How to survive eating at your desk

Workaholic eating
So your boss lets you get away with it, but how about the germs?

Unhealthy, bad-mannered, repulsive to others.

But say what you like, more than half of us eat at our desks – and we aren’t going to stop.

Yes, it demonstrates job insecurity. Yes, it encourages an obsessive-compulsive work ethic.  But just try and stop it, and you’ll have a revolt on your hands.

Better to go with the flow. And at least try to make things healthier and easier.

Start with self-preservation

Healthier for sure.

Just compare what happens AFTER you’ve noshed your graze.

In a restaurant – if you’re that posh – they’ll whip away the tablecloth and replace it with a fresh one. New cutlery and glasses are laid, straight out of the dishwasher. Fresh, clean and ready to go for the next punters.

Fast food joints also get the treatment. The debris gets bused away and the hard plastic table gets a spray and a sanitiser wipe down. Usually dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, known as a “quat” compound – probably Clorox, Signet, or a house solution like No 2.

Both at least present clean, welcoming surfaces with a low risk of germs.

So how about your desk?

Uh huh.

Not even OCD types go the whole hog and wipe down everything after eating. Which means every day, the cumulative yuck gets worse.

For starters, it’s pretty well impossible to eat any meal without dropping crumbs or other bits. Gooey stuff too. Mayonnaise out of a salad wrap, tomato sauce off chips, jam squidged out of a doughnut.

Yeah, maybe you’ve got a tissue for that. Or some toilet roll from the loo. But no wet wipes, hey? Antibacterial or otherwise. And certainly not dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride.

The start of the yuck factor

Oh sure, sure. The cleaning team wipe down desks in the evening when they come in. Probably the same damp cloth for all the desks. A lick and a promise at best, just removing the day’s dust.

Which means the gunge and goo and other stuff gets to stay there. Waiting for you, next time.

And what’s it going to be when it happens? Something good and slimming from M&S? Snazzy from Pret A Manger? Cheesy decadence from Domino’s? Or pastry indulgence from Greggs?

All good and easy to eat. Especially on the go. Head down and staring at the laptop. Free hand hovering with the next mouthful.

Hold it, right there. You’re eating with your fingers? Not exactly stylish, but hey.

Though please say you washed your hands before you started. That you didn’t just rush out early to beat the lunch queue, then nip back and start munching. Or that you’re using the keyboard while you do that, licking your fingers to get the gravy off.

Gruesome yes, but that’s what most us do without thinking. And curse the tummy bug we always seem to be getting. Must be something to do with the office, carpets giving off or whatever.

Saving you from yourself

OK, the hell with that – get a rescue pack.

Less than 50p and you can get a bottle of hand gel to sit on your desk. Keep yourself safe whenever you start anything new – quicker and easier than running to the washroom.

Wet wipes too are probably under a quid. Handy in your top drawer for a quick wipe down first thing – and again before you eat.

Don’t forget to lift things up and do underneath. Especially your laptop – that yuck line of crumbs and smears comes back daily otherwise.

You should wipe the keys too. Look at them against the light and you can see the glaze of goo clinging there. And don’t forget your touchscreens.

Ever looked at your phone closely after a call? Make-up, facial grease, dead skin flakes and street dust. You don’t want to know.

Because so far in this rant, we haven’t mentioned germs. All we’ve been on about is how everything gets dirty even though we can’t see it most of the time.

But you’d better believe there’s germs around Big Time because of that dirt. And still hanging around AFTER cleaning as well, because no rub and scrub method in the world can reach all the places that germs congregate.

Workplace hazards

So face it. At any one time in your working day, your desk is exposing you to the risks of e.coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, the superbug MRSA, cold and flu viruses and norovirus – and those are just the usual suspects.

Plus of course, these germs transfer onto everything that touches your desk too. Your hands, the memos in your in-tray, stapler, phone, calculator, lamp, mouse-pad, business cards, whatever.

And THEY transfer to whatever touches them. Which is how your colleagues get the same tummy bug you have. And you get that skin rash they’ve got.

All of which means wash your hands whenever you can. Cleanse them whenever you can’t get to soap and water. And start being paranoid about keeping your desk clean.

Because you wouldn’t eat at a restaurant where they didn’t clean the table, would you? Get served your food on the remnants of everybody else’s. But that’s what we’re doing at our desks.

Dangerous air

It’s not just ON our desks either. It’s AROUND them. The cupboards, the chairs, the shelving, all the wires down the back.

Plus in the AIR.

All those germy things are so small, even smoke particles are 1,000 times bigger. Which means they float, riding every swirl and eddy. So light, they may never come down. Ready for you to swallow or breathe in. Right through the empty space that’s 80% of any room.

Clean your hands, clean your desk – those guys can still get you.

Unless your boss is smart and gets them first. Blitzes them to nothing with a Hypersteriliser – the automated germ killer that mists up the whole place with hydrogen peroxide. Viruses and bacteria are oxidised to oblivion, nothing, gone.

https://hyperhygiene.co.uk/hydrogen-peroxide/

All germs are eliminated – including from unreachable cracks and crevices, the bits that never get cleaned. And your desk of course – on top, underneath, everywhere. You’re safe.

Now, you want to do lunch? Your desk is ready – and germ-free.

You’ll survive!

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Why 80% of workplace germs never get removed

Woman - arms folded serious
All those germs – and most of us don’t even know

Unless it’s winter, with colds and flu weather chucking it down, you probably never think of workplace germs.

Count on it, they’re there – just waiting to find a weakness.

And more likely than not, lurking there unchallenged – even though the place gets cleaned out every evening.

Test for yourself.

Sit at your desk as normal. Now if we say to you “chewing gum territory“, you’ll get the idea.

Not so happy about reaching under there, huh? Can’t blame you. Maybe there’s a deposit, maybe there isn’t.

Untouched, unclean, unsafe

Then ask yourself, has it EVER been cleaned under there? How about under your chair? How about under other tables and things? Ew!

Yeah, right. Workplace germs de luxe.

There’s lots of places out of sight that don’t checked, ever. Out of the way places, not on the radar, too difficult to reach.

Try another test, still sitting at your desk.

Reach over your computer screen, as far as you can, and wipe your finger along the back edge of your desk.

Grime, grit and dust bunnies, huh?

However hot your cleaning team is, they don’t have time or the right gear to get to places like that. Nor will they try. All those wires, something could trigger a fire. Better to leave it alone, so they do.

Ditto for the jumble of cables behind the main office file server. Or behind anywhere – photocopier, whiteboards, cupboard – the same grime, grit and dust bunnies. Full time workplace germs.

Not the place to eat

Which means you might want to rethink your habit of eating al desko, which most of us do. There’s more workplace germs there than you think there are – and those pizza-drippy fingers going straight to keyboard aren’t exactly helping.

To gross yourself out even further, shine a torch between the keys on your keyboard. Or check the finger smears on your touchscreen. Visible signs of workplace germs. More gruesome than you thought, hey?

So even though the place LOOKS clean, swish and professional, you and your colleagues are more at hazard than you think. Workplace germs  all over. 10 million germs on your desk alone – and that’s just the average.

Easy lurking place for a grab-bag of unpleasant surprises. Like e.coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, the superbug MRSA, cold and flu viruses or norovirus. Any one of them could put you off work with cramps, runs and diarrhoea – or even send you to hospital if it gets serious.

Not good.

Still sitting at your desk?

OK, now look at the space that all of you move around in. Yes, the air itself – the nothing that fills up most of the room.

Except it’s not nothing. Ever noticed how the sun’s rays catch dust particles when the angle is right? Sometimes so full of them you can’t see through – billions and billions of tiny specks.

Yes well, those are the ones visible to the naked eye. Most ordinary germs like staphylococcus or e.coli are 10,000 times smaller. And lighter too.

Those dust particles are there all the time – wafting, floating, swirling. You just don’t see them when the light is wrong.

Up in the air

Bacteria and viruses are there too. More workplace germs. Light enough that they may never drop to the floor. Too many air currents and temperature variations.

Which means forget what you’ve heard that not all germs are airborne. ALL germs ride the air as well as clinging to surfaces.

Get a big enough clump of them together at once – and they’ll do you down just as quickly as any you’ve picked up on your hands that are now transferring to your chicken caesar wrap.

There’s plenty other workplace germs around too – we bring them in with us. Each of us trails around our own personal cloud of bacteria, dead skin cells and other body detritus all the time – our uniquely individual bio-signature.

Most of them are benign to us, or even beneficial. But not necessarily to our colleagues. Because everyone’s different and so are their metabolisms, bacteria that are benign to us might be harmful to them. Or the other way around.

More days off sick without ever knowing why.

The safe escape

All entirely preventable.

Because professional though they are, the services that currently do the cleaning and germ disinfection are not adequate enough. Not if 80% germs against you is too big a risk. Too iffy against absenteeism, which currently costs the country £29 billion a year.

Time to get in the Hypersteriliser people – with a nifty machine about the size of a small wheelie-bin.

What it does is mist up the place with an ultra-fine, self-dispersing cloud of ionised hydrogen peroxide – stuff which gets everywhere, all the nooks and crannies. Behind and under everything too, the places we were concerned about earlier.

Potent, yes – but eco-friendly.

Ionising makes it a super-performer with just a 6% solution, like you can buy at the chemist.

Not so friendly with viruses and bacteria though. It reaches out and grabs them, ripping their cells apart. Give the stuff around 40 minutes in the average room and all germs are eliminated – at least, 99.9999% of them – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

Which means next morning, the germ threshold is reduced to zero. The dust bunnies are still there of course, but the germs clinging to them are no more. There’s no germs in the air either, gone to  oblivion. The place is safe and germ-free for everyone who walks in.

Slightly better than the 80% workplace germs you started with, hey?

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World’s next big crunch. Push antibiotics, or face famine. Dump them, or face obesity.

Girl makes chilling choice
Not a choice any of us wants to make – but this is now, and we have to

Forget all you ever thought about antibiotics being medicine. Here’s a crunch issue bigger than any we’ve ever faced.

Bigger than global warming, bigger than thermo-nuclear war, maybe even bigger than a massive asteroid strike.

Already impossible to stop

It’s a crunch we face now, with repercussions going on for the next 30 or 40 years. All caused by antibiotics – or more accurately, our own shocking misuse of them.

Because, no, no, no, not medicine. Around 80% or more of world production goes into agriculture. Shovelled into plants and animals in industrial quantities – as the most phenomenal quick-acting GROWTH BOOSTERS of all time.

And we mean phenomenal. Bigger, better, faster – a money-making miracle too.

50 years ago, when the growth boosting side-effects of antibiotics were first discovered, the world’s population was 2½ billion. And every inch of farming land was flat-out, producing food to feed them. Even then, it wasn’t enough. There were shortages, with millions going hungry.

Today, our world population has swelled to a whopping 7½ billion. But the world hasn’t got any bigger. The planet is still the same size as it was 50 years ago. THREE times the people feeding off exactly the SAME land space.

Impossible?

No.

Because the miracle difference is antibiotics, particularly in the last 20 years.

Growth boosting by numbers

Amazingly, just by boosting animal and plant growth worldwide, the same land can now support a population that’s THREE times bigger.

But it’s not going to stop is it?

By 2050, world population will be bursting at the seams with a massive 9.7 billion of us – rising to 11.2 billion by 2100.  Numbers in Africa alone are expected to double – reaching 4.2 billion by the end of the century. That’s the same as the entire world population in 1977, barely 40 years ago.

Which means don’t expect the use of antibiotics in agriculture to slow down any time soon. With ANOTHER 3.7 billion of us to feed  by the end of the century, factories are going to be blasting round the clock to keep pace.

It’s going to be with all the regular antibiotics our doctors know and love too. Trimethoprim, oxytetracycline, ciprofloxacin, azithromycin, cefotaxime, doxycycline, sulfamethoxazole, erythromycin, clarithromycin and ofloxacin are all regularly used by the JCB-load.

And not just the regulars, it’s the emergency ones too. Even colistin – regarded by medics as the ultimate medicine of last resort – was being pumped into pigs at 11,942 tonnes per annum at the end of last year.

There’s only one problem.

Antimicrobial resistance

With that kind of consumption, currently around 240,000 tonnes a year,  the bacteria they’re being used against have had ample opportunity to develop resistance. Already, so many have developed immunity to antibiotics, that doctors are now looking at an Armageddon where ALL of them stop working.

And here’s the crunch. Well, Crunch 1, at any rate.

Thanks to this antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the world-wide move to limit antibiotics in agriculture is gathering ground – a tadpole going up against a whale.

Because it’s not going to happen is it?

Pull the plug on antibiotics in agriculture and suddenly there’s not enough food. Enough for only 2½ billion, not the 7½ billion we are today. Which means 5 billion people are going to go hungry. TWO THIRDS of the world population.

Famine on a scale never seen before. And what government, anywhere, is going to want that on their hands?

Like it or not, antibiotics are a train we cannot get off. Which means thanks for jumping up and down, Doc, we’re going to carry on as is.

The “bigger” problem

Which brings us to Crunch 2.

Only this time, Doc, you’re not jumping up and down enough. Not nearly enough.

Because right now, thanks to antibiotics, we’re also staring at the biggest medical crisis of all time.

Two thirds of adults are already at the start of this slippery slope. So are one third of children. And it all comes back to why antibiotics are used in agriculture – they make living things fatter.

Since we’re all chowing down food that contains the most phenomenal quick-acting GROWTH BOOSTERS of all time, we’re getting fat too.

Which means serious obesity. The kind that leads to type 2 diabetes, heart disease or cancer. A slow motion disaster of misery and death.

All triggered by antibiotics. Which all of us – unknowingly – are already on. A low background dose in every food we eat – meat, fish, vegetables, fruit. Milk too. Even the water we drink.

Impossible, surely?

Over-absorption

Think again. Surprisingly, farm animals only absorb around 20% of the nutrients they eat. The rest is excreted, to become the manure that fertilises plant crops and enriches the soil. Rain soaks it deep into the earth, leaching through into our rivers.

So we’re getting the antibiotics alright. In sub-therapeutic doses with every meal, just like the 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle and 1 billion each of sheep and pigs that currently feed us.

And if antibiotics can boost metabolisms from an egg to full-grown roasting chicken in 6 weeks – or from new-born calf to Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak in 16 months instead of four years – what are they doing to us?

Yeah, maybe we’re fat like the gurus tell us, because we lounge around playing computer games all day, glugging Coke and pigging out on pizza. And sure, that kind of couch potato lifestyle has got to have an influence.

But ask yourself, how come so MANY of us have got so large in the last 20 years? The same time period that antibiotics in food production have ramped up Big Time.

Those phenomenal growth boosters are working on us too, through the food we eat – and we’re paying the price.

Which means, face it – we’re going to get fatter and fatter. And lumps of lard, we’ll all fall victims to too much nutrient intake – making ourselves candidates for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and worse.

It doesn’t happen to the animals, their lives are too short. Which is why there’s no scandal or outcry, the issue is invisible.

But us humans have decades ahead of us. Plenty of time for the slow, debilitating effects of obesity to take hold, for the complications to set in, ready to drag us down to an unpleasant and premature death.

If in doubt, panic

Crunch time, world wide. In an epidemic that has crept up on us with such stealth, our watchdog heavies have yet to respond to beyond the odd rumblings about sugar tax and collectively throwing their hands up.

But yes, it’s happening – and two thirds of us are already on the slippery slope.

It will keep happening too, even if antibiotics are removed altogether from medical use, because they don’t work. Our daily dose will come through in our food and drink, continuing to overstimulate our absorption processes.

We won’t even know it’s happening, till we tip the scales further than we ever used to – and waistbands somehow expand larger than we ever dreaded.

Even going vegetarian won’t avoid antibiotics exposure, because the damage will already have been done. Jump-started by antibiotics fed to us for childhood ailments – fat by the time we’re five, with an even fatter future on the way.

So there we have it. Crunch, crunch.  Famine or obesity.

Pandora’s Box

And it’s our own fault too. We opened the Pandora’s Box of antibiotics by our own choice. We wanted to go bacteria-bashing and failed to think through the consequences.

Now we have no options. The issue is too big to address because we’ve never learned – all nations together – to unite in the face of a common cause.

Unless we do though, we’re going to wind up either very hungry – or big, bulky and helpless, like the dinosaurs.

The end is nigh.

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Virus alert: major threat to all UK businesses

Anxious businesswoman
Computer virus, huh? A real biological one can take out a whole population

It’s a rolling threat too. Persistent – and really nasty.  Able to shut a whole company down for weeks.

Worse, it keeps coming back. Attached to emails, or via the phone. Certainly through your laptop or tablet.

Better get onto IT pronto. That’s Infection Troubleshooting, in case you were wondering.

Real virus, real bug, real illness

Because this thing is not digital or electronic. It’s physical and affects you personally. That’s what real viruses do. Or bacteria. Or fungi.

So it’s not rebooting or resetting your CPU we might be looking at. It’s a possible full-blown medical emergency, admitting you to ICU. In full quarantine if it’s serious.

Yes, THAT kind of virus.

The kind makes you run a fever. Breaks  you out in sweats. Has you coughing your soul out. Twists your gut with wrenching cramps. Clamps you to the loo with acid runs. Makes you upchuck all your insides. Spins your brain doolally. Turns your muscles to water. Makes you ill for days or weeks. Keeps attacking until you’re dead.

They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere

A GERM virus. That kind of threat.

One of the many billions that surround us every day. Sitting on the paper your email is printed on. Lurking in the finger smears on your smartphone touch-screen. Same thing with the keypad and visual display screen of your other devices. Wafting in the air all around.

Which means it’s not computer downtime we’re worried about, that’s fixable.

We’re talking about a major people outage – absenteeism across the board. The downside threat that costs British business a hefty £29 billion a year.

Everybody caught by a stupid bug that goes round like wildfire – and the whole company is down the tubes.

Sloppy hygiene

Of course none of us want to believe it, but a hefty chunk of this threat is caused by our own sloppy hygiene. The awkward and embarrassing truth that we just don’t wash our hands.

Because we can’t SEE germs – microscopically invisible at just 3 microns across and less –  we reckon our hands are clean. Reality is that while 99% of us claim to wash our hands after going to the loo, only 32% of men and 64% of women actually do.

And out of those who actually do wash, a whopping 95% of us don’t even do the job properly.

But it’s not just our hands.

Everything around is covered in germs too. The threat is everywhere. Exactly how badly depends on how often a thing gets cleaned or not. The average office desk, for instance, caries at least 10 million germs – even though the place is probably vacuumed out every night and everything wiped down.

Personal germ cloud

We ourselves are just as bad, walking round with our own personal germ cloud signature trailing everywhere we go.

Most of the time we’re OK with it, the germs are benign or we’re immune to them. But not everybody else is. So they can catch all manner of illnesses, just by being in the same room with us.

And what about the room? It too has it’s own quota of germs – an aggregate of everything brought in by everybody else. PLUS whatever blew in, or was already there in the first place.

Billions and billions of viruses, spores and bacteria – so light they may never fall to ground. Waiting to be breathed in or swallowed by whoever happens to be there. Corralled and intensified by the four walls that surround us – we do after all live indoors 90% of the time.

Yeah, so that’s why the virus alert. Or bacteria, or fungi.

Right now with everybody coming back from holiday, maybe it’s norovirus or flu. Or from unwashed hands, maybe campylobacter or escherichia coli.

Whatever it is, any one of them can kill. Perhaps not directly, but we are our own worst enemies. Dragging ourselves into work when we feel like death. From misplaced sense of duty or threat to job security, it doesn’t matter which.

We let our illnesses get bad, we infect everyone else – then complications set in. Dehydration, blood poisoning, organ failure. The kind of thing that IT can do nothing about – either the computer or medical kind.

Getting our own back

But there is an escape – so simple, it’s surprising more companies haven’t thought of it before.

Sterilise the place every night, so every day starts with zero germ-hazard.

And not just the surfaces either – all the nooks and crannies and even the air itself. Right down to the smears on your laptop. The sticky finger marks might still be there – but the germs are dead and gone.

Dead easy and simple too. Using a Hypersteriliser, the place gets misted up with ionised hydrogen peroxide. Dry, so vital connections are safe and secure. A mild, eco-friendly 6% solution, so sensitive materials are unaffected.

One hour later, all viruses and bacteria are gone. The alert is over – and £29 billion downtime is avoided.

No coughs or colds this winter. No nasty tummy bugs either. Not unless you forget the soap and water.

Sigh, first it was your Mum kept on at you, now it’s your employer.

Go on. Wash you hands before you do anything. Be good now, don’t disappoint.

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Why our tablets are making us take pills

Amazed girl with tablet
Don’t worry, you’re probably safe – but those finger-marks give you away

Amazing things, these computer tablets. If you haven’t got your paws on one yet, you’re certainly missing out.

Not necessarily on being the latest with the greatest though.

On the contrary, lucky you. You’re much more likely  missing out on catching the latest illnesses doing the rounds – a tummy bug, this year’s flu gremlin, or something more serious.

Germ factory

You see, sexy though these must-have glamour tablets are, their very key feature is also the most dangerous from a personal point of view. That touch-screen might be now and wow and amazing – it’s also a germ factory.

You can see how germ-laden the thing is if you’re OCD about keeping that screen clean. That smooth, snazzy glass shows every fingerprint and smear every time you pick it up – sure evidence of germ-sign.

Notice however much you wipe it clean, within seconds there’s always marks and cloudy spots. Face it, clean as they look, your hands are not as spotless as you think, and your tablet is showing you.

Next stop, that queasy feeling in your stomach – and a dash to the chemist for the strongest pills in the shop to make it go away. Your tablet has driven you to take pills.

Actually, that constantly smudgy screen could be doing you a favour. You can’t see germs, but here is visible proof that your hands can be carriers of all kinds of dodgy nasties. And probably need more hygiene attention than you might perhaps be giving them.

Health hazards everywhere

You don’t know for sure that that long swipey smear down the left is not norovirus. But do you really want to find out? Because if you think about it, when was the last time you washed your hands? And what have you touched since? Are you sure your fingers are as safe as you think they are?

But it’s not just your tablet. There’s other high-touch things around you every day. Which because they’re not private like your go-everywhere tablet, may not receive the constant wipes your personal pride demands.

Touch-screens on fixed devices, for example, may never get cleaned. Or if they are, only once a blue moon. And even then, not in a way that gets rid of germs. Watch out for the control panel on the photo copier, the selection screen on certain ATMs, and the input section of all kinds of scanning or viewing equipment.

Because you can’t clean these things just like that, can you? Soap and water is not exactly a good idea with all those open sockets. Neither is any liquid come to that. And anything that properly kills germs is just as likely to attack the glass or plastic surround. You just can’t win.

So how about the other computer on your desk? The big office job with the full-on pukka keyboard? Look closely at the keys and there’s smear marks there too. Worn through where you constantly type, but obvious round the edges.

And how about all the junk that’s fallen down between the keys? Most of us eat at our desks at some stage, so there’s crumbs and dust and bits of food down there for sure. And the only way to get them out is dismantle the thing.

Look at your tablet again. Those smears are what comes off your hands in just a few seconds. So what’s on all the touchy-feely things around your workplace that possibly never get cleaned at all? Get unlucky and it’s more than pills you need – you could wind up in A&E, pumped full of antibiotics.

The office is a jungle

OK, so you wash your hands.

You’re clean, but that doesn’t solve anything does it?

Yeah, the office gets vacuumed every night and the waste baskets emptied. The swamp-out team might even go over all the desks with a damp rag. Whole office germ-transfer if it’s the same rag every time.

Meanwhile the high-touch stuff never gets anything. Checking the smears on your tablet again, how safe are lift buttons, light switches and keypads that everyone uses every day without thinking?

Germs, more than you think, right?

And the only reason that more of you aren’t booked off sick more often is that you’re sort of OK most of the time. The place at least has proper ventilation, good loos and is kept reasonably neat.

You can see now though, can’t you, how researchers reckon the average desk may have anything up to 10 million germs on it? And that’s not even THINKING about the other germs up in the air, swirling around, invisible, waiting to be breathed in or swallowed.

Microscopically smaller than dust,  they can float around for ever, too light to fall to the floor. Which means the air itself – maybe 80% of the room space – is full of germs too. Your body’s immune system has its work cut out, keeping you safe and healthy. And this is a modern West End office for Pete’s sake, not some far distant, fever-ridden mangrove swamp!

Yeah, half a second thinking about it, and you’re much more at hazard than you ever imagined. If your tablet is a germ factory, the whole office is a major germ-infested health hazard.

Eliminating the germs

So what is your boss doing about it? Vacuum cleaners and a wet rag aren’t nearly half good enough, are they?

Which is why canny offices, looking to eliminate workplace illnesses, are starting to look at regular sterilising.

Every night, once the place is cleaned, a mobile Hypersteriliser unit is brought in to mist up the place with hydrogen peroxide. Because it’s airborne and ionised, the super-effective antimicrobial gets everywhere, eliminating viruses and bacteria – including on the still-smeared lift buttons and phone keypads.

Next morning, the place is germ-free – all health hazards removed, safe for everyone to begin their working day – no pills necessary.

Now if there was just a way to keep the smears off those tablet touch-screens…

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Obesity and superbugs: our desperate denial of lethal antibiotic trigger

Girl blocks ears
We don’t want to hear – because who wants to know our glittering heroes are actually merciless serial killers?

Desperate because we don’t want to know. Denial because it involves antibiotics, our miracle life-saving drugs for the last 50 years.

Obesity and superbugs – caused by antibiotics?

Impossible!

Because antibiotics save lives, right? Brings us back from the jaws of death. Fix every little ailment whenever we run to the Doc. Turn us into invincible Twenty-First Century living beings. No illness is ever going to get us.

As if.

No longer the angels’ touch

The sad thing is, top medics are already know otherwise and are getting worried. Desperate even.

They’ve already made the connection with superbugs – antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cannot be treated. Unstoppable diseases already immune to our most high-powered drugs of last resort.

Check it out – both supposedly last-ditch fail-safes colistin and carbapenem  are starting to conk as bacteria get wise to them, mostly from over-exposure in the agricultural sector. There’s nothing more in the cupboard.

Fall ill from a simple paper cut now and it’s already possible that no medicine on Earth may be able to save us. Which means keep on with the Harry Casual, happy-go-lucky lifestyles we’ve become used to – and we’re all goners.

Yeah, so superbugs. MRSA, carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae and that lot.

Without antibiotics they wouldn’t exist – which means our best-ever, triple-whammy, cure-all drugs are increasingly useless. Or more realistically, they don’t give us any protection when we rely on them. We expect them to save us, help, help!

Fat chance.

Battle of the bulge

Which brings us to the obesity disaster. More desperate than ever.

Yeah maybe, just maybe, medics are starting to recognise that antibiotics MAY  be influential in causing obesity – particularly in children.

Meanwhile, it’s an inescapable fact that antibiotics have been shovelled into farm livestock in industrial quantities over the last 50 years – BECAUSE THEY STIMULATE AND ACCELERATE GROWTH.

In other words, they make them fat. Antibiotics are the Number One growth booster in food production all round the world.

OK, so remember all those scares about how food has got unhealthy preservatives, colourisers, stabilisers, flavour enhancers, too much sugar, too much salt, and all manner of bad things in them?

Pick up whatever you like off the supermarket shelf, modern foods are all laced through and through with antibiotics.

Uh huh. Every meal you eat, every mouthful, contains a sub-therapeutic dose of antibiotics in it – exactly the same growth boosters, administered in exactly the same way, as farm animals being fattened for market.

And we wonder how it is that two-thirds of our adult population are overweight or obese – and accelerating! Desperate de luxe.

Better, back in the day

Worse, we keep kidding ourselves that it’s from not enough exercise, too much junk food or other such rubbish – when all the while, we’re dosed to the gills with the world’s Number One growth booster.

Yes, rubbish. Back in the 50s and 60s, people platzed in front of the TV just as much as they do now – they weren’t stupid, it was cold out there.

They didn’t exercise either – gyms were for weight-lifting freaks, jogging hadn’t been invented and pilates classes weren’t even heard of.

Nor was diet much better. Where do you think our traditions of fish and chips, pies, or the Great British Fry-up all came from? Yeah, it was the War and desperate days of rationing and powdered eggs. But they had burgers and Coke too – just ask your grand-folks about Wimpy, the mooching greedy-guts from the Popeye cartoons.

But THEY WEREN’T FAT.

THEY didn’t chow antibiotics with every meal.

THEY didn’t eat the growth boosters because back then they didn’t exist.

But yeah, they had killer illnesses. Like TB, polio, pneumonia and flu – which in 1918 killed more people in six months than in both World Wars.

Just getting started – the slo-mo pandemic

A drop in the ocean today. Because THEY didn’t face the long-term misery of obesity and all the desperate complications – diabetes, heart disease, cancer, limb amputation.

Desperation stakes for sure – because ALL of us face them.

ALL of us ingest antibiotics in some form or other – a long-term phenomenon in meat, diary, vegetables, fruit, poultry, fish, cereals, grains, you name it – right across the food chain.

Except we’re all going to deny it to ourselves.

Our mind-set can’t accept it. Antibiotics are good – they save lives, they keep people healthy.

If only.

Because reality is, for all the good they appear to do, antibiotics are bad – they kill us slowly, they trigger illnesses we never had.

OK, so how many of us are going to die before we decide to get real?

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0ur obesity train-smash: why are we in denial?

Shocked mother
Better believe it – childhood obesity starts at the doctor’s

Denial, misunderstanding, rejection – we’re certainly in something.

Because why are we messing around with advertising bans and sugar tax when the real cause of our childhood obesity epidemic is staring us in the face?

Medics know it, government knows it, everybody in just about every kind of authority knows it.

It’s not junk food and sugary drinks that’s doing this – though they don’t exactly help.

The real truth is, our kids get fat from being dosed with the most effective and successful growth stimulant  on Earth.

Antibiotics.

The ultimate inconvenient truth

Government certainly knows this, which is maybe why this week’s much trumpeted Obesity Strategy launch is the non-event that it is. Somewhere the penny’s dropped that even the harshest regulatory action will achieve nothing.

Recognition is in the Special Review by Jim O’Neill, Chairman of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. This worthy initiative is of course targeted towards fighting superbugs and the increasing failure of antibiotics to protect us like the miracles they used to be.

And buried on Page 8 is the assessment that 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics worldwide are are pumped into agriculture each year.

Why?

Like we said, antibiotics are the most effective and successful growth stimulant  on Earth. Which is how come world food production has been able to rocket from supporting the 2½ billion people we were 50 years ago, to the 7½ billion we are now – all off the same amount of land.

Yeah, and of course, this is all supposed to be regulated because agriculture represents the biggest opportunity for superbugs to develop antibiotic resistance. When you reproduce like bacteria do every twenty minutes or less – and there’s 240,000 tonnes coming at you every year – you get plenty of chance to practice!

Which means strictly speaking, antibiotics in agriculture are only supposed to be used for animals that are sick. Except when you see how overcrowded and on top of each other they are in modern factory farms, they’re ALL going to get sick without medicine.

So in they go. Antibiotics, shovel, shovel – rammed into livestock by every serious high-volume food producer round the world. Extended through the manure these animals produce into every plant crop under cultivation. Even folded back to them through the feedstuff they eat, so their daily dose is a triple whammy.

We all OD and don’t know it

Result – every single one of us gets a low dose of antibiotics every time we eat something, because antibiotics now saturate the entire food chain. You get ’em even if you’re vegetarian.

Every meal, every mouthful – another hit from the most effective and successful growth stimulant  on Earth. And the gurus are still pondering why two-thirds of our adult population are either overweight or obese!

As Lord McColl observed in an address to the House of Lords on obesity, not one of these health experts has yet climbed onto a treadmill or gymnasium bicycle to prove that exercise does actually burn off weight  – otherwise they’d know it doesn’t.

Fact: we’re fat because we consume too many calories, period.

And we do that because our bodies no longer tell us to stop eating when we’ve had enough.

Plus like the poor cows being fattened up for market, our bodies assimilate more nutrients than we’re meant to. We’re extracting more energy out of the same amount of food – so we get fat even if we diet to eat less.

Not a nice future for our kids, hey?

Worse for kids

Except hang on, they’ve got their own train-smash to look forward to. Their own calamity introduction to antibiotics.

Because chances are high they’ll have to visit the Doc for some childhood illness or other – and chances are equally high they’ll be prescribed antibiotics. Worried Doc, concerned Mums – almost inevitable really. Which means it’s likely by the time they’re two, that they’ll have been exposed to antibiotics an average of 2.3 times.

Uh huh. So here’s their starter for 10.

In clobbering the illness, the antibiotics will also accelerate the ghrelin hormone that activates hunger, suppress the leptin hormone which turns it off, and stimulate the gut bacteria into absorbing more food value, extracting double or triple from the same amount of intake.

Reality check, folks. Eating less and exercising more is not going to fix it. Doctors already recognise that children given antibiotics by the time they’re two are likely to be obese by five.

And this is before they’ve had their first burger, their first pizza, their first Coke – or their first deep-fried Mars bar.

Reality check two, we weren’t fat either, fifty years ago – but they still had Coke back then, and McDonalds – sort of. Our own home-grown version, still with us today, was Wimpy.

Watch it!

Which means better look out, Jamie Oliver. Your new son could become obese, even though you supervise his food intake like a hawk. Makes your sugar tax  look a bit wonky now, doesn’t it?

The doom-and-gloom gurus had better watch out too.

Yeah, deaths from antibiotics resistance are going to climb – but they’re not much more than we lose in road deaths anyway.

But deaths from obesity – our first prize dividend from 50 years of antibiotics overuse and abuse –  they’re going to be astronomic. An epic epidemic not seen since the influenza pandemic of 1918, which killed 25 million people in six months.

Because obesity is just the start of a slow motion decline into much worse. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, asthma – and all kinds of others caused by slow failure of the body. Slow, extremely unpleasant – maybe even leading to amputation of one or more limbs.

Yeah, thanks antibiotics. You’ve saved hundreds, but you’re killing millions. It’s time to dump you before we’re all dead.

No antibiotics?

Time to tighten up on hygiene. Push cleanliness and germ prevention higher than they’ve ever been before.

Because now there’s no safety net.

Post-antibiotic fail-safe

Forget to wash your hands? The escherichia coli you pick up could rot your body and kill you.

Clean hands anyway? The norovirus on your desk could lead to fatal dehydration and that’s the end of you.

Which means soap and water for all of us – as often as we  can think of it. And eliminating germs wherever we can around us – regular mist-ups with hydrogen peroxide that oxidise all viruses and bacteria to nothing.

There is a plus though.

And yeah, it’s denial. Of antibiotics.

No more antibiotics and we’ll no longer keep getting fat. No more false hopes, no more diets, no more gastric bands, no more mindless exercise.

No, no, no.

Do you hear us Westminster? Do you hear us Public Health England?

Get this right and our kids are going to be the best-looking human beings ever.

And the healthiest.

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Ra, ra, workplace wellness – but what happens about workplace illness?

Dead girl on floor
Shouldn’t workplace wellness be more about avoiding illness?

Go round the mega-buck companies – the movers and shakers of the Fortune 500 – and workplace wellness is already the Next Big Thing. Must-have, sexy, feel-good for employees like never before.

Informal work spaces, laid-back management, on-site gym facilities, gourmet food round the clock, designer décor, therapeutic lighting, specialist ventilation, everything that opens and shuts.

The employee is Number One

Yeah, plus the stress goes with it. Only super-achievers get the full treatment. And super-achievers either super-achieve, or they’re on the next Lear jet out. Only the best of the best to keep the bottom line in the stratosphere.

Big bucks, big incentives, super-big on health and physical fitness – but nobody mentions the G-word.

Not possible, say the techno-geeks. HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters in the air conditioning don’t allow it. Super-effective down to less than 2 microns, no germs can get through it.

And there – almost glossed over – is the dreaded G-word.

Germs.

Invisible in wellness guru vocabularies. Invisible on hands, clothing, surfaces and in the air. Our biggest threat to wellness, in the workplace or anywhere – disdained or in denial.

Germs? No, no, let’s stick to issues we can see, the latest sexy lycra, follow the wellness fashion. Big help, especially for our colleagues trapped by obesity – how condescending can we get?

Chubby, overweight staff, sitting for hours at computer screens? There’s workout  programmes and personal trainers to help them shift the lard.

Headaches and anxiety attacks from pressure of work? There’s psychiatric care and counselling  right there on the premises.

Not sexy

But a gut-wrenching tummy bug going round because some hot-desking hot-shot didn’t wash his hands before chowing down  on the company’s famous double-layer pizza?

Hey, these things happen – everybody gets sick sometime.

Not wellness though, is it?

And for all the fitness investment and feng shui environment, entirely preventable and unnecessary.

So what’s the deal in germ prevention with most workplace wellness setups?

Yeah, those wellness initiatives about health and wellbeing are all good – right across the whole leadership, alignment, relevance, accessibility, partnerships and communications thing.

But germs aren’t on the memo list and don’t understand them anyway.

Which means let iffy hygiene take hold in any office, and illness can run through those high-earning super-achievers like wildfire.

Yeah OK, the washroom facilities are the finest in the land. All infrared, no-touch, state-of-the art – except who’s using the stuff?

The hard facts are that while 99% of people claim to wash their hands after going to the loo, only 32% of men and 64% of women actually do.

And out of those who actually do wash, a whopping 95% of them don’t even do the job properly.

Looking cool, in hospital?

Because let’s face it, a few seconds waggling fingers under the tap is not going to stop experienced germs like clostridium difficile or escherichia coli for one second. Get them in the wrong place and it’s a week in hospital for sure.

All it takes is sticky fingers in the first dish of good improving carrot and celery crudités, and those germs are down the throat quick as a flash.

Give it four hours, eight, and the bill arrives. End-of-the-world cramps, violent howitzer vomiting, hell-fire diarrhoea and the over-powering wish to be dead.

Uh huh. Thousands spent on glitzy washrooms, daylight balanced lighting and fragranced air.

But a couple of tenners could put a fresh pack of hand-wipes on every desk every day – or sofa-side coffee table, if that’s the way people choose to work.

Standing open of course, to encourage use. The superstars might be in a rush getting away from the loo – but in-your-face all the time at their work station might swing it. You can lead a horse to water…

Clean hands of course, are only part of it.

Yeah, the HEPA filters do their job, but it’s a fact of life all of us are surrounded by an invisible cloud of billions of bacteria and micro body-waste – hair, dead skin cells, etc – our personal signature microbiome.

These personal germ IDs are so potent, they colonise and take over any room within hours, displacing the germ-clouds of anyone previously there. And of course they mingle and cross-exchange with the microbiomes of our other colleagues as well.

Everyday germ threshold

All these on top of the background colonies of billions of bacteria present throughout the room and on every surface anyway – a fact of life we’re never aware of. And off the radar for most wellness gurus as well.

A heck of an influence on every one of us though. Our own microbiomes don’t affect us of course, they’re our beneficial bacteria, inside and out. So many trillions of them that we’re more bacteria than human – all our body cells together are only 10% of who we are.

Most of the other germs are hostile though, kept at bay by our own bacteria – who either outnumber them to crowd them out, or attack and eat them.

Unless of course, those hostiles find a way into our bodies. Off a dirty table, a computer keypad, a lift call button, on documents, our own mobile – or picked up in the air, interacting with the microbiomes of others around us.

One man’s meat is another man’s poison, right?

The same with our personal bacteria. Especially when most of us have some underlying condition or other that is our weakness – asthma, IBS, muscular wasting – anything that makes us vulnerable to unfamiliar foreign pathogens.

Other people’s bacteria.

Avoiding illness

Which means forget spending a mint on inspirational colour schemes and murals to set off the walls. Rather spend a few hundred getting rid of all the germs every night, so the place is safe and sterile in the morning. Yes, it can be done – and all it takes is the touch of a button, how sexy is that?

Yeah sure, the germ clouds will come back as people arrive for work, so it will have to be done every night – a bit like cleaning our teeth. Well, we’re always eating right? So we need to brush against tooth decay, bad breath and yellow teeth.

Same thing with getting rid of our ambient workplace germs. To remove smells, infection threats and keep us healthy.

Which makes it the other side of workplace wellness.

The side nobody remembers because it’s out of sight and not sexy – but probably the most important side of all.

Keeping well by AVOIDING ILLNESS.

So easy – and a fraction of the cost of wow-factor surroundings.

Good clean living.

Now what workplace can be weller than that?

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The headlines say “Antibiotics-free meat”. Yeah, good luck with that

Woman thumbs down for news
Good news for PR – bad news for the 5 billion of us who could go hungry

It’s a nice idea, but “antibiotics-free” is not going to happen any time soon.

Yeah sure, the farmers are going to stop adding antibiotics to feedstuffs to fatten animals up ready for market.

To stop antibiotics altogether unless animals are sick – which they are a lot of the time because of the way they’re housed.

Ever guessed what it’s like to be living on one of those mass produced factory farms?

OK, so no antibiotics to be added to food stuffs – because as the story says, these antibiotics are entering our bodies, they’re already in the food chain.

Bigger than superbugs

Uh huh.

And the panic is that higher volumes of these antibiotics lead to more and superbugs – infections that attack our bodies and can’t be treated by our wonder drugs. 50,000 deaths a year in the UK and US alone, and climbing .

Good luck with that too – because when we open our eyes wider, that’s the least of our worries.

Antibiotics fatten up animals, right? And they’re already entering our bodies as part of the food chain. Which means antibiotics fatten US up too.

And they’re working – just look at our national obesity figures. Two-thirds of all adults are already overweight or obese.  Well on the way to diabetes, cancer, heart disease and others – a combined total of 30 million deaths and climbing.

Yeah, so antibiotics-free meat will stop all that, right?

We wish.

In the poo and staying there

Because we’re more deeply in the poo than we realise.

See, the farmers might stop ADDING antibiotics to the feedstuffs they give their animals. But antibiotics are ALREADY in there anyway – in the actual plant material itself, the soya, the maize meal, the grass, the whatever.

Some of it is from antibiotics administered directly to PLANTS. Just like animals, plants respond to antibiotic growth boosting.

Or sometimes antibiotics are there to combat blight, mould and other plant ailments. With growth boost as a side bet.

Most of all though, plants ingest antibiotics from animal poo – the same stuff that is collected and returned to enrich the soil as manure. Or already in the ground from previous fertilising and absorbed through the roots. And even in the ground water, seeping through to springs and rivers.

And the water

That glass of water from the Thames? The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology at Wallingford measured trimethoprim, oxytetracycline, ciprofloxacin, azithromycin, cefotaxime, doxycycline, sulfamethoxazole, erythromycin, clarithromycin, ofloxacin, norfloxacin across 21 locations of the river’s catchment area.

We’re not talking small amounts either. Most animals poo out 80-90% of the nutrients they consume, Nature’s way of providing enrichment to so many living things. Which means they poo out 80-90% of the antibiotics they consume too.

And with world use of antibiotics already topping 240,000 tonnes a year and set to climb nearly 70% by 2035, that means 192,000 tonnes every year going into the ground – hefty enough to fatten 7½ billion human beings across the planet, as well as the 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle and 1 billion sheep and pigs that feed us.

Yeah, so antibiotics-free meat is not so free after all. The same animals not getting antibiotics in their feed still get a hefty dose with every mouthful, even if they’re just chewing grass.

No fix in sight

So why don’t whoever the authorities are pull the plug on antibiotics altogether?

Good question. Not a vote-catcher though.

Thanks to antibiotics, world food production zoomed from enough to support 2½ billion people 50 years ago to 7½ billion now. Pull the plug and 5 billion of us are suddenly going to go hungry.

World famine, what politician wants that?

Antibiotics-free?

If only.

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Dead by your own hand, or rescued by soap and water?

Suicide girl
Goodbye cruel world – self-inflicted killer tummy cramps, from eating with unwashed hands

OK, OK, “dead” might be a little OTT.

But make no error, plenty of people die from contamination on their fingers.

Like the old tin miners in Cornwall, back in the Thirteenth Century. There was arsenic in the dust that they gouged out of those tiny, confined tunnels – which killed plenty of them before they discovered what it was.

Poison protection

Which is how come those savvy Cornish womenfolk developed the world famous pasty.  That thick crust around the edge was so the men could grab hold without touching the good stuff in the middle.

Oggy, oggy, oggy,” the women would cry down the top of the mineshaft. “Oy, oy, oy,” the men would yell back from deep underground. And the women would throw the pasties down – the tough crust keeping it from bursting when it hit the bottom.

We don’t have crusts on a lot of our favourites these days, so a lot of people go sick from the swallowing the crud that’s on their hands – the price for sloppy hygiene.

Which is how come as many as a third of all norovirus cases are self-inflicted.

People don’t wash their hands – but launch straight into finger-food. Burgers, pizza, chips, sandwiches, wraps – just about every kind of food-on-the-go you can think of.

Finger-lickin’ dangerous

Straight off their fingers, straight into their gut – whatever germs might have decided to linger on the things they touched before they sat down to scoff. A whole day’s worth of being out and about, if you think of it. On the tube, on the bus, out in the street, lurking on cash and credit cards, on keys and clothes, on door handles and light switch – and of course on the phone.

Ever looked at the screen of your phone after making a call? Yucky, greasy stuff, right? Skin grease and grime mixed in with germs picked up from the air – as many as 10 million bacteria and even more viruses. The most visible demonstration yet of the stuff you swallow, if you eat without washing your hands.

And yes, death is possible.

Norovirus or some kind of gastroenteritis upset is the most likely result of eating with unwashed hands. And in America – fast-food nirvana – around 800 people die from it every year. From the dehydration that sets in with severe diarrhoea and vomiting. Not a nice way to go.

When it gets serious, your blood pressure drops and your whole system starts going tits up. A heavy price to pay for some fast food when you’re hungry, hey? Especially if you’re in such a hurry to eat, you neglect to wash your hands.

Stupid really, and we should all know better.

Wash hands, or die

Not enough time? Rubbish!

Choosing to die by not taking five minutes to wash and scrub up. Blind suicide is what it is. Maybe it won’t happen this time, or not even next. But what you’re doing is taking a risk just as deadly as crossing the road without looking.

So soap and water is cissy stuff, yeah?Washroom poster

Never mind, there’s plenty of time to reflect on the wisdom of it once you’re dead.

And if you don’t die, maybe you’ll wish you will with the cramps and the upchucks and the burning runs that never seem to stop.

You want to play silly buggers? Norovirus is not a nice playmate. Neither are any of the other billions and billions of harmful pathogens you could swallow just from a moment’s carelessness.

Which means, do yourself a favour, if you don’t want to wind up dead.

Wash your hands whenever you think of it – especially before food and always after the loo.

Otherwise you might just as well blow your brains out, right now.

For finger food? You must be nuts.

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