define our habits. And every single one of us has a unique combination of bacteria, as individual as fingerprints.

Plus this microbiota, as researchers call it, is not just any old bunch of bacteria. To keep us healthy it has as wide a diversity as possible – biological experience and instructions for protecting the body, keeping it in tune, and repelling invaders.

Yeah, so?

At war with our gut

For sixty-five years we’ve been throwing antibiotics at it – every time an atom bomb of killing in our gastrointestinal tract. Bad bacteria destroyed, yes – and a whole lot of beneficial ones as well.

Amazingly, our microbiota usually manages to recover. A bit wobbly maybe, to be expected with several million vital bits knocked out. Which kinda explains why it never QUITE gets back to normal.

Bad news for our kids, because they can only go with what we pass on to them. Assaulted by antibiotics on prescription maybe ten times by the time we’re sixteen.

And ALSO drip, drip every single day from the residual antibiotics we ingest from food – more and more and more – because antibiotics are a major growth promoter for livestock and plant crops, so farmers have used them on an industrial scale for the last sixty-five years.

Uh huh.

Which goes to explain why our bodies’ biodiversity is 30 per cent lower than it was 50 years ago. 30% less able to do all the things they used to be able to do, 30% less resilient, 30% more prone to infections and diseases.

Not helped at all by our lazy couch-potato lifestyle, our sugar-laden diet of processed convenience foods, or the fat we put on thanks to antibiotics bulking us up like pigs ready for market.

Yeah, so we get ill with something, bad enough to need an antibiotic – and the things don’t work. Plus our resistance is down 30% from where it should be. What the heck do we do now?

In the poo

Strangely enough, being in the crapper is one answer.

We’re in trouble because our microbiotas are under-powered, right? No miracle drugs to rescue us, and our internal bacteria are under fire.

OK, so first, send in reinforcements – healthy bacteria from someone who is perfectly hale and hearty. Backup and restore in the shape of a poo pill or poo transfer. Because believe it or not, FMT or faecal microbiota transplants are fast becoming an effective way to restore the gut imbalances that make us ill.

In the clear

Next, avoid getting ill in the first place. Steer clear of germs and get rid of them when they threaten.

Which means back to soap and water – washing our hands before and after every activity that could cause trouble – always before food, and always after the loo.

And keeping germs out of our indoor living space too – where we work, where we eat and sleep, where we get together. All easily neutralised with a Hypersteriliser – by a hydrogen peroxide mist that oxidises all viruses and bacteria to nothing on every surface and throughout the air – safe, sterile and secure.

Antibiotics?

Yeah, still a problem for major surgery where infection control is vital.

But for everyday living – as long as we’re careful, we don’t need them.

 

 

So are doctors the cause of our obesity epidemic?

Shocked doctor
But antibiotics are only supposed to SAVE lives, not make them miserable

Impossible.

Unthinkable.

And quite rightly, any doctor would be horrified.

But there IS an obesity epidemic, yes. And SOMETHING must have caused it.

Everyone getting bigger

Every day, we’re visibly getting fatter, bulging like we never have before. Right now one third of the world’s adult population is overweight – TWO-THIRDS in the UK. Even a third of our PRIMARY SCHOOL children are overweight. We seem to have no control over eating ourselves bigger – and doctors are seriously worried.

Yes sure, lifestyle, fast foods and sugary drinks are certainly contributors. Lack of exercise too.

But why now? What’s the trigger?

How come we’re all fat now and fifty years ago we weren’t?

They had fast food back then. And Coke by the tanker-load.

Grandpa’s recurring childhood memory includes his first-ever McDonald’s hamburger and fries – twenty-five cents at a drive-up in Dixwell Avenue, Hamden, Connecticut, back in 1958. None of the family were fat then, or for the next forty years. But everybody chubbed out in the last fifteen, since coming back to UK – and UK food.

Yeah, so, a bunch of fatsos. Because like it or not, bulked up like that we’re inevitably at higher risk of cancer, heart disease, strokes, osteoarthritis, asthma and a slew of other serious illnesses – all the legacy of type 2 diabetes, the price most of us pay for obesity.

Eating ourselves bigger – eating ourselves sick – and wondering how the hell it’s happening.

And every day overlooking the one cause repeatedly proven to make it happen.

The antibiotics villain

Antibiotics.

Only available on prescription – only available from doctors.

Wha…? Antibiotics made us fat?

Better believe it – and lucked a whole load of other illnesses on us too. All without our knowing it.

Even our hard-pressed and over-worked doctors seldom seem to make the connection. They might hear nagging voices about superbugs becoming resistant to antibiotics, but GPs are still doling them out as fast as patients come in through the door.

Part of that is our own fault of course. We all know the hype that antibiotics are miracle drugs for fighting disease and infection. So every visit to the Doc, we demand our miracle muti. We have a mind-set that they’re the only REAL medicine. A bit like our other hype, about antiseptics – if they don’t sting like crazy, they’re not working.

Yeah, so the Doc gets bulldozed into prescribing them – who’s going to argue with a size 18 mother with two kids in a double baby-carrier when she gets aggro? Which is why around 1 in 4 prescriptions for antibiotics written today is completely unnecessary.

Little Joey has a sniffle, so ten million needless medications are supplied for the most powerful drugs of all time. The same miracle-workers without which most of modern medicine wouldn’t be possible – triple bypasses, brain surgery – or routine procedures like hip replacement and C-sections.

Yeah, AND…

Nothing can ever be allowed to go wrong with little Joey – who will grow up like the average teenager and probably go through ten courses of antibiotics by the time she’s 16.

But here’s the kicker. Give babies antibiotics four times before they’re two – and chances are they’ll be obese by the time they’re five.

Whoops.

Proof everywhere

Your Doc might not be aware of this – too busy trying to keep people well. But the proof stares all of us in the face every time we go shopping at Tesco.

Check out the chicken in the chiller aisle. Large 2 kg roaster for only £4.50. Five weeks ago, that was an egg – OK, probably longer, it takes around 10 days for the supply chain to reach the shops.

It’s still a miracle. Five weeks from hatching to a full-grown bird. And all done with antibiotics. Take your pick from chlortetracycline, procaine penicillin, oxytetracycline, tylosin, bacitracin, neomycin sulfate, streptomycin, erythromycin, linomycin, oleandomycin, virginamycin, or bambermycin – just a short list of the antibiotics used in livestock production.

Not exactly chicken feed are they?

Except they are. Because farmers have known for yonks that antibiotics bulk up livestock faster for less. Just like humans, small doses in early life stimulate development. Bigger, better – and they can be kept indoors – not so sanitary, but way more intense – thousands and thousands of them all under one roof. Behold the factory farm.

Which is why antibiotics are used around the world way more than in any doctor’s surgery.

In the US, MORE THAN 75% of all antibiotics are used on the farm. In the UK, it’s not quite so bad, just 45% – but that’s still 420 tonnes a year.

Which is how it’s possible to go from an egg to a 2 kg roasting chicken in just five weeks. Spectacular? You bet. And the whole world has known about it for at least half a century.

“In 1955, a crowd gathered in a hotel ballroom to watch as feed salesmen climbed onto a scale; the men were competing to see who could gain the most weight in four months, in imitation of the cattle and hogs that ate their antibiotic-laced food. Pfizer sponsored the competition.” New York Times Sunday Review “The Fat Drug”

Not all bad… we hope

OK, to be fair, farmers do try to reduce our exposure to animal-fed antibiotics before they’re sold to us. By law all animals for market have to go through a withdrawal period of two weeks or more – no antibiotics in their feed to be sure they metabolise out of their systems.

But they’re in there anyway. And in us too – bulking us up, just like them.

Because while the farmer might stop ADDING doses in their food, those same animals are gobbling up grass and grain feeds already fertilised by their own antibiotics-laden manure. Plus, since plants are not regulated the same way as animals, there’s heavy antibiotics use in vegetable and grain crops too.

It doesn’t stop there. Because the antibiotics leach into the soil and so into our river systems, so that our very water supply is laced with them as well.

No wonder we’re fat!

The killers

We’re not as healthy was we used to be either. Because making us fat isn’t all that antibiotics do.

At the brutal business end, they work by killing bacteria, mostly in our digestive tract. And just like insecticides working against different bugs, some antibiotics work better at killing particular bacteria types more than others.

But they all work by destruction.

That’s kind of disastrous for our bodies. Because scientists are now discovering that our internal bacteria are vital to our existence. In fact our microbiota – the 100 trillion plus bacteria colonising our gut – seems to regulate and control our bodies’ life balance far more than we realised.

It’s like our bodies are the hardware – and our gut bacteria are the software that enable us to operate – our internal OS and a whole load of supporting apps that regulate hunger, help us digest, produce proteins, even control our immune systems.

The whole shebang is inherited from our Mums and installed as a new iteration on our own systems in the womb and through the act of birth. If we have a C-section delivery, some of that info is glitched or not properly installed, so our strength and resilience against hostile outside bacteria might not be as powerful as it should.

The same with antibiotics – which explode in our gut like a hydrogen bomb, killing bad bacteria along with the good ones – screwing up our delicate settings and throwing everything out of balance. Yup, you got it – that’s why antibiotics themselves sometimes make us sick while we’re taking them – we’re all out of whack.

Never the same again

Yeah, the system recovers – our bacteria have learned to survive over millions of years, far longer than we’ve ever existed. We DO get better.

The downside is that we never get back to where we were, we don’t reset to 100%. Exactly like running a fix program which corrects problems – but strips out a load of operating apps while it does so, leaving half of our stuff inaccessible or unusable. Like the switches that tell us when we’ve had enough to eat are graunched, we gobble compulsively. Or we develop a load of allergies we never had before.

On top of that, this thing snowballs the longer it goes on.

We’re getting antibiotics from two sources – the stuff our Doc prescribes because we’re sick – and the steady drip, drip background dose coming through in everything we eat – fast food or health stuff, meat or vegetarian – every mouthful we bite or sip.

Say that knocks you back 20% by the time you’re 25 – the time to start a family. 20% less resilient, not all you could be. Tough on your kids, but you’ll make it.

OK, so we’re nearly three generations down since the 1950s – when all this antibiotics hoo-ha began. 20% for you, 20% for your Mum, 20% for her Mum before her.

Whoh, 60%! – an exaggeration of course, but it underlines the point – we’re not as healthy as we were, we get sick more easily, being overweight is just part of it.

Hoo boy! What a Pandora’s box!

But back in the 1950s, medical science had no idea antibiotics could do such damage. All they saw was people getting better and animals getting bigger – without connecting the two.

Yeah, they DID foresee the possibility of antibiotic resistance and the rise of superbugs. But now superbugs are everywhere and antibiotics as germ-fighters are rapidly becoming useless. Will that be enough reason to stop using them?

Because the disaster keeps getting bigger – not knowing what’s coming, more and more out of control – like that other tragedy also from the 1950s, childhood deformities from thalidomide.

So what can we do?

Our own Chief Medical Officer, Dr Dame Sally Davies has already spelled it out – rediscover hygiene. Make being clean and staying clean a Number One Priority, because if our resistance is really 60% down, we need all the help we can get.

Which means washing hands – before and after everything. Keeping our living space safe from germs too – sterilising the air and everything around us once a day, once a week or whatever with a Hypersteriliser. We might be health wimps, but we’re not going to go easily.

Should we blame the doctors? Hey, all they’re trying to do is save lives.

Besides, remember that one accusing finger means there’s three pointing back at ourselves. It’s all of us who should take the heat – particularly for our greed. We wanted bigger, better fatter – well now we’ve got it – in spades. Super-obesity here we come.

Unless of course you grow your own, drink bottled water, and live in a bath tub.

Good health to you all!

Contagious, infectious, why you’re gonna catch it

Unhappy woman in viral mask
They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere! And germs aren’t picky who they infect

What goes around, comes around, right? Which is why you’re gonna catch it.

Because we’re not all hermits.

We need to be with each other and share things – at work, at home, or out enjoying ourselves.

Get a life and keep it

Otherwise, avoiding bugs is easy – we stay in splendid isolation and talk to nobody.

Not much of a life though, hey?

So we’re out there with everybody else – and sure as little apples, if there’s a bug going round, we’re ALL gonna catch it.

No, no, it’s not going to be because someone coughed over us, or sneezed in our direction. It’s not going to be because somebody honked their guts out on the office carpet either.

We’re careful, we keep away. We’re sympathetic, yes – but we don’t let that stuff touch us.

Besides, the place LOOKS clean and our hands aren’t dirty. If whoever it is stays away from work, we’re laughing.

If only we knew.

Because they could stay away for a week and we still might catch it.

Telling ourselves we can’t SEE germs doesn’t mean they’re not there. And germs, believe it or not, can survive for weeks clinging on to whatever – not the same as a nice, warm bod, but do-able.

So yeah, they’re there alright, all around us – like raindrops in a rain storm… No, hang on, that’s not all-embracing enough – like steam particles in a sauna.

SURROUNDING us.

Our own bio-aura

For starters, we each of us trail a cloud of germs – actually a cocktail of bacteria, skin and hair debris, viruses, fungi particles and dust all around us wherever we go.

There’s more in the air too, swirling and floating in every space on Earth. Too small to see so we don’t even think that they exist. Good germs, bad germs – so universally present it’s almost impossible to avoid them.

Only by washing them away are we momentarily safe from them – or eliminating them from the space around us, which amounts to the same thing.

Otherwise, we’re at risk, every moment of our existence.

We’ll touch something that somebody else has touched – a door handle, a light switch, a salt shaker or a phone. Next minute, because we do, we’ll touch our face and that’ll be it – bacteria will get in through our eyes or mouth – we’ve got the bug.

Yeah OK, most of the time it doesn’t happen.

Careless hygiene costs health

Our life and its surroundings are clean enough and hygienic enough for us to get away with it.

Which means we get forgetful. Careless because we’re always on the go. We don’t clean things, because they don’t look dirty. Or we get Harry casual when we do, choosing a wipe instead of a proper scrub with soap. And as for disinfecting… not even on the radar.

Want an example?

Look no further than your favourite coffee hangout.

More especially, watch the barista make your start-of-the-day cappuccino to go. See that steam pipe on the Gaggia machine? That’s to bubble the milk, give it that distinctive foam al perfetto.

Uh huh.

Now watch the J-cloth that wipes the pipe, then into the plastic jug, waiting for the next order. Watch again. Same wipe action, back to the jug. Over and over – all morning if you watch long enough.

Not exactly hygienic, right? Shouldn’t that be a fresh cloth every time? Or a tear-off paper towel?

Yet who else is watching? Not even an inspector is likely to pick that up. Unconscious habit – and so perfectly normal that nobody sees a thing.

And that’s how it happens. Sleep-walking ourselves into sickness.

A little bit of soap

Like, be honest, when was the last time you washed your hands? Before you left home? When you reached work? After you hit the loo? Before your ritual ‘cino and Danish?

Don’t worry if you feel a twinge of conscience at the last two. Most people forget either of them are so vital – a wonder we don’t fall down dead with so many germs around.

Makes you think twice about the office though, doesn’t it?

Perhaps not as safe as you think.

Especially when Harry from Sales upchucks after the staff party.

All those germs floating around. Billions and billions of them. Often only 2 microns across – small enough to fall THROUGH an unglazed terra cotta plate.

Ew! Because it only takes around ten particles of norovirus – our favourite winter vomiting bug – to infect someone. And one droplet of vomit can contain 100,000,000,000 particles.

OK, so Harry stays away – and so do you. Except it’s near the photocopier, an area you can’t avoid.

Germ defence force-field

Nae problem, your work has got you covered with a Hypersteriliser.

You go home last thing – and the chars move in, right? And last thing when they quit is press the button on the machine.

Hisssssssss!

That’s ionised hydrogen peroxide misting up the place. Penetrating everywhere through the air space and oxidising germs on the fly. Over, under, behind, through – into all the cracks and corners. Over every surface too.

Forty minutes later, the place is sterilised. No viruses, no bacteria, nothing.

Next day, Harry is safe, home in bed.

And you’re safe with your ‘cino and Danish – after a turn by the wash basin. No point taking needless chances.

Except what? No Hypersteriliser, it was only on appro?

Better book your own sickie off now, it’s only a matter of time. And get the boss to order one fast.

Because you’re going to catch it.

So’s he.

Terror in our tummies – why we keep getting ill

Woman not feeling well
Stop taking the medicine, it’s making us feel worse

You’ve probably noticed it yourself.

We’re going downhill.

Not as resilient as we were. Not as strong either. Victims of terror – a different kind to the one you see in the headlines.

Not feeling so good?

More lasting conditions and ailments. More disabilities, particularly mental or neurological. More vulnerable to disease and infection. Dwindling shadows of who we were.

Getting old? Get real, it’s happening to teenagers too.

Look around and see for yourself. How many people these days are fully able-bodied, stable and emotionally adjusted – with lasting stamina and physical capability?

Something’s wrong, somewhere

Should be the other way round, shouldn’t it?

We live better, have better food, every comfort and service to look after us.

Most visible probably is that we’re all larger than we were. Taller, more full-bodied, yes.

But also fatter. More muffin tops and waistline overflows – like if you read the reports, getting on for two-thirds of us are overweight or obese. Instant candidates for diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, asthma – a list that lengthens every day.

And it’s not just weight. We might not suffer the dread threats of typhoid, cholera or diphtheria any more – medical science has pushed them into the background.

But we have all kinds of other problems – allergies, digestive disorders, circulatory problems, pregnancies that go awry – plus stress, mental hiccups, various phobias and apprehensions – we’re not healthy at all.

What have we done? Why is this happening? Is our modern streamlined lifestyle so terrible?

Unconscious addicts

We’re all junkies is why.

Druggies without knowing it.

And like all junkies we’re going down, the price for this addiction we all unconsciously share.

Deep down in our gut, there’s a war going on. The trillions and trillions of bacteria that we are host to are under siege. Not good, because these bacteria are our lifeline. They handle our digestion, they send signals to the brain that monitor our condition, they even trigger the way our immune system kicks into action.

But little by little, so we don’t even feel it, these bacteria are getting killed. Or maimed – damaged in such a way that they don’t function properly.

Bad news for us because they’re supposed to be there. The right bacteria, in the right place, at the right time. Our first line of defence against wrong bacteria, not supposed to be there. The ones who try to take us over and kill us. The ones that modern medicine controls seeks to control with the all-singing, all-dancing wonder drugs, antibiotics.

Misfiring miracles, more like.

Because it’s antibiotics that are killing our bacteria.

No, not just the bad ones that the Doc might prescribe one-off treatment for – seven days and you’re done, feel better now?

We mean the good guys that do all our body’s heavy work for us. Every day assaulted and beaten up – microscopic victims of GBH and murder. And yes we mean every day – every moment since we were conceived in our mother’s womb and started to become human beings.

Terror in our tummies

You see, killing bacteria is what antibiotics do.

And we’ve been under constant attack by them from Day One. Not in big numbers, but in dribs and drabs – tiny amounts administered a little more with every mouthful of food we take, even the water we drink.

It shouldn’t be so, but it is.

Because, across the board, antibiotics are used to produce nearly every kind of food we eat. Meat, vegetables, milk, eggs – pretty well everything your supermarket has to offer.

They keep animals healthy, see – kind of essential when you think of the crowded and often unsanitary conditions intensive farming methods require to turn big enough profits.

Plus antibiotics fatten them up too – an unexpected money-making side effect. Bigger, stronger animals in often half the time – like as little as five weeks for a roasting chicken.

Money, money, money

Which means the food we eat is full of antibiotics, so we get them too. We’re not supposed to, but we do – despite regulations to stop it.

Just like in our own bodies, animals metabolise antibiotics over time and absorb them into their systems. A one-off dose might be gone in a couple of weeks, or certainly a couple of months. So the law says there has to be a withdrawal period free from any exposure for as long it takes to make residue levels safe for humans to eat.

But of course, time is money.

So even though authorities push for substantial safety margins, residues are NOT always down to zero. Like it or not, an itty-bitty remainder gets through – not enough to have any immediate effect, but everything mounts up.

Because, depending on the antibiotic, not all of it is digested by the animal. As much as 80% of it might be pooed out in grazing areas – to be collected and used as manure.

Plants absorb the antibiotics through the soil and pass them on to us – and because vegetable crops don’t face the same regulations that animals do, we gulp them down without knowing. Pull a potato out of the ground and chances are it’s laced with sulfamethazine.

Antibiotics everywhere

It gets worse.

Because while all animals might go through the eighteen or twenty-eight day withdrawal periods required according to the doses they’ve been given, the unsuspecting farmer has no idea what levels of antibiotics might already be in the feedstuffs he gives them. He thinks the monensin he’s given the cattle he’s earmarked for market has worked it’s way out – the level is either zero or safe.

He’s not wrong. Except the lush grass they’re grazing has been pooed out with their own manure – so is the silage made from it. There’s still monensin coming through.

On top of that, the maize they’re getting was possibly grown with ampicillin to kill the leaf spot – or in any case contains naturally occurring chloramphenicol.

Or maybe they’re fed rapeseed meal, a by-product of the hugely profitable biodiesel industry. No, they won’t get streptomycin anymore, rapeseed has become resistant to it. But how do farmers protect against soft rot (xanthomonas campestris) for this game-changing money-maker crop? High on the list is ciprofloxacin – the same stuff your Doc might prescribe for urinary tract infections or stomach disorders.

Antibiotics everywhere and the effect is snowballing.

Time to stop this terror

We’re not supposed to be on them but we are – constantly. And just like animals, we’re getting fatter, no matter what we do – no wonder two-thirds of us will be porkers by 2025 – only ten years away.

Yes, cut out the sugary drinks and fast foods, join Weight Watchers, fit a gastric band – ever wonder why none of it seems to work? There’s terror in our tummies and it’s ALL of us who are affected, not just the binge-eaters.

Looks like the sooner we get stuck into organic food the better. Either that, or we all OD on paracetamol.

Not really an option, is it?

Avoid norovirus or worse as flood waters drop

Rain girl
Just remember, germs are like raindrops but smaller – up in the air and all over the place until you get rid of them

Goodbye Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva and Frank.

You weren’t nice and we never liked you – good riddance.

Likewise storms yet to come – Gertrude, Henry, Imogen, Jake and Katie.

We know you’re coming, but don’t expect us to roll out the welcome mat. You and the rest of your Named Storms mob have done enough damage already.

The long road back

So now it’s the heartache and the clear up. Putting your life back together.

But be careful.

There’s sickness in that water – and sickness where it’s been.

Up to your ankles in the kitchen, even more in the street. With the over-run sewer system four feet below that. Which means there’s poo in that water, nothing about it is safe. And as the level goes down, that yuck is going to be everywhere.

Be safe, don’t touch it, or risk getting it on your skin. Norovirus could be lurking there – or even worse, cholera. For sure, there’s nothing healthy.

So whatever you do, wash your hands if it gets on them – or if you’ve touched anything lying in it. Norovirus spreads on contact – and it only takes a dab. You don’t want that misery on top of everything else. Cramps, runs, upchucks – no thank you.

Wash your hands properly too, this stuff is pernicious. Find yourself some hot water – as hot as you can stand – and give yourself a good going over. Soap and scrubbing brush. Under your nails and between your fingers. Like you’ve got plague on them and you can’t take chances – which if you think about it, is true.

Proper hygiene is everything

And which of course means your place will need the same treatment.

After days of immersion in poo, sweeping out the mud and hosing everything down is not going to be good enough – not even with a turbo-wash. It’ll be in the wallpaper and the plaster – in the concrete and even the bricks. Going to have to be brutal.

It’ll be UNDER the floorboards too – in the crawl space around the foundations. By the time you get to it, a kind of sludgy, gooey gunge. Norovirus in there – and all other kinds of nasties. Squirt it out if you can, possibly forcing it out through the air bricks. You don’t want the drama of ripping everything up to get rid of it.

Yes, it’s a health hazard, but if you can get rid of most of it, it’s possible to neutralise the rest with hydrogen peroxide or some other oxidising steriliser.

Misting up the under-floor gap with a Hypersteriliser is a good choice – any airborne germs will be clobbered immediately and the stuff is good at forcing itself into difficult nooks and crannies. Any viruses or bacteria it comes in contact with will be dead in around 40 minutes.

Likewise any mould. The hydrogen peroxide won’t physically get rid of it, but it will kill it dead – you can tell in two ways. It won’t be that horrible black any more, but a pale grey. And whatever smell there might be – if it’s anything organic – will have disappeared.

That hydrogen peroxide mist will work well in the rest of the house too – especially at getting rid of the smell. But remember it’s only a vapour – actually a super-vapour called a plasma, which is why it’s so effective. But it won’t physically clean or scrub, so any smells could come back when the stuff wears off after a week or so.

It pays to be thorough

To do the job properly, you’ve got to chuck away all the carpets, lino, wallpaper and plaster so you can scrub down with disinfectant right to the bare walls and floor. Your place won’t look pretty, but at least it will be safe. Mist it up again with hydrogen peroxide and chances are good any smell is gone permanently.

The no-smell thing is important, because that means any microbial action has been stopped – there are no more germs breeding in there to come and get you. If the smells come back it either means you missed a bit and the germs break through when the hydrogen peroxide wears off – or the place isn’t fully dry and mould is reforming. Another mist-up will give you a quick fix, but the real answer is to get down and dirty all over again – this time, with a more eagle eye.

Look after yourself while you do all this, because don’t forget you ARE exposing yourself to germs – and nasties like norovirus are airborne as well coating everything, so you could by mischance breathe some in. To be really safe, Public Health England have this excellent guide – useful and easy step-by-step stuff anyone can follow.

There, all done – and well done you. A real schlep, but you don’t want anyone coming down with anything serious on top of all the other setbacks.

Welcome back to the land of the living.