Category Archives: Hygiene Focus

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.

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.

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.

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.

Want to live dangerously? Get yourself a desk job

Burger at desk
54% of office people eat lunch at their desks – taking one hell of a chance with their health doing it

Looks all innocent, doesn’t it?

Your stylish office workstation, finished in beech.

With the go-getter image top performers like you deserve. Plus the company iPad.

Very sexy.

Potentially lethal

And every bit as dangerous as a bullet to the head.

Because it looks all nice and neat now. But what happens at lunch time?

Too busy to stop, huh?

So did you brown-bag a sandwich, or pop down to the greasy spoon?

Not good, eating at the keyboard. Your mobile germ transporter. OK on the first day, but very quickly home to more than 7,500 bacteria – on a desk that could be harbouring 10 million more. 400 times the health hazard of an average toilet seat.

Which means, if you get even a minor skin break – a paper cut, or a stapler stab – you could wind up with a major infection.

Because your desk never really gets cleaned, does it?

False security

The swamp-out team come in every night – to vacuum the floors and empty the waste baskets. If you’re lucky, all your desk gets is a wipe with a damp cloth. The same damp cloth as all the other desks. Really just a germ transfer from one to the next.

And that’s usually it.

Nothing behind your in-trays or any stacks of documents you might have – they don’t want to mix up important papers – or cause them to go missing.

So the dust bunnies are all still at the back there – along with biscuit crumbs from your morning coffee – and the odd chip from the fries that went with your burger. Oh, and bits of last week’s chicken coronation sandwich – and the bacon butty everybody had after the power-breakfast workshop session

All kinds of nasty goodies living in there – multiplying every day. Flu germs, norovirus, e.coli and you don’t want to know what else. Even MRSA, the one hospitals dread because antibiotics don’t work against it. There’s lots of bugs like that these days – causing doctors to tear their hair out.

And have you ever heard of sepsis? There’s no resistance against that either, like all kinds of different germs, all at the same time.

Because that paper cut could very easily fester if it gets infected.

KIller threat

And everywhere your hands rest on your desk there are likely to be more germs. Any one of which could trigger sepsis and then you’re really in trouble – a meltdown of your body’s immune system that claims 37,000 lives a year in Europe – more than those killed in road accidents.

Yes, you can die from it.

Which is why, if you want to survive an office job, you’d better carry some protection.

At the very least, a set of sanitising wipes to do your hands and all the work surfaces.

Not the general cleaning kind, they’re not good enough. Make sure it says “antibacterial” on the label, you don’t want to take chances.

Even better is to persuade the boss to get a Hypersteriliser.

Safe and sterile

Every night when you go home, it mists up the whole office space with a deep-penetrating hydrogen peroxide plasma – a kind of electrically-charged super-gas. Stuff that actively grabs viruses and bacteria out of the air, and oxidises them to oblivion.

By morning, when you come in, the whole place is sterile. No germs, nothing – you and your colleagues are completely safe.

So is your desk. After the wipe-down, the hydrogen peroxide takes out every microorganism that might be hiding there. From 10 million germs to 0 – even if you don’t properly clean your keyboard or phone.

Still not a good idea to keep eating lunch there though. You need to get out more, get some fresh air, take a break, let your mind reset while you get some exercise, feel some of the wonderful world out there.

You’re a top performer, right? And you need to keep that mind sharp and stimulated.

Not dangerous at all, more like fun.

Originally posted 2015-09-10 12:57:49.

Germ wars – flu, e.coli and the rest: now it’s personal

Woman shooter
Germs are always at you –
so take them down first

Nobody thinks about bugs until they get one.

OK one minute, cough-splutter the next.

Or gut-twisting tummy cramps that make you want to die.

From tiny, microscopic bugs, a million times smaller than a speck of dust.

Killers, chasing you

Out of sight, out of mind. Until the pounding head and hot/cold sweats take you over.

Gimme the pills, I don’t want to do this – get me out of here!

Yeah, right.

Most of the time, we only have ourselves to blame.

Because our personal hygiene habits, quite frankly, are up to maggots.

We know there’s germs around – we know they’re transferred by direct contact or touching infected objects. But you wouldn’t think so from the way we handle ourselves.

Uncomfortable truths

Why?

Well, it’s not on the radar, is it?

When was the last time you even THOUGHT about washing your hands? After breakfast? Before lunch? At all?

And how many thousand objects have you touched during the morning – other people, out in the street, grab handles that never get cleaned, ever? And you’re going to eat that pizza with your bare hands?

No wonder you got norovirus.

Drug resistant bugs

Don’t hold your breath that the Doc has got some miracle prescription to fix it either. These days we so over-use pills that those sneaky viruses and bacteria have mutated to be resistant to all kinds of drugs.

Which is why our top medical heavyweight – Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer of England – is so strongly gung-ho that we have to REDISCOVER HYGIENE all over again. Re-learn to wash our hands.

Wash our hands, all the time, before ever doing anything. Because if medicines aren’t going to work any more, it’s up to us to get ourselves some personal protection in the first place.

In our own defence though, it’s not all our own bad habits. We might be paranoid about washing our hands, yet STILL come down with those crippling cramps and disgusting diarrhoea. Those bugs got under the radar.

Like that annoying voice in your GPS says, “Recalculating”.

Time to rethink

OK, we properly scrubbed, soap and water – the works. But how about the tap we have to turn off afterwards? And how about the door handle we twist to get out of there?

Everybody who uses the loo touches that handle – and most of them never wash their hands at all.

Doomed?

Not quite – which is why we might want to rethink our whole soap-and-water strategy.

It’s not always easy to get to anyway. You’re out shopping with the kids and suddenly have an emergency. It doesn’t help that the nearest washroom is three floors up, four hundred yards away. Ideally we need something to keep on our person – something AVAILABLE AT ALL TIMES.

Handbags and pockets

We’ve already got it. Pop into Tesco and for less than a quid, you can get a bottle of sanitising hand gel to keep on you at all times. For less than 30p, the kids can have their own one too.

Squidge it on, work it around, let it evaporate. Easy.

Or even better, get yourself some sanitising wipes – again, to keep with you all the time – and again for around a quid. The ever ready rescue pack. Your personal hygiene standby.

Good stuff too. Unlike gel, the tissue gives you something to wipe off with. Physically remove dirt at the same time as you wipe out the germs. Not exactly a scrubbing brush, but just as good as a face cloth or sponge.

And that sanitising moistness too, evaporates. Your hands are germ-free – without touching anything that might be contaminated – job done.

Plus, on a purely practical point, it’s a lot easier to find a rubbish bin for dumped wipes than it is to find a washroom. Especially after dark when the loos are all locked. Or the shopping centre’s closed and everybody’s gone home.

OK, you’ve got your protection. Now go out there and be well.

Originally posted 2015-09-09 12:27:47.

No germs were killed in the use of this air freshener

Woman surgeon
Mis-diagnosis: fragrances only mask the underlying condition – live germs at work

Mmmm, spring meadow.

Smells nice.

Except, why are you using an air freshener? Is something “off” in your home?

Your nose knows

A pong you can’t get rid of maybe.

Mould, or damp, or a drifting stink from the loo.

All signs of germs at work. Viruses and bacteria in your home.

That’s how you know they’re there – and how you know they’re at work.

They smell.

Blitz them with an air freshener and you’re only hiding them. Masking them, so you forget they’re there. Fooling your nose into thinking you’re safe.

Because that’s what you want to be, isn’t it? Safe from germs?

Which air fresheners won’t achieve for you – with very few exceptions.

Just an illusion

Because unless it specifically says on the label that the stuff kills germs, all it will do is smell up the place with a stronger alternative. Pine, lavender, or all kinds of fruit.

And you don’t want to know what goes into an air freshener to make it do that.

Not if it has to out-pong the fermenting or putrefying stench of bacteria at work.

Truth is, you’re not safe from germs at all – and possibly exposed to even bigger hazards.

A typical cocktail might include formaldehyde, a recognised carcinogen. Petroleum distillates such as butane and propane. Even phenol, a skin and nervous system irritant.

Investigate further and you’ll find ethanol, a nervous system depressant with psychoactive effects. Methylformamide, a known cause of system toxicity or cancer, which messes up reproductive organs. Or butanoic acid, for neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption and further organ breakdown.

Want more?

Hidden hazards

Across the 225 million aerosols, plug-ins, gels, candles and incense sticks that we use every year, anything up to 3,000 synthetic chemical ingredients could be in play – all geared to out-bigging smells, not killing germs.

Which is what you’re left with when the stuff wears off.

The same germs are still there.

But you’re right to think of an air freshener. Something that gets at everything that surrounds us.

Bleach or other disinfectants only get at surfaces and floors.

Reality is that 80% of the space we live in is the untouched air surrounding them. And what about the walls and ceilings? The gaps behind and under furniture? Or the cracks in between where your scourer can’t reach?

Time to look at a Hypersteriliser.

To kill germs and make smells go, it’s the only thing.

And it’s so dead easy, all you do is press a button.

Effective hygiene asset

OK, it’s not like a bottle you pick up at the supermarket. It’s wheelie-bin sized investment in home hygiene. Offices too – schools, shops, restaurants, hotels. As essential to everyday living as a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine.

Shut all the windows and doors – and it generates a fine plasma mist of hydrogen peroxide, electrostatically charged to grab viruses and bacteria out of the air, oxidising them to oblivion.

ALL of them. The bad ones you’ve read about: salmonella, e. coli, H1N1 flu virus, clostridium difficile, norovirus, or MRSA. Even horror-killers, like Ebola.

You know it works, because the smells are gone. No more germs.

And it’s safe, because all that’s left decomposes to oxygen and water.

Too fine to affect electrical connections or computer keyboards – which evaporates to nothing before it touches anything.

Your choice.

Heady lavender and the suspicion that you could all catch flu anyway.

Or neutral nothing, no smells at all – knowing you’re safe and all germs are gone completely.

Originally posted 2015-09-03 13:15:07.

The holiday sob stories that should never happen

Travelsick woman
Feeling ill on holiday can be avoided, don’t let it happen

They’re the nightmares that should never happen to anyone.

No, not the missed flights or missing baggage. Not even the half-built hotel with the accommodation not ready.

Somehow those get resolved – there’s always a fudge fix – even though you have to scream the place down to get it.

Sickening for something

No, what really puts the mockers on your holiday is getting sick.

Feeling like grim death and being unable to do anything. Sick as a dog for your precious few days in the sun – then back home still feeling lousy.

Especially as it’s avoidable.

Yes, you read that right – it doesn’t have to happen.

It’s possible not to get sick AND MAKE SURE YOU DON’T.

Easy peasy too.

  1. Go to the bathroom.
  2. Run water into the basin.
  3. Say out loud “Holiday health horrors start with your hands”.
  4. Get the soap, give your hands a good going over.
  5. Rinse off and dry with paper towel.
  6. Do this before every meal – and of course, after every visit to the loo.

Kid’s stuff, right?

Yeah, but it works.

And just think how easy you forget to do it when you’re having fun. Dicing with disorder. You’re on a holiday roll, time is precious. Come on, let’s go, go, go!

Wash your hands and enjoy

A whole morning, a whole afternoon. The whole day can go by and you never stop. Grabbing a quick bite to eat when you can, noshing with your fingers. Burgers, fries, kebabs, pizza, whatever – don’t let nothing slow the fun down.

Uh huh.

And how clean are your hands when you do all this? Foreign place, lots of people – all touching and grabbing and using the same things you are.

Not remembering to wash THEIR hands either.

The sunbed mattress on the beach? Middle of summer, three months into the season – how many people have used it before you have? How many times does it get cleaned? A wipedown once a day? Once a week? At all?

Yeah, you got it. Lots of things never get cleaned at all. The handlebars on your quad-bike. The handrails on the bus to the beach. The statue everybody kisses for good luck.

Next thing, serious sob stories like whole families coming down with hospital illnesses – lasting phobias, allergies, digestive systems on the fritz for the rest of their lives.

For why?

Because like every single one of us, out-and-about you never thinks of washing hands from one second to the next. So how’s about the fact that we each touch our faces 2,000 – 3,000 times A DAY?

OK, so maybe the hotel ARE lax about serving food – keeping it safe from flies, keeping it properly hot or chilled, leaving it out in the open for hours.

What are you, crazy?

Are you going to eat food that’s visibly off like that? Put up with the obvious sloppiness of it? Ignore the dangers?

First off, if you DO eat food like that – you’re not blind – it’s your sob story, you live with it.

Complain, complain

Second, you owe it to yourself – and the hotel – to complain. In fact it’s your duty. The great United States were even founded on it.

You ever watched how these people run making holiday experiences happen for people like you?

Every day, another four or five plane-loads – check-in, organise, service. All of them on seven-day turnaround – from Stockholm, Hamburg, Vilnius, Dublin, everywhere.

Which means nose to the grindstone, 24/7 – no peace for the wicked, and what do you mean sleep? So is it any wonder something falls through the slats occasionally and stuff doesn’t get done?

Because the rookie manager is handling it and having a bit of a meltdown, or the caterers didn’t deliver, or the computers were down at the central laundry, or any one of a million things – you know the score. Sob stories never start deliberate.

But if you don’t complain, nothing will get done about it. Other things will get done instead and your issue will get forgotten.

Other people will get food poisoning, other people will go to hospital – all because of you, because you didn’t complain when you should. The silent sob story.

Nobody wants a Moaning Minnie of course, bitch like a fish-wife and you’ll most likely get ignored.

Constructive criticism

But what are you really doing?

Alerting the management to a problem, that’s what. So they can do something about it. So they can make it better. Nobody wants to run a sloppy business, that’s the way to bankruptcy and failure.

Which means sounding off when something’s wrong is actually doing the place a favour.

You don’t want the iffy experience, they don’t want the dodgy rep that goes with it – everybody wins when you open your mouth.

Which comes back to why you get ill.

You’re not going to eat food if it’s off, are you? So complain. Or walk out. Or both.

You owe it

You owe it to your own body. You owe it to the golden seven days you spent all those thousands of pounds for. You owe it to other people so they don’t get ill either.

You owe it to your hosts too – hotel, restaurant or whatever. They suffer too if the go out of business. And you can’t wash your hands of that responsibility either.

If you had a successful holiday, great. If you had a rough time, get well soon.

Next time, remember soap and water – and whatever you do, don’t shut up.

Originally posted 2015-09-02 15:27:39.

Now arriving – your next nasty illness is in seat 19F

Sleeping woman on plane
Happy holidays – just make sure you don’t bring back any unwanted souvenirs

Makes you cross, doesn’t it?

Or worried.

You’re at your local supermarket, not even on a flight – yet somehow the latest bug has found its way to you.

Bugs are always everywhere

MERS, maybe. Or this year’s flu strain. Norovirus, perhaps. Typhoid, cholerea. Or gasp, Ebola. The latest illness.

Hard to tell in the early stages – they all feel the same. When impending victims don’t even know they’ve got it. But it’s there, incubating.

That woman with the tan, coming back from Las Palmas, for example. The one in 19F.

She looks and probably feels completely normal.

Because she is.

100% OK – full of holiday sparkle – feeling like a million dollars.

Yet in two days the sweats will start. The headache, the feeling tired and feverish, the sore throat, the loss of appetite.

Mistaken identity or emergency?

Aeroplane flu or something more serious? You can never be too careful.

It’ll take maybe another three days to know.

And in that time, how many people will she come in contact with?

How many objects will she touch? (Fomites)

Because if she’s highly contagious, you’ll pick it up in days, without coming anywhere near her.

Easy-peasy, like this. Her suitcase was handled eight times by the time it hit the carousel at Gatwick.

And there it was, lurking on the handle. A special import for you – and she never even knew. This year’s illness – yours for free.

Like, whenever did she clean her suitcase handle? Whenever does anyone?

A hole in your hygiene

And her Mum takes her straight out to Nando’s – a surprise welcome home party with all her girl friends. Big lovies, big celebration, champagne, everything.

And nobody ever even thought to wash their hands.

Which is how you got it.

From one of the girls. Hi, welcome home, hug-hug, mwuh!

Spread by contact.

One week later and it’s on you – direct from the handle of the supermarket trolley.

Well, think carefully now – do you wash your hands when you get home from shopping?

Or when you pack all the stuff away?

Come to that, if the evening meal is a rush, do you wash your hands before leaping into cooking?

All too easy isn’t it?

Self protection

And all too easy to fix.

Just a little soap and water.

Or, if it’s in the air, a good dose with a Hypersteriliser to keep everyone safe at the office.

Oh yes, one other thing.

If you do feel ill, please stay home.

You’ll feel better – and nobody else will get it.

Originally posted 2015-08-26 18:41:24.

Airborne norovirus from a vomit machine? The stuff is already up there!

Research team
There’s something in the air and it’s going to make you sick

Nasty stuff norovirus.

As common as the common cold but a great deal more unpleasant.

Like, 20 million Americans come down with it every year, according the US Centers for Disease Control – nearly 10% of all Yanks.

Hospital wards closed

We’re not much better in the UK either – 610 reported hospital outbreaks in 2013, 94% of them triggering ward closures.

Big time upchucking like that kinda explains why researchers at North Carolina State University and Wake Forest University have recently gone to so much trouble to make a vomiting machine.

If so many people are catching it, the stuff’s got to be airborne.

It’s catching

It’s certainly highly contagious. Spread mostly by touch from infected people – but also from fomites they have touched – door handles, phones, soap, salad servers, light switches – almost any surface is a transmission source.

Apparently the research machine is to prove that particles in airborne vomit spray can easily infect others if they are close enough.

And sure, looks like no doubt of it – the tests are pretty conclusive. The first DIRECT evidence of airborne distribution, according to researchers – happening by a process they call aerosolisation.

Uh huh.

Maybe we’re a little slow, but if memory serves correctly norovirus particles are microscopic – around 38 nanometres across. That’s 0.038 microns, or 0.000038 millimetres.

Blowing in the wind

About the same size as atmospheric dust, which the wind regularly blows 3,000 miles from the Sahara desert and dumps on gleaming 4x4s parked in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Doesn’t that mean slightly airborne?

And it only takes 20 or so particles of norovirus to bring you down with gastroenteritis – around 0.00076 millimetres across. Still smaller than the POINT of a pin – and so light it’s heavier than the diesel-laden air around it.

Not only airborne, but light enough NEVER to touch ground again.

And that’s not just us guessing.

More tests, more tests

ANOTHER set of researchers – from Canada’s Université Laval and the Québec Heart and Lung Institute Research Centre – claim to be the first to quantify norovirus particles in the air, in concentrations varying from 13 to 2350 particles per cubic metre.

All tested in eight hospitals and written up in the influential magazine Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Oh.

Seems you don’t need a vomit machine to prove the stuff is up there.

Any poor sod who’s unlucky enough to be near an existing sufferer can personally do the same.

Or anyone who breathes in a chance 20 particles walking down the street.

Yeah, it’s catching.

Hike up our hygiene

So wash your hands every chance you get.

And insist that the space you live and work in is properly treated with a Hypersteriliser. If you take out ALL viruses and bacteria, norovirus can’t get to you.

Because it would just be your luck to pick up the bug from somebody’s bio-cloud who was in the same room two days ago.

Vomiting machine?

That would be us.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Originally posted 2015-08-20 18:07:19.