Monthly Archives: November 2018

How to eat nothing and still catch food poisoning

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

It can’t happen.

But it has.

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

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

Why me?

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

Weird though.

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

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

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

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

It’s on your fingers

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

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

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

Could you have stopped it?

Probably.

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

Which is always the thing with germs.

Invisible killers

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

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

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

Or simply get swallowed.

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

And your hands touch everything.

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

Because it is.

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

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

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

Sloppy hygiene

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

Which straight away shows how easily food poisoning happens.

And how easy it is to avoid.

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

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

All because we’re afraid of soap and water?

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

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

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

OK, you can start eating again.

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

Originally posted 2015-09-29 13:44:16.

A big chomp of pizza – and 3.971 million germs

Pizza girl
Are you having 3.971 million germs
with that?

Yum!

Eating with your fingers.

Is anything better?

You bet.

Eating with your fingers AFTER YOU’VE WASHED THEM.

Germs for sure

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

E. coli, norovirus – take your pick.

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

Collected through your morning until now…

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

Er, excuse us.

Where was “wash your hands” in all that?

Our minds go blank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hold it!

Don’t take that bite!

Put it down and wash your hands first.

Be safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t be one of them.

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

After you with the soap.

Originally posted 2015-09-28 16:04:42.

Chicken campylobacter: really a packaging issue

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

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

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

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

Back to reality

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

Wassup?

Misplaced hysteria is what.

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

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

Infected, huh?

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

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

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

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

Not sick. No infected. Perfectly normal.

Not infected, naturally colonised

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our own bad habits

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

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

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

The second thing is, check the packaging.

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

OK, so first things first.

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

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

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

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

Leak-proof, or else

Vacuum sealed, not shrink-wrapped.

No leaks, no contamination, no problem.

Enforceable by law that they’re empowered to declare.

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

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

Heavy fines and pulled licences otherwise.

And nobody sick with campylobactor anywhere.

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

And that wraps that up.

Originally posted 2015-09-25 14:42:56.

High-powered job stress? More likely germs

Businesswoman with problem
Nothing feels worse
than being out of control

We know how you feel.

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

Reckon it’s the job, not you?

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

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

Bigger than you

So what happened?

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

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

No more flying high, back to the grunt.

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

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

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

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

There’s the clue, right there – sick.

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

Why you’re not yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outnumbered by bugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uh huh.

Get protection

Have you washed your hands?

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

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

Uh huh, again.

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

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

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

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

Hyper high-powered

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

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

Wanna bet you feel better after that?

For sure.

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

Stress, what stress?

From now on, everything’s a doddle.

Originally posted 2015-09-24 14:32:33.

Staff pulling sickies – your fault or theirs?

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

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

Sadly, yes.

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

Handling the hygiene habit

Because their being off work is legit enough.

Though because of you or them is up for grabs.

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

Rare, right?

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

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

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

Catching bugs

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

But WHY did they catch it?

Only two causes.

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

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

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

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

How?

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

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

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

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

The hands have it

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

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

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

Bad, hey?

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

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

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

Hand-washing, the grudge habit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good for starters.

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

And stays behind when we leave too.

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

Residual germs that could trigger all kinds of things.

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

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

Protecting the business

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

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

So are you.

Better still, there should be no more sickies.

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

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

Have a nice day.

Originally posted 2015-09-23 12:47:11.

Keep hand-wipes handy – or get wiped out!

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

Seat 11B is a nice place to be.

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

Weekend getaway. Or company perk.

Good to get some time to yourself.

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

At least, not until you’ve wiped it.

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

Unwanted passengers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what surprises can you expect to find?

Stowaway germs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unseen party-killers

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

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

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

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

Shoulda-woulda-coulda.

All the time, always

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which could never be you of course.

Your hands are clean.

Originally posted 2015-09-21 12:44:53.

Safe hands – are we soft-soaping ourselves?

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

Maybe the penny’s beginning to drop.

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

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

Danger, health hazard

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

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

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

Disagreeable facts

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

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

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

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

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

Too much PT, don’t bother.

The soap and water alternative

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horses for courses.

Though for our money, wipes work better.

Easy gel

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

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

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

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

Disposable wipes

What do you mean, carrying germs around with you?

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

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

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

End of the grudge habit

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

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

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

Safe hands – yes, of course.

Originally posted 2015-09-18 13:13:17.

El Nino freezeups coming: brace for superflu threat

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

Brr!

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

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

National Danger

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

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

What makes it a superflu?

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

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

Deadly mutants

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

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

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

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

Uh huh.

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

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

Get ready

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

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

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

Best is a Hypersteriliser.

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

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

OK, so the germs are coming.

But they always are.

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

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

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

But don’t forget to rug up well.

It’s going to be cold out there.

Originally posted 2015-09-15 13:31:50.

MRSA: the price we pay for pushy pill-popping

Worried doctor
90% of doctors feel
pressure to prescribe
antibacterial medication –
Longitude Prize survey

No, we’re not invincible.

However often we make like we are.

Partying like there’s no tomorrow – drinking junk, eating junk, out late in freezing cold.

Asking for trouble, then wondering why we get it.

But hey, no probs. The Doc can fix it, right?

Miracle cures

Put you on the rescue medicine and you’re back in business. Antibiotics, yay.

You wish.

Like most of the time, antibiotics aren’t the right medicine anyway. But that doesn’t stop thousands of us strong-arming the Doc to prescribe some.

Colds, flu, tummy bug – gimme, gimme.

Right in front of the poster that spells it out.

Unfortunately, no amount of antibiotics will get rid of your cold.

But some of us keep on, don’t we?

Nag, nag, gimme antibiotics. We read about ’em on the Internet and we gotta have ’em.

So because it’s the twentieth pushy request in the same morning with no chance of peace – harass, harass, harass – the Doc writes it up against her better judgement.

One of the milder all-purpose cooking jobs, harmless in small doses.

Not a placebo

Mistake right there – but the kind of almost-abuse a lot of Docs are on the receiving end of.

Because chances are, the pills will get taken but not do anything – predictable.

So half of them get chucked away in frustration.

But deep down in the gut, the normal bacteria that are supposed to be there are suddenly out of balance. Because right alongside them, some hooligan bad guy bacteria already on their way out are grabbing their chance to change and mutate.

To get meaner and nastier.

WAS treatable by antibiotics.

NOW antibiotic resistant.

Uh huh.

Now multiply by the number of misuses of antibiotics that happen every day. Then multiply by the 650 TONNES of antibiotics that get used in agriculture ever year to keep food production running at 100 per cent.

Multiply by the days of the year, multiply by twenty-five – the number of years since the last antibiotic was invented in the lab. Lots of zeroes, right?

Lots of misadventure with every one.

But still nowhere near the 100 trillion bacteria EACH ONE OF US has colonised inside us.

Lots of opportunities to mutate, lots of resistance to develop.

What if antibiotics didn’t…?

So now one of us winds up in hospital because of an accident or because we need an operation. Surgical cuts, an incision for tubes – big worries about infection.

Because now, all of a sardine, MRSA pitches up – methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus.

Want to know how bad it is? The folks at University Hospital of South Manchester have a message for you.

Because, overnight, a whole stack of antibiotics won’t work.

And if you weren’t ever scared to death before about not washing your hands, it’s a good time to start now.

It’s the only defence otherwise.

Either that, or you’ll die.

But it’s not all antibiotics that don’t work, right? Surely not? Somewhere in the hospital’s line-up of wonder drugs, they’ve got to have a Get Out Of Jail Free card. They must.

Yeah, they probably do.

Except games with antibiotics are too easy to lose.

As fast as MRSA gets clobbered, Sod’s Law dictates the complication of c.difficile.

Nasty one this – clostridium difficile. A superbug like MRSA, but one that’s triggered by taking TOO MANY antibiotics.

Ever get the feeling we’re being warned NOT to do something?

We’re not doctors – so how the hell do we know what kind of medication we might need for something or not?

And we’re such cry-babies.

Always a pill for something, never a natural cure.

Time to get real

Which kinda means antibiotic resistance is Nature’s way of telling us to leave well alone.

Got a hangover? Go home and sleep it off. Got flu? Same thing – with plenty of liquids. And whenever you do something, wash your hands afterwards.

Because most of the time, unless the Doc tells you otherwise, you need antibiotics like you need a hole in the head.

Originally posted 2015-09-14 15:53:21.

Rhinovirus: why this tiny germ is one of our biggest headaches

Rhinoceros girl
Make no error, this is a mean, bad-tempered problem

It’s that time of the year again.

As soon as temperatures begin to dip, people start coming down with nasopharyngitis.

Naso-huh?

That’s the egghead’s name for the common cold – more familiar to us as a pain in the neck.

Dribbling misery

Wait, that’s not it either. Colds are commonly caused by rhinovirus. “Rhino” means nose, see – like that Flanders & Swann thing, “the bodger on the bonce” – which is where colds commonly affect us.

A piece of work, this rhinovirus. And like a rhinoceros itself, bad tempered and dangerous – probably because it’s so small, only 20 nanometres across (0.000002 millimetres).

At that size, it’s small enough to drop right through a roofing tile – if it had any weight.

Except being microscopically smaller than a piece of dust, it’s lighter than the air around it – all those molecules of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and all the other “gens” – plus all the pollution and dirt and other microbes hanging around there – you know, the stuff we breath in every few seconds.

It’s also not our only cause of catching a cold, just the most common – sharing its notoriety with around 200 other viruses, so no wonder it has a mean streak. A real full-blown Napoleon complex.

A real health hazard

Maybe your experience is just the runny nose, sneezing – and if you’re unlucky, the whole sore throat thing. Three days and you’re out of it, if the gods are smiling.

Trouble is, so many of us are not always 100% well. So that when rhinovirus strikes, it often triggers worsening of any underlying condition.

And that’s the dangerous bit – inner ear infections, sinusitis, asthma attacks, worsening COPD, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis and bronchitis. Not a thing to be played with.

Why does it strike in winter or when the body gets cold? Get drenched in the rain, even in summer, and your Mum screams, “get out of those wet things, you’ll catch your death.”

She’s right. Because rhinovirus thrives best at slightly below normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit – coolest in the nose, where cold winter air is breathed in and taken down to the lungs, another favourite rhino hangout. It literally likes to chill.

There’s also method in its being so small. It rides the air, spreading more easily. And as we all know, it’s highly contagious. Just one sneeze or cough from the gent with the rolled-up umbrella on the Victoria Line – and it’s the boiled knitting head, calling in a sickie at 7.00 o’clock next morning.

Highly contagious

But it’s not just the air. Rhinovirus spreads on contact with almost anything, the things we touch that transfer it to others – everyday fomites like coffee cups, knives and forks, the soap in the soap dish and even the towels we dry off with.

Dodgy this, because rhinovirus likes to get in mainly through the nose and mouth – and in addition to fomites, we touch our faces maybe 2,000 – 3,000 times a day. Airborne or by touch, if anybody around us has a cold, chances are high we’re going to get it. A real headache.

But we do have a defence. We might be touching infected objects without knowing it, but we can always wash our hands clean afterwards.

Doing it properly, working at it seriously with soap and water gets rid of 99.9% of most germs – what medics recognise as Sterility Assurance Level Log 1 – the most important step in safe hygiene. (The highest is Log 6 – like you get with a Hypersteriliser).

And it’s not just washing – it’s doing it constantly. Every sneeze, every face wipe, is a chance to pass it on to somebody else – you need to wash it off.

It’s likewise in avoiding a cold – particularly in winter when so many people have them. It just pays to wash your hands around anything they might have touched.

Wash, or wipe

Not exactly practical though, walking down the street or jumping on the bus – so a good back-up is to keep a pack of sanitising hand wipes on you at all times.

Nobody wants a cold, especially if you’re feeling slightly off with something else already. It’ll only make it worse, or turn into a full-grown attack.

And though we don’t actually think of the common cold as a killer, around 40,000 people die every year from a combination of colds, flu and low temperatures. Yup, we need to be careful.

Rhinovirus – nobody needs it.

But yes, you can wash your hands of it.

Originally posted 2015-09-11 13:31:31.