Monthly Archives: July 2016

With antibiotics failing, what’s your insurance policy for staff going ill?

Anxious exec
Without antibiotics, not tightening up on office hygiene could mean a lot of empty desks

Once upon a time, you could let staff look after themselves.

It was their life, their wellbeing.

As long as they were safe while working for you, what they got up on their own time was their own business.

Not any more.

Rapidly accelerating antibiotics failure makes it your business now.

And super-urgent too.

Invisible health issue

You’ve heard of superbugs?

They’re the rocketing number of dangerous bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. Whatever we throw at them, nothing works.

Either medics battle with second-best alternatives, or the body has to fight the illness itself.

Which means, all of a sudden, we no longer have the safety net we used to have.

If we get ill, we get ill – with no miracle drugs to pull us out of it.

Kinda vital from a business angle.

If a staff member goes down with ANYTHING it could be life-threatening.

A paper cut from a document? Blood poisoning could lead to sepsis and possibly death in a week.

So it’s not just a gap in your professional team, or under-powered service that you’re looking at.

It’s the permanent loss of a member of staff – and the whole heart-breaking rigmarole of replacing them.

Plus the threat that whatever they were suffering from could spread to everybody else.

Germs everywhere

OK, you can’t watch them 24/7.

But they’re your top-performing assets, and when the end of the day comes, they go down in the lift and home – away from your protection.

Protection?

You do so much already, probably without thinking about it – the cost of doing business.

Making the place pleasant and inspirational to work in. Good lighting, nice décor, ergonomic furniture, intuitive IT systems, sound proofing, personal spaces, central heating, HEPA-filtered air con, security at the entrance – the whole nine yards.

Ah, but without the medical failsafe of antibiotics, there’s now an element missing.

Keeping your staff healthy and safe from harm. A bigger challenge than terrorism – because now, ALL businesses face it.

And we’re all up against it because nobody’s head is geared for a major hygiene threat.

Yes, everything is OK right now – as long as nothing happens.

But if you think about it, our day-to-day focus on fighting germs by keeping clean is pretty near non-existent.

Sure, everybody showers or bathes before coming to work – all washed and polished, ready for action.

We are the unwashed

But then it disappears off the radar. The day gets started and people get involved, nobody has time for washing hands or other niceties.

Not good for two reasons.

One – very few of us know it, but we all trail around a personal cloud of invisible bacteria, fungi, dead skin cells and other body detritus  – on our skin, our clothes and in the air around us – our own individual microbiome.

Which of course includes whatever germ clouds we might be towing around as well – a streaming cold, flu, a tummy bug, or anything more serious.

Two – we know that germs are transmitted mostly via our hands, but very few of us do anything about it.

Uh, huh. But that’s personal. What business is it of yours?

Plenty.

Because it’s the things those unhygienic members of staff touch that spread things around.

One of them had norovirus over the weekend?

So now their invisible paw-prints are all over the light switches, the lift call buttons, their keyboard, whatever phone they’ve used – and the sales proposal document currently sitting on your desk.

What goes around, comes around

Touch the pages, the rub your face in thought – chances are good you’ll catch their norovirus through the soft tissue round your eyes or mouth – and that’s you out of action.

But it doesn’t have to be norovirus. There’s other bugs out there, way more potent.

You might have a client breeze in straight off the plane from Mumbai, Nairobi or any one of a dozen places with local epidemics going on – direct by business class on hands unwashed because timing is tight.

And yes, the office gets cleaned and vacuumed every night. But the germs stay there –  on the light switches and door handles – floating in the air, too small to be captured by the air-con’s HEPA filters – waiting to be swallowed or breathed in.

Health and hygiene, you’re covered

So that’s where you deploy your insurance policy. A nightly mist-up of your offices with ionised hydrogen peroxide – oxidising ALL viruses and bacteria to nothing – sterilising the whole place safe.

No germs, no chance of infection. Your duty of care is 100%.

And you make doubly sure by making hand wipes available on every desk as a reminder that hygiene is now a high priority.

Maybe you can’t protect your staff so well when they go home. But you can protect them while they’re working for you.  Fewer absences. Fewer illnesses. Fewer threats to your bottom line.

Yes, antibiotic resistance is a snowballing disaster.

But it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

Picture Copyright: Elnur / 123RF Stock Photo and i3d / 123RF Stock Photo

Could you be criminally charged for infecting your work colleagues?

Bizgirl in handcuffs
It could happen – nicked for not washing your hands

We might not think we act criminally, and certainly not intentionally.

But if colleagues become ill or die from an infection we’ve introduced, can we not be held liable?

It is already an offence to transmit HIV – either knowingly, or unknowingly.

People are never the same once that affliction takes hold of them. So infection constitutes an crime under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

We’re all of us prone to seemingly limitless diseases, but nothing ever happens unless we’re exposed to them.

We all work and socialise together, which means we often cross-infect each other – passing round the snuffles or an upset tummy without really thinking about it.

Negligence and drug failure

Most of these infections are entirely preventable with proper hand hygiene, which we are unforgivably lax about. So that infection by the usual suspects – escherichia coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, MRSA, colds, flu and norovirus – is almost inevitable across a year.

As we are at the moment, we sort of take that in our stride.

There’s only one problem.

Without most of us knowing it, our Number One miracle drugs – antibiotics – are rapidly losing the battle against superbugs resistant to them. We’re already at the threshold where they stop working altogether.

Which changes things Big Time, if you think about HIV. Without antibiotics, ANY infection or disease is suddenly life-threatening. Particularly if there is an underlying condition to be made worse – which one way or another, most of us have by the time we reach 25.

Death threat

Which means if you breeze into the office with ANY kind of ailment – even a sniffle that you just laugh off – it could mean the death sentence for one of your colleagues.

And count on it, cross-infection is highly likely. These days, we all work together in big offices of 20 or more. Or smaller spaces all served by the same HVAC system. Constantly exposed to each other’s condition with zero protection.

As we’re now starting to realise, each of us is home to a massive colony of bacteria in, on, and around our bodies at all times – our very own personal and individually unique microbiome.

We carry around a cloud of microbes directly related to who we are, our health, our mental state, our gender, and a zillion other influences. A signature more detailed and accurate than any fingerprint, retina scan or DNA sample.

Not only that, our individual clouds can completely displace and take over from any existing cloud in a matter of hours. So that scientists can determine when we were in a location. Our physical state when we were there. Even what we may have had to eat or drink before we got there.

Biological fingerprint

That gives us each a forensic profile that can only be ours. Irrefutable proof that any infection or ailment we may be carrying is the source of exposure. And cause of colleagues succumbing to a particular illness and deterioration of their life condition.

Now here’s the thing. By analysing the traces of microbiome present in a scene, existing technology is barely a step away from finding us culpable of causing health detriments to others.

If for example, we’re negligent in ensuring proper hand hygiene after a visit to the toilet, are we not criminally responsible for the MRSA of a colleague? And without antibiotics that work any more, is our action not a threat to life – culpable negligence, manslaughter or murder?

Avoiding hygiene felony

Suddenly, not washing your hands could become an Offence Against the Person, punishable by long term or even life imprisonment.

And it’s not just us, but our bosses too.

We might get done for not washing our hands. They could get nicked for not keeping the workplace safe and free from germs.

Again, remembering that this is against the background of total antibiotics failure. Our only defence against serious illness is heightened hygiene discipline.

Which is why bosses will be glad to look at a Hypersteriliser. Press one button and forty minutes later, ALL viruses and bacteria are no more – oxidised to nothing by hydrogen peroxide mist.

The germs will be back next morning of course – our combined microbiomes quickly repopulating the space and laying claim to it.

But germ threshold levels will be reduced – and back down to zero at the end of the day, when repeat treatment annihilates them again. A daily discipline, just like cleaning your teeth.

Yes, daily.

Because think about it. If we all have the opportunity to eliminate germs to make us all safer, it must be criminally wrong not to use it.

Sterile is secure.

Picture Copyright: elnur / 123RF Stock Photo

No more life-saving with antibiotics – what do we do now?

Ophelia dead
Without antibiotics, everything around us becomes life-threatening

No life-saving because the antibiotics don’t work any more.

Ask any doctor, we’re already  living on borrowed time.

Maybe not today, or even tomorrow – but one day soon, we’re looking at total failure.

Antibiotic resistance, see? The bugs are too smart for the drugs we throw at them.

We’re better off with paracetamol.

A riskier world

OK, we’re safe as long as nothing happens to us.

But Sod’s Law says it will.

Hopefully not a runaway car crash – but suddenly even a paper cut could be a disaster.  And what life-saving do we have then?

No more protection from infection.  Something goes septic on us now and the Doc will have to cut it away. Yes, risky – but our miracle-drugs can’t crack it any more.

And us with our sloppy hygiene habits – those germs will be laughing all the way to the morgue. Overnight, life-saving is way more urgent than it ever used to be.

Hygiene first

Unless – we smarten up our act and put hygiene first – recognise germs are everywhere and start being seriously clean.

Yeah, the hands have it. Big time soap and water. Except now, we need to wash slightly more than once or twice a day. Always before food. Always after the loo. And always before we touch our faces.

Plus of course, everything else needs to be scrupulously clean too. Kitchen surfaces and utensils. Anything to do with food. And our workplaces, where millions of germs thrive that we’re not even aware of.

First rule in germ warfare is infection avoidance. There’s always billions and billions of bacteria around us – viruses and fungi too. And yes, it is a war – they never give up trying to invade us.

There’s trillions of them INSIDE us too – friendly gut bacteria we actually NEED to help our bodies survive. Harmless enough where they are. But deadly in the wrong place.

Escherichia coli for example, is a bacterium that lives in our gut to aid digestion and protect us from other harmful microbes. But disease-causing strains of it, like O157:H7, disrupt body functions, triggering diarrhoea or worse. And e.coli in the bloodstream is seriously life-threatening.

Hygiene technology

So sure, washing hands and everything else becomes essential – but with no antibiotics safety-net, is still woefully short of keeping us safe.

However hard we try, we can never reach every hidey-hole, crack or crevice where germs like to lurk and breed. And pulling things out to clean underneath and behind all the time makes effective protection impossible.

Which means we need another dimension – to use our smart Twenty-First Century technology to clobber the germs we can’t get to – in a way that allows us to relax.

Enter the Hypersteriliser – a familiar sight in hospitals like the Salford Royal, South Warwickshire, or Queen Victoria in East Grinstead. Expect them soon all over the place – the most effective all-in-one total room sterilisers yet.

You do the rub and scrub. The Hypersteriliser backs up with one press-button start – removing ALL  viruses and bacteria in a room completely, oxidising them to nothing.

It works by misting up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide – electrostatically charged so it reaches everywhere – behind, underneath and on top of things, walls and ceilings too. Germs are actively grabbed and shot through with oxygen atoms, their cell structures totally destroyed.

Forty minutes later, the room is sterile. No viruses, no bacteria – 99.9999% of harmful pathogens destroyed – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

Be watchful – and live

OK, that’s your front-end germ insurance taken care of, a hyped up level of hygiene – prevention is better than cure.

From now on, you have to be more watchful too – avoid germ hazards, don’ let accidents happen to you, be super-careful around anyone sick.

Maybe not as miraculous as antibiotics, but just as life-saving BEFORE any illness gets anywhere near your body.

Picture Copyright: diy13 / 123RF Stock Photo

It’s not junk food that makes you fat, it’s hunger boosting antibiotics that make you over-eat

Girl with hamburger
Watch out, you’ll get fat anyway – even if you DON’T eat junk food!

Junk food, right. Didn’t know antibiotics were such hunger boosters, hey?

Better believe it.

They’re the world’s No 1 appetite stimulant. Which is why 240,000 tonnes of them are added to animal feed every year. Slightly more than the three capsules a day the Doc might put us on for a chest infection.

Yeah, 240,000 tonnes. How else could we ramp up world food production for 2½ billion people to 7½ billion in just 50 years?

Not from medicine, from food production

Forget life-saving and medicine, antibiotics are BIG business – in agriculture.

Massive factories churning out billions of doses to support the super-production of food. Intense and accelerated growth for the 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle and 1 billion sheep and pigs it takes to feed us – almost 3 chickens for every one of us.

And how effective are antibiotics as growth boosters?

Very.

From egg to full-grown roasting chicken in 6 weeks. From calf to Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak in 16 months instead of four years.

And if they can do that to animals, what can they do to us with basically the same metabolism?

Like animals, our gut bacteria are attacked by antibiotics and many of them killed or damaged – as you know from the Doc, killing bacteria is what antibiotics do.

Business as usual – only fatter

We survive however because there are TRILLIONS of bacteria in our gut – enough to carry on essential work of digesting, producing proteins and managing our immune systems – along with several thousand other vital functions.

Like the animals however, we are no longer the same. The controls that tell us when we’ve had enough to eat are no longer active. There’s NOTHING in our bodies to stop us eating and eating.

And like the animals too, our bacteria are now over-stimulated. They extract MORE nutrients from the food we eat than before. It’s the same food, we just squeeze more out of it. More food value than we need – the fuel tank is over-full.

A condition we call fat.

There is a difference though. The animals are food – their life expectancy is very short. They’re fattened up and eaten, bye-bye.

We fatten up – with our whole life-time ahead of us, thirty, fifty, seventy years. We become obese – with all the complications that can bring. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer – and all the others.

In everything we eat

How can we tell the antibiotics are in our bodies? How do they get there?

The give-away is our waistlines. We never used to be so fat. Not so many of us at once. It’s an obesity epidemic.

Because you haven’t changed the way you eat, have you? You’re still the same as you always were. And the scary part is, you don’t eat all that much anyway – never have done. But now, like two-thirds of all adults in the UK, you’re suddenly fat.

Yeah, well. The antibiotics are in our food. Whatever it is, whatever we eat or drink – they’re in there.

They start in the animals’ food – added to their feedstuff to make them bigger, faster.

But here’s a thing. Animals don’t absorb all the nutrients they eat – some 80-90% of it is pooed out, Nature’s natural fertiliser for every living thing.

And we’re the same. We poo most of our nutrients out too. In China, human waste is prized as the best manure there is. But like the animals, we keep back more for ourselves than we used to – thanks to antibiotics.

The poo trail

OK, so follow the poo trail.

The poo becomes manure which is used for plant crops. Everything across the board – fruit, vegetables, grains – along with feedstuffs like soya and rapeseed.

The plants absorb the antibiotics, stimulating THEIR growth – bigger, faster oranges and apples, quicker wheat crops, higher yields.

Plus of course, the plants get fed back to animals, the antibiotics continue being dosed to them – even if the farmer has stopped adding them, to get ready for market.

Which means everything you eat, everything you drink, has antibiotics in it. The manure feeds the plants and antibiotics leach into the soil. They get into the water table, flowing into rivers and streams. Your milk, your tea, your beer has traces of antibiotics in it.

Every mouthful, antibiotics.

So guess what?

Yummy, yummy

You go out for a pizza, and it tastes terrific. Too big to eat another one, but you know you could. Your body processes it anyway, pulling out double the nutrients that it used to before. Good healthy vegetables, healthy cheese, whole-wheat base – where’s the junk?

Ditto for burgers, kebabs, wraps, tortillas -you name it.

Where’s the tartrazine or monosodium glutamate? Where’s all the extra sugar and fat? Seems junk food gets a bad name because it tastes nice. Nothing that rewarding can be good for you, it’s fattening.

Yeah, right.

Thanks to antibiotics, the REAL fattening is internal – your own gut bacteria on the fritz.

And there’s no escape. We’re all going the same way.

Not from junk food though. They could actually do you more good than you think.

Just don’t let the doom-mongers put you off.

Picture Copyright: andersonrise / 123RF Stock Photo

A spoonful of sugar tax: to help the antibiotic growth boosters go down

Mad woman portrait
Sugar tax? Are we crazy? Obesity is a crisis, why are we all in denial?

Clever one, this. A tax on sugary drinks to stop kids getting fat.

Meanwhile 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics – specially tried and tested for the way they fatten up animals – is getting through unmonitored and unchecked in every meal kids eat.  In their meat, in their vegetables, in their milk, in their baby feed.

And that’s on top of the antibiotics most modern kids get in their early years – overkill medicines for childhood illnesses, also proven to boost infant obesity. Give them antibiotics by two and they’ll be fat by four.

Up a bit lower

Looks like our government obesity strategy really knows what it’s doing with a sugar tax. A tax on the one substance which – surprise, surprise – the human body cannot do without.

Mind you, confusion is understandable.  First we’re supposed to eat this, then we’re told it’s bad for us. We have to avoid eating that, and then suddenly it’s good for us.

Truth is, with diets and food types – nobody really knows what they’re talking about.

Here’s Jamie Oliver, rabbiting on that sugar is the bad guy – when along comes Glasgow University with a report that FAT, not sugar, is where our health campaigns are misguided – the real villain of the piece.

And right on top of that, we’re told to eat fat to get thin – no less an outfit than the National Obesity Forum telling us that low-fat diets trigger disastrous consequences.

Say what..?

Who to believe?

The only sense in recent months seems to come from Lord McColl, who pointed out in a speech to the House of Lords recently that “it is impossible to be obese unless one is eating too many calories.”

So guess what? In Lord McColl’s opinion, low-fat diets and exercise don’t mean a dickey-bird for losing weight.  And as emeritus professor of surgery at Guys Hospital, he probably has a better perspective than most.

Yeah, OK.

So why are we eating too many calories, especially our kids?

Because the one nasty fact that everyone chooses to ignore is that just about every single food source available through our supermarkets is laced through with antibiotics.

Yeah, antibiotics. Officially for health reasons – to keep those mega-size industrial factory farms running smooth with intensive livestock herds, crowded into massive production units.

Farm-fresh fatness

In reality as the big money-maker growth booster for agriculture worldwide – shovelled in with every feed and absorbed by every plant crop from antibiotics-laden manure.

Fact: antibiotics make animals fat.

So fact: antibiotics make us fat too.

Make us WANT more food, make us EXTRACT more nutrients when we get it. Turning us into super-efficient eating machines.

Nothing to do with sugar, that’s for sure.

But is anyone looking at taxing antibiotics production?

Are they, hell.

Because would you believe, our top health honchos want drug companies to be paid an INCENTIVE  for developing new antibiotics. Because again – surprise, surprise – overuse in agriculture (240,000 tonnes, remember) is causing bacteria to develop resistance, so the drugs don’t work any more.

Where’s the antibiotics REPLACEMENT?

What is it, denial?

Antibiotics are a busted flush, yet medicine still chases after them. We don’t need new ones, we need new thinking completely.

And sugar tax?

Nothing about the elephant in the room. Our kids are getting fat, so tax Coca-Cola. They’re big, they can afford it.

Will somebody please wake up before we’re all ten ton porkers?

Picture Copyright: bowie15 / 123RF Stock Photo

Pretend your desk is covered in alien slime, what should you do next?

Paint spattered lady
If you could see them, you’d know germs are everywhere – and maybe be a bit more hyper about hygiene

Actually, it’s not alien slime, it’s genuine, 100% Earth-bound, gluey yuck.

And it’s not pretend, it’s for real.

In technical terms, a slimy bacterial biofilm – those greasy marks in between the sandwich crumbs, grit, dust bunnies and coffee mug rings that always seem appear between your first skinny latte and the end of the day. Bacteria hiding under a greasy stain.

And since we’re talking real, not pretend – it’s not just your desk that’s covered either.

It’s you.

All over everywhere

Surrounded and covered by billions of bacteria, tinier than our eyes can see.  Alien slime, de luxe.

Thank goodness we can’t see them too – because otherwise we’d all of us look a right mess.

OK, so if this yuck is all over the place, one thing you’re sure not going to do is eat lunch. At least maybe not right now.

No matter how workaholic you are, can you really face eating with that stuff on your hands? And what’s your food going to do to your insides? A Technicolor yawn in the making, right? No, no, norovirus, or something.

Uh, huh.

But stick with reality, our hands and desks REALLY are like that. Just like alien slime.

Total occupation

Maybe give lunch a miss, eh?

But yeah, let’s get some soap and water on our hands, quick. If we’re breathing and swallowing that yuck all the time, we’re likely to be whipped into A&E before the end of the day.

Calm down, dear.  It’s only alien slime.

Our bodies’ immune systems have done a pretty good job of looking after us so far – we’re not about to go belly up just yet.

But you’re right though.

Get our hands clean, because we use them to do everything.

So whatever yuck we have on there  – whatever virus, bacteria, noxious disease, noisome odour, or gungy murk – if we don’t get rid of it, it gets transferred to everything.

Right, so soap and water – pronto! Clean, clean, clean, er…

Did you spot the deliberate mistake?

Oops, not just hands

Our hands might be clean, but our surroundings aren’t. That riot of colour is still all over everything, the germs are still there, just waiting for the opportunity to infect somebody.

Waiting to get back onto our just-washed hands. Alien slime, WHOO-HOO!

Never heard of WAIs?

Stick around and you will. Workplace Acquired Infections are the NEXT BIG THING us nine-to-five lemmings are about to wake up to.

Never mind Workplace Wellness, with our sloppy hygiene – workers and bosses – Workplace Illness is our more likely scenario.

Unless our bosses are equally on the ball and doing something about it.

Because just like it’s easy to sort yucky hands out with soap and water – it’s easy to sort out a yucky office with hydrogen peroxide.

Exterminate, exterminate…

And when we say “sort out” we mean sterilise – make all viruses and bacteria non-existent. So however healthy or not-so-healthy we are, we’re protected. From any germs lying in wait for the unlucky, or from anything our colleagues might bring in with them.

It’s easier than soap and water too.

Press the button on a Hypersteriliser machine, and the whole place mists up with IONISED hydrogen peroxide that penetrates everywhere. Just press the button, that’s all.

Psst!

The stuff oxidises harmful pathogens on the fly, ripping their cell structure to shreds – a one-way ticket to oblivion. Alien slime meets its doom – yah, hah!

Forty minutes later, the place is sterile, the mist reverts to just oxygen and a little water, the water evaporates – no worries, job done.

Gone is gone

Unless of course you LIKE the riot of colour all over your dress and everything. Pity you can’t see it though.

Guess we’ll have to wait till real alien slime hits us – from a returning space probe maybe.

Or, gasp, the real thing.

More fun blasting office bacteria to the Nether Void with hydrogen peroxide.

Take that – AARGH!

Picture Copyright: artzzz / 123RF Stock Photo

Antibiotics disaster: if AMR is life and death, obesity is Armageddon

Iceberg disaster

Who’s watch is it anyway?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – AMR is just the tip of the iceberg.

We’re charging along at full speed in the dark, but who is keeping a lookout?

Hot on the heels of all the political hoo-hah this week, Jim O’Neill, Chairman of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance is quite rightly sounding the alarm that AMR needs urgent action. Exactly per the recommendations of his Special AMR Review to the Prime Minister.

700,000 people will die this year from illnesses made untreatable by microbial resistance to antibiotics.

Growth boosters – from farm, to food, to you

But 40 times more will die from illnesses brought on by ballooning obesity accelerated by antibiotics in their food. 2.8 million from obesity itself, 1.5 from diabetes, 8.2 from cancer and 17.3 million from heart disease.

Almost a staggering 30 million.

Yes, antimicrobial resistance is a critical issue – identified by England’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sally Davies, as a threat on par with terrorism.

But it’s chicken-feed alongside our raging obesity epidemic – already visibly affecting two-thirds of all adults. Accelerating unstoppable from the growth boosting force of antibiotics now present across our entire food spectrum. Whatever we eat is making us fatter and fatter.

Fatness kills

Obesity is staring each of us in the face and the damage is already done. Five, ten or twenty years from now we will all succumb to the inevitable illnesses that our condition brings. Killed by antibiotics in far greater numbers than they ever actually saved.

Yes, it’s a disaster on a monumental scale – so great that the medical needs fade into insignificance. We need to get off antibiotics altogether – find an alternative before we all come to an end.

Yes, back to the Dark Ages where the drugs don’t work. Where surgery is almost impossible without a level of hygiene way above our sloppy habits of today. Our only defence against infection in a world without the miracle of antibiotics. Wash your hands or die.

Stop eating, stop living

Yes, away from the supersize factory farms that shovel antibiotics in industrial quantities into the billions of livestock needed to feed our 7½ billion mouths. Less food to eat, less and less and less – not just bringing our weight down, but our numbers too.

Back to the 2½ billion we used to be, before antibiotics exploded into our food supply.

Face it, two-thirds of us are going to die – whether we find an alternative for antibiotics or not. Because without their growth-boosting powers, there’s no chance we can sustain the food production levels necessary to feed us all.

Jim O’Neill describes the threat of rising AMR as a slow-motion car crash – an understatement against what antibiotics are doing across the board.

Maybe when the big numbers start dying, we’ll finally take notice. With antibiotics-driven obesity, we’re looking at the end of the world.

Picture Copyright: anterovium / 123RF Stock Photo

What’s suddenly gone missing from our hospitals and surgeries?

Astounded businesswoman
No more repeat outbreaks, no more germs coming back and back and back – we’re safe

Not just missing, but gone completely.

First thing in the morning usually. As the place opens up and new staff come on.

Hunt around all you like, there’s nary a trace. Quite the opposite of the potential crisis last night.

Breathe deep, breathe easy. Because now, there’s no germs.

They’ve been taken out by one of the new germ-busting machines that are starting to revolutionise health care from top to bottom.

Normal germ control is at best haphazard and often ineffective.

It’s also labour intensive, a schlep to do, usually seen as a low-grade dogsbody job with no motivation. Executed with primitive mop-and-bucket and wipe-down rag.

More “low-giene” than hygiene

With methods like these, even deep clean procedures often fall short – usually relying on more concentrated solutions of bleach. Backed up by impressive-sounding but equally ineffective applications of steam .

Downside issues are basic but crucial. How can you be sure that all areas have been reached, particularly remote cracks and crevices? And how can you ensure that the air is sterilised too?

Answer, you can’t.

Which is why the germ-busting machines are so vital.

Two types are finding favour, both faster and way more effective than wipe-down hand-work.

Ultraviolet irradiation. Or whole-room subjection to an oxidising agent.

UV units are quick and simple. Just wheel one into place, vacate the room and turn on the “death rays”. Five or ten minutes exposure is usually long enough to destroy most pathogenic microbes. A real asset in places with high occupancy turnover, like dentists’ operating rooms.

Against that, repeat exposures in different positions are necessary to fully cover a room – as a light source, UV’s big disadvantage is untouched shadow areas.

So either room treatment is superficial – fine if it’s largely empty to minimise shadows – or fiddly, requiring four or five re-dos to be sure of coverage, a downtime of an hour or more.

Oxidising efficency

Oxidising machines take more time, with varying success depending on what they use and how they operate – basically by destroying the cell structure of viruses and bacteria.

Usual procedure is to generate the oxidising agent – ozone or hydrogen peroxide – for long enough to fill the air space and ensure contact with all surfaces. Leave it time to kill the pathogens, then vent the room clear.

Exposure time is of course the critical element – and why steam is less effective. Steam needs extended heat to kill, but is nearly always applied by hose or lance that can only be momentary.

Bacteria easily survive such flashes – like a quick tap of the kettle with your finger. They even multiply in the increased moistness left  behind. Nothing like as effective as oxidising, which rips them apart by shoving oxygen atoms at them.

Top of the class for potency is definitely ozone, a kind of super-oxygen itself – but highly unstable in normal atmosphere and dangerous  to humans.

More friendly is hydrogen peroxide, the very same substance that the body itself produces as an internal germ-fighter.

It’s also potent – the Royal Navy once used it to power submarines – but equally effective in milder preparations, the 3% solution your chemist sells as mouthwash is really quite gentle.

The big differences are in method of dispersal and again, contact time.

Effortless gas plasma

Most machines fog up a room with a solution of vaporised hydrogen peroxide strong enough (32%) to kill germs on short contact – relying on the force of pump action to spread across all areas and surfaces.

Such concentration is hazardous to humans and corrosive to some materials. It’s also damp, pushing up humidity levels which bacteria like, requiring a lengthy dry-out process afterwards before the room can be used again.

The breakthrough is to ionise the hydrogen peroxide. Morphing it from a gaseous vapour  into a plasma – electrically charged particles that themselves produce further antimicrobials. Hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, nitrogen species. Plus even ozone and UV, both germ fighters in their own right.

The effect is dynamic, boosting a mild 6% solution into super-performance because of its charge. Press the start button on the machine – it’s called a Hypersteriliser – and see for yourself. (Video demo here).

On exit from the machine, all particles are negative, causing them to repel each other aggressively, forcing them apart. This drives them outwards in all directions, hard up against all surfaces and penetrating deep into cracks,  trying to escape each other. Dispersal is 100%.

Equally aggressive, the negative charge vigorously reaches out and grabs at positively charged viruses and bacteria. Locked together, contact time is prolonged, the microbes don’t stand a chance.

The killing action depletes the charge – decomposing into harmless oxygen and water, in quantities so small it evaporates quickly to nothing.

99.9999% missing

Result, a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6 – meaning 99.9999% effectiveness, that’s down to 1 in a million. There are no germs, the place is safe. Until us humans walk in and start repopulating with our own personal germ clouds.

No germs, no problems.

Gone missing at Salford Royal Hospital, Doncaster and Bassetlaw, South Warwickshire, Coventry & Warwickshire, Burton, Queen Victoria in East Grinstead, Tameside – and a rapidly increasing number of clinics and surgeries across the country.

Gone missing and good riddance.

Because get rid of all the germs and they don’t come back. No more repeat outbreaks that have griefed so many healthcare centres recently.

And good health to all of us.

Picture Copyright: citalliance / 123RF Stock Photo

Should your boss penalise you if you bring a cold to work?

Sceptical lady
Good hygiene is good business – and shows on the balance sheet

Yes, penalise.

You’re not off from work, so you can’t claim sick leave.

But since you’ve dragged yourself in, what are the implications?

Never mind that you feel like grim death. You shouldn’t be showing yourself at all.

Sneezing all over the place, all round your desk littered with tissues – could be that penalising you is right.

Most obvious of course is, you’ll give your germs to everyone else.

So it’s not just you under-performing, it’s the whole office. Not good.

Especially on the boss’s calculator.

Do the math

Start with efficiency and productivity.

You might be at your desk, but is your job getting done? Your head’s like boiled knitting, so how good are the decisions you take? Are you really on the ball, or a blundering loose cannon –colleagues chasing after you for damage control?

All by yourself you could be costing a bomb.

For instance, if you get things wrong, they have to be done again – paying for the same thing twice.

And how about if they’re at the negotiation stage, or subject to a time crunch? Business lost altogether, more red ink on the balance sheet.

And when everybody else comes down with what you’ve got, what then? Two, three days at the wrong time and the place could go bankrupt.

At least if you stay away, the boss is only paying for your empty desk. And staff absences are probably already factored in – part of the cost of doing business, a staggering £29 billion a year for the whole country.

Which means you owe it to yourself and your work mates to steer clear of the place if you’re not well. Your work ethic is admirable, but more liability than asset.

Or if your conscience is troubling you, you’re probably in the wrong job anyway.

Where from the guilt-trip of having to work extra hours and weekends or when you’re feeling sick? If the work can’t be done in the proper time allowed, there’s something wrong with the management.

A business partnership

OK, there’s two sides to every relationship, including business ones.

So here’s a poser for you.

Shouldn’t the boss penalise you for allowing yourself to get sick in the first place?

Colds, flu, tummy bugs and a lot of others are all mostly self-caused.

Oh yes, they are. Just think about how they’re spread.

Mostly by contact, right? Either direct touching, or from fomites – common objects that all of us handle – light switches, door handles, keypads, documents, phones, money, keys.

Which makes hand washing the single most effective way to prevent the spread of your cold or flu, or whatever it is you’ve got – hopefully not norovirus, that’s the pits for everyone.

Yeah, so why don’t we do it?

Because if the boss made 1p from every time staff forgot to wash their hands, there’d be enough for everyone to do a company jaunt to Venice all expenses paid – flights, two nights in a hotel, dinner–dance, special concert and guided sight-seeing – at least once, or maybe twice a year.

Think we’re joking?

Get the picture? We are our own worst enemies at making ourselves sick.

So why shouldn’t the boss DEMAND that all staff wash their hands whenever appropriate – or be penalised?

Payback time

Yeah, well like we said, there’s two sides to every relationship, including business ones.

Because while the boss is jumping up and down, saying “wash your hands” – you’ve got the goods on her with how dirty the place is. Dirty and germ-laden.

So no sooner have you washed your hands than they’re contaminated again – from all the day-to-day filth and detritus gathered throughout the office and on everyone’s desk.

Despite an every day swamp out by cleaning teams, most office desks still harbour around 10 million pathogenic bacteria – in the dust bunnies under and behind keyboards – and the hard-to-reach places that never get touched.

That next attack of norovirus could come from no further away than the latest memo in your IN-tray.

Uh, huh.

So don’t staff and management owe it to each other to get this right?

Germs at work are unproductive, unprofitable and no good for anybody.

Which means staff owe it to themselves and everyone else to wash their hands regularly – always after the loo and always before food as the very minimum discipline.

To maintain momentum, management can also put hand-wipes or gel on every desk, every day, so there’s never a time anyone’s hands should stay contaminated.

At the same time, management owe it to staff and the balance sheet to eliminate germs in the workplace. Easily accomplished by a nightly mist-up with a Hypersteriliser – sterilising the whole place and destroying germs on and behind surfaces, in the air, everywhere – all in one go.

Nobody penalises anyone, everybody wins.

Easy to keep justifying the Venice trip too – check the profit figures and decreased downtimes.

See what we mean?

Picture Copyright: devas / 123RF Stock Photo

When will we ever get serious about hygiene?

Girl with Serious Warning
So hygiene is not sexy – neither is being dead

Serious? We never think about hygiene – let alone that it could kill us.

Washing hands, keeping clean – it’s boring, nag-nag nannying stuff. Not for grown-ups with jobs to do and lives to run.

Not sexy. Totally uncool.

Wishy-washy doesn’t touch us

We never connect hygiene with when we’re sick either.

Somehow germs get to us without any of our own doing. Nothing to do with us, we’re innocent as driven snow.

Yeah, right.

Reality is, it’s usually something we’ve eaten, or breathed in, or allowed to get infected through an injury we haven’t tended properly. And nine times out of ten in circumstances where things weren’t clean, germs were breeding and we walked right into them.

Caused by ourselves – by our hygiene blind spot.

Yeah, boring. Soap and water, who needs it?

Yet the penny never drops that we’re playing with our lives. That from germs already on our skin, even a simple paper cut could develop into sepsis, that we could be dead inside a week.

Feel-good tops being clean

No, we’re not serious. Which makes us stupid.

Because hygiene, to one level or another, saves our lives every day.

Including default hygiene. Stuff we do that we don’t even think about.

For instance, we don’t wash to get clean, do we? Too super-boring for speech.

But ritual and indulgence – that’s something else.

The long, soaking bath, the invigorating morning shower. Neither are about getting clean – we’re into the feel-good hype and extravagance of it, exactly like the soap ads offer. Treat yourself, relax, enjoy a moment of luxury.

Yeah OK, so we’re clean. But what kind of germ defence is that?

We can’t carry it with us into the day, can we? No lingering in a long, hot tub after making a Number Two at the office – that just isn’t practical. Wrong time, wrong place – we’re at work, gotta perform, go, go, go.

Which puts hygiene out of sight and out of mind, right the way through until our moment of indulgence again.

Most of the time, we get away with it too. Our bodies’ immune systems work overtime to keep us safe, glitching slightly with allergies and intolerances, but otherwise fine.

Horrible habits

Meanwhile, our bad habits run unchecked and out of control:

Because it’s not important is why. There’s billions and billions of germs all around us every day, any one of which could kill us or make us vegetables. We don’t see them, so we don’t recognise them for what they are.

Life threats.

And we just imagine that as long as we LOOK clean, therefore we are.

So we flounce through the day without a care in the world – only going near a wash basin when our bodies demand the toilet. Inconvenient, so we rush it as quickly as possible – keen to get back to the buzz of living.

Wash hands? Not even on the radar.

Not surprising either with all the limp-wristed appeals around us to do something about it.

PLEASE WASH YOUR HANDS has no sense of urgency.

No scare factor either. WASH YOUR HANDS OR DIE is a lot more appropriate.

Particularly when more and more of our miracle drugs are no longer able to pull us back from the jaws of death to compensate for our sloppy hygiene.

Antibiotic resistance is already a global nightmare. And when antibiotics no longer work, washing our hands becomes our ONLY defence against misadventures with dirt and deadly pathogens.

Dead is dead, better to live

OK, so we need to make hygiene urgent. To impress upon ourselves we really are seriously at hazard unless we see the light. Folksy symbols of washing hands won’t crack it – besides the message is boring.Electricity warning

We don’t pussy-foot around with electricity for example. Dead is dead – just as all-conclusive by a dose of harmful bacteria as it is by 30,000 volts.

And dead is what can happen to us if we don’t wash our hands.

Not that it always does – we’re more likely to be ill, sometimes seriously.

E. coli, for example naturally lives in our lower intestine and most strains are harmless. On top of diarrhoea and dehydration however, virulent strains can cause gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections, and neonatal meningitis. Few people die from it, but any of those symptoms can develop complications and kill.

And count on it, faecal traces of e. coli are inevitable on many of our trips to the loo – and that’s just one of the many trillions of bacteria we have living in our digestive tract. One of the bugs we have clinging to our fingers.

Not all of them are friendly, so the life threat from sloppy hygiene is very real and we need to change our mind-set.

Get serious or face the consequences, will we ever learn?

Nobody wants to die though, so better pass the soap.

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