Category Archives: Issues

Ebola: why we’re already under-gunned

Worried medical team
Our Docs are all committed – but they’ll have to sleep some time

“Keep Calm and Carry On” the poster says.

And as true Brits, we’re doing exactly that. Ebola looms large in most people’s minds, but we’re ready and not panicking.

Ready, yes. Prepared, yes. But seriously under-resourced.

The thin white line

Whitehall’s medical brass might reckon our health services are robust enough, there’s still only a thin line of white coats between us and staying on top of it.

Four hospitals across the country are on first-level alert for handling Ebola: the Royal Free Hospital in London – which rescued British nurse William Pooley from the disease – the Royal Hallamshire in Sheffield, the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

Currently, the Royal Free is the only specialised High Level Isolation Unit in the country. It has just two fully equipped containment beds.

A question of backup

But it’s not the number of beds. It’s the one-on-one backup to keep them going. And the backup for the backup – the hospital-wide services to ensure hygiene levels are maintained and all personnel are safe.

At the Ebola front-line, containment protocols are meticulous. Senior nurses scrutinise medicos prepping, watchful for any errors in scrub-ups or donning protective clothing. But such staff will only go on duty for an hour.

The one-hour rule

Sir Leonard Fenwick, chief executive of Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spells out why. “On the hour, the one-to-one staff ratio must change to ensure procedure protocol is strictly adhered to without exception. Together with constant vigilance and support, this is the overriding requirement.”

Hands-on carers routinely go through UV radiation to ensure they are free from any infection. The ultra violet kills all germs and bacteria by destroying their cell DNA. Outside their bodies, these staff are completely sterilised.

It’s not the same in other parts of these hospitals, where hygiene levels are maintained by traditional methods. Rub and scrub, mop and bucket – doing it the hard way.

Thin on technology

Only in a very few places is there technology to help – either UVGI units or hydrogen peroxide auto-sterilisers. Or as at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital, a second level designated Ebola facility, which has a negative pressure room – no air can escape, isolating any contagion.

Such machines would be invaluable and are easy to operate – 100 of the hydrogen peroxide type were recently sent to Nigeria, the one African country to have brought the present Ebola  outbreak under control.

At the touch of a button, hygiene levels move up to a very much higher level. Rooms are completely sterilised in around twenty minutes, freeing up valuable hygiene maintenance resources to be deployed elsewhere.

Fortunately at the moment, UK has no Ebola-positive patients. Some cases are inevitable. A large number of Britons – especially the armed forces – are involved with humanitarian aid in Sierra Leone, many in direct contact of Ebola victims.

The hard way

But when cases start arriving, it’s not the Ebola facilities that will be under pressure. It’s other departments feeling the knock-on effect – fewer staff, longer hours, yet more over-stretched resources.

Yes, we’re ready – but it’s going to be hard.

“Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Nobody said it was easy.

Originally posted 2014-10-21 13:09:53.

Ebola panic, or dying of flu?

Surprised girl in mask
No, it’s not Ebola.
But it could still kill you.

Our neighbour has Ebola. Dinkum. All the symptoms – bloodshot eyes, fever, chest pains, loss of appetite. She sends her apologies that we’re all going to die.

Or not.

Ebola Obsession

Because whatever symptoms are going, she’s always got them.

Which describes far too many of us. Too ready to panic and assume the worst. Too obsessed with the exotic to recognise the every day.

Yes, It’s the Flu

You see, these symptoms are shared not only with Ebola – but common or garden flu. Not even the imported variety like Spanish or Hong Kong – just plain old ordinary flu. With all the usual aches and pains and sniffles – we really should know better.

But familiarity breeds contempt right?

At least if we really thought it was Ebola, we might show some sense. Like stay in bed, out of circulation, and call for the Doc.

Coughs and Sneezes

Instead of toughing it out because it’s only flu – exploding with coughs and sneezes all over everybody in the Underground – and that unsympathetic bunch at the office.

More fool us, actually. Because “it’s only flu” is a dangerous attitude to have. It’s not sexy, like Ebola. But it still kills. In fact, throughout history, flu has probably killed more people than any other single affliction.

Yes, “it’s only flu” – and YOU COULD DIE.

The Winter Killer

Ever wondered why the government makes such a hoo-hah of flu jabs for the Over-65s? They’re seriously at risk – not just with advancing age – but with the growing list that all of us have of ailments acquired through the years.

Laugh it off if you dare.

If you sit with any of the “indulgence disorders” – COPD from smoking, liver problems from drinking, or any other underlying medical condition – a touch of flu could be the end of you.

Better get that sore throat, headache and constant fatigue seen to – before it escalates into something else. It doesn’t have to be full-blown pneumonia, you can peg off from flu just like that.

Reality Check

Time to wake up.

It’s not Ebola, it’s not 3,000 miles away.

It’s flu, it’s here – and you’re going down, if you don’t wise up.

Last year the Office of National Statistics put Excess Winter Deaths at 31,100 – a large chunk of them from flu.  That’s more than three times the anticipated total of the current Ebola outbreak – and it happens every year!

And another thing about flu. It lingers in the air. Circulates through air conditioning ducts.

Better do something about your daily hygiene. Because washing your hands and scrubbing down surfaces won’t help if you breathe it in.

Personal Protection

Start with something like Dettol – the aerosol disinfectant kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria including flu – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 3.

Or if Ebola-panic has really got to you, use hydrogen peroxide. The auto-robot thingy they use in hospitals and offices sends out an ionised spray that sterilises the whole place – 99,9999% of viruses and bacteria eliminated – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

By the way, it kills Ebola too. Oxidises it to pieces. So that sniffle is not what you think it is.

Bless you!

Originally posted 2014-10-20 12:13:36.

How Ebola could double your airfare

Aircraft at gate
Twenty minutes to sterilise a whole plane? And 99.9999% germ-free too.

An aircraft sits on the ground – quarantined for suspected Ebola. No confirmation or anything, a passenger just threw up on the flight.

Air sickness? Rich food? Nervous tension? Or good old norovirus?

Nobody’s taking any chances. So passengers sit to have their symptoms checked.

Time is money

And the meter is running – landing fees, apron fees, security, ground staff support, aircraft servicing, facilities supply, passengers transfers, aircraft valeting, sanitation.

At Heathrow, it could cost over £20,000 just to land. Once down, just sitting parked is around £200 an hour. None of the other fees are cheap either. You wouldn’t want them to be. Passenger safety and security is much too important.

It may be slightly cheaper at Madrid’s  Barajas airport. Where an Air France Airbus A320 landed on Thursday to be be immediately quarantined – because a passenger from Lagos was on board who displayed signs of the Ebola virus.

After getting the passengers off, a statement  by Air France said the return flight was cancelled and the aircraft would be disinfected. More time, more money.

And it’s starting to happen more and more.

Everyone in a tizz

Like Flight 1143, another Airbus A320, the Frontier Airlines aircraft on which Ebola victim Amber Vinson flew from Cleveland to Dallas on 13th October.

This one has the Americans in a total tizz. It’s been returned to service, cleaned several times following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines which themselves are vague, and now sits grounded in Cleveland – presumably awaiting major decontamination.

The same hesitation is all over – aircraft quarantined and then grounded. Emirates Flight 237 from Dubai to Boston on Monday. The KLM flight to Amsterdam from Glasgow three days ago. Another KLM flight from Amsterdam to Værnes in Norway back in August. The Gambia Bird flight from Freetown to Gatwick via Banjul the week before.

A lengthy process

It takes time to decontaminate an aircraft. And it’s a messy business. Recommended by the World Health Organisation, the preferred procedure after thorough cleaning is to seal the aircraft and admit carboxide gas – a mixture of 10% ethylene oxide and 90% carbon dioxide – pumped in under pressure and maintained at a constant temperature for 6-12 hours.

A second method involves ethylene oxide and Freon II for a similar period. Or introducing betapropiolactone in vapour form for two hours – which must be 98% pure, or it causes a sticky polymer to form on all surfaces.

But it has to be done. Though the Ebola virus can exist outside the body for only a short time, its incubation period is 21 days. During which time how many passengers came on board and what did they touch?

Do the math. Schedule an increasing number of planes through the process as Ebola cases multiply – and sooner or later, it’s going to hit your credit card.

The Nigerian alternative

Unless of course, the airlines choose to use hydrogen peroxide. Twenty minutes per aircraft and all viruses and bacteria that may have been on board are gone – a reduction of 99,9999%.

The same stuff is already being used to combat Ebola in Africa. Already more than 100 super-misting machines have been sent to Nigeria, the only country which can claim to have brought the outbreak under control.

Let’s hope the airlines are watching – before our fares go through the roof.

Originally posted 2014-10-17 15:06:15.

SWAT teams for Ebola as world markets catch a cold

SWAT Team Assault
High-risk bugs like Ebola stand everyday hygiene on its head

America has hit the panic button with Ebola.

Last night President Obama directed the US Center for Disease Control to send out rapid response SWAT teams to any hospital reporting patients displaying signs of the virus within 24 hours.

Taking chances

The entire system is clearly in a scramble as pictures emerge of an unidentified man with a clipboard fussing round Ebola victim Amber Vinson on her way to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

His only protection against Ebola? He’s out there in shirt-sleeves.

World-wide wheelspin

Such wheelspin and confusion quickly hit international markets, already reeling from pension fund and other losses . The Dow Jones fell 1.64% to 16047.88 – accelerated by a CDC statement that it was not clear how Miss Vinson had contracted Ebola.

Watch the panic snowball. Alongside Ebola, it’s the start of flu season. Up to 20% of Americans are likely to be affected, with as many as 200,000 needing hospital treatment.

Atishoo!

And here’s the scary bit. In the first week, flu symptoms are similar to Ebola’s – fever and fatigue. Already monitored at major airports, if too many sneezes happen on transcontinental flights over the next few months, the health system could go into meltdown.

But that’s just part of it. Already the World Health Organisation put the possible death toll from Ebola at 10,000 by December. Over-reacting politicians are contributing to international dread.

Over-reacting?

Lost in today’s Ebola-surge is a side report from Ghana, neighbour to the Ivory Coast which suffered an Ebola outbreak in 1994. Eight students at the Atebubu Teachers College of Education in the Brong Ahafo have died of cholera.

And cholera is way more scary.

First, it kills within hours, not weeks. Second, it’s highly contagious. According to the World Health Organisation, there are up to 5 million cases and 120,000 deaths every year.

The upside

The difference is that it’s treatable.

But so is Ebola BEFORE it infects anyone.

Like most viruses and bacteria – cholera too – Ebola is defenceless against being oxidised. Health authorities may be swamped handling existing cases – but they can prevent more by sterilising treatment areas with hydrogen peroxide or other oxidisers before patients are admitted.

It won’t cure the patients. But it will raise the resistance threshold for medics, care workers and support staff already risking their lives.

Safer at home

It will do the same thing too at your local supermarket, eliminating germs and odours.

Except that according to President Obama, the likelihood of a widespread Ebola outbreak is “very, very low.” So don’t expect your local Tesco to go spraying the place just yet.

Better go with the paracetamol then. And hope that an effective wide-scale treatment for Ebola can be found soon.

 

Originally posted 2014-10-16 12:47:48.

How Ebola could save your life

Operating theatre
Why die, when you don’t need to?

It’s the panic of the moment – and that’s why.

For the first time in forever, people are concerned about their level of daily hygiene. And they’re right to be scared.

There’s a huge difference between the daily shower and brushing your teeth to the full-body bio-hazard protection suits worn by Ebola care-medicos.

It is a good parallel though. Day-to-day, we go through life without any protection – constantly surrounded by billions of microbes, many as deadly as Ebola.

A recent BBC report cites “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the world’s deadliest to date.”  Deadliest among Ebola outbreaks, that is.

Not a new disease

There were others: in 1976 (Sudan, Zaire and 1 isolated case in UK), 1977 (Zaire), 1979 (Sudan), 1989 (Philippines), 1990 (USA – 4 cases caught from monkeys in quarantine), 1994 (Gabon and Ivory Coast), 1995 (Zaire),1996 (Gabon and South Africa), 1997 (Gabon), 2000 (Uganda), 2001 (Gabon and Congo Republic), 2002 (Congo Republic,  2003 (Congo Republic), 2004 (Sudan and 1 case in Russia from laboratory contamination), 2007 Congo Republic, 2008 (Uganda and Philippines), 2009 (Congo Republic), 2012 (Uganda and Congo Republic), 2013 (current outbreak – Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, United States and Spain).

But Ebola is by no means the deadliest. In the Fourteenth Century, mortality from The Plague was 95%. In the Twentieth, 300 million people died from smallpox. Every year, 100,000 people die from cholera. Anthrax, once inhaled kills 93% of victims. HIV/AIDS kills 80% and upwards if untreated. There are plenty of others. Spanish Flu, for instance, which killed 50 million people at the end of World War One.

And that’s why people are scared.

With so many dread diseases out there, what protection do we have?

The body at risk

Against direct contact, not a lot – physical touching, exposure to body fluids, contamination from coughing and sneezing, an open wound. Once any germ gets INSIDE the body, you are at risk. Which means care and consideration in our relationships with others never goes away.

But look at the Ebola protection suits. They’re out of body protection – admittedly against extremes.

Out of body protection

Day-to-day it’s a lot easier. Because on top of all the cleaning and janitorial we routinely do, there are varying degrees of sanitising and sterilising we can apply.

Most of us use disinfectants or have them handy in the event of hazard. Bleaching agents are also a tried and tested way of getting rid of germs. Unfortunately they only work on surfaces.
Because slowly but surely, the world is waking up to the reality that ALL Infection can be airborne.

But we’re not dead yet.

There’s a whole stack of ways to clobber pathogens in the air – viruses and bacteria both, including Ebola. All of which destroy their actual cell structures so they cannot survive.

Our pathogen defence weapons

Most effective of these is undoubtedly ozone, which kills by oxidising – shoving oxygen atoms at the microorganism and ripping their cells to shreds.

The downside is, it’s too powerful. Though it’s like oxygen with one extra atom, ozone is poisonous. It kills germs, yes. It also kills people. Which means wherever it is used, the place has to be evacuated first.

That is of course, ozone in its natural concentration. In milder doses, it’s used extensively as a kind of room freshener, particularly effective at getting rid of odours – which are in turn caused by germs. An effective defence against sick building syndrome and keeping infections at bay in old age homes.

Hydrogen peroxide is another effective oxidiser. It sterilises an average room in as little as twenty minutes. And as reported extensively in the fight against Ebola, ultraviolet generators are in increasing use, particularly in American hospitals.

We’re not yet at the stage where every home has an oxidiser. But it’s coming. Expect to see all of these defences in increasing use in the near future – in hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants, public transport – everywhere the people come together in large groups.

Ebola is dangerous. It’s also a life-saving wake-up call – to do something about our hygiene defences.

Originally posted 2014-10-14 12:22:48.

Ebola, pshaw! With all these antibiotic-resistant bio-nasties around, you could die from a paper cut

Woman in gasmask
You can run – and you can hide –
but you can’t stop taking precautions

No good hiding under the bed. The germs will get you there too.

Because washing hands is only the start. If we’re all going to survive, our whole hygiene habit needs a big re-think.

Like, what have you got in the house that kills germs?

Bleach? Disinfectant? Puh-leeze!

Against the kind of viruses and bacteria we have lurking around these days, they don’t even feel it.

And yes, you’re scared about Ebola. But you should be just as worried at catching the flu.

What does that poster in your doctor’s surgery say? “Unfortunately, no amount of antibiotics will get rid of your cold.”

They won’t work on a lot of other things either. Ebola is one. MRSA is another – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – a 9-to-5 germ that lives here in good old UK.

And if you’re not worried, your doctor is.

Because now there’s a whole stack of illnesses he can’t treat you for because the drugs don’t work any more. The whole medical profession is faced with going back to the Nineteenth Century. Maybe not leeches and blood-letting, but still pretty clunky.

But don’t just worry, do something.

Think twice about everything you do, and don’t take chances. That Spanish nurse in Madrid? All she did was wipe her face with her surgical glove. Ebola misses nothing.

Better yet, hike up your bio-resistance threshold.

Your bio-wha…?

Your bio-resistance threshold – your germ defence, the force field around you that protects you, your anti-germ shield.

OK, there’s not much you can do about that in the open – though with winds and breezes around blowing everything away, most of the time we’re safe enough.

Indoors though, is where we are most of the time. And with winter coming, we’re all set to pass on infections one to another. Kids in school. Colleagues at the office. If there’s a bug going around, we’re all going to get it.

But not if we’re smart.

Because right now it’s possible to sterilise the entire room you’re in in around ten minutes flat – the walls, the furniture, the floor, the space you move around in. No viruses, no bacteria, no anything. Every trace of a germ, gone.

It won’t get rid of the cold you’ve got. But it will lower the chances of anyone else getting it. Or you going down with the tummy twinges THEY had, lingering in the air from yesterday.

The quick way to do it, is with an aerosol can of ammonium chloride. Hit the button, mist the place up, germs gone in ten. Any viruses or bacteria are destroyed by being oxidised. You’re safe.

Thing is though, it’s like brushing your teeth. You have to do it regularly. Miss a day and the germs pile up. Because don’t forget, each of us is walking around in a cloud of maybe 3.5 million microorganisms – germs – every moment of every day.

But like we said, don’t worry, there’s also a cheaper, better way – almost two thirds cheaper – and 100,000 times better.

Trundle in that wheelie-bin-sized auto-robot and press the button. It releases a super-fine mist of hydrogen peroxide, oxidising germs just like ammonium chloride. But way more efficiently – 99.9999% – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

And sterile means sterile. It knocks out germs by shoving oxygen atoms at them. Out in the open instead of munching away inside your nice warm body, they cannot survive.  They are dead, killed, annihilated, destroyed, eliminated, sent to oblivion. All viruses and bacteria.

And because Ebola is a virus, it will be gone too – if it was ever there in the first place. Along with all this winter’s crop of the usual bio-villains – MRSA, E. coli, norovirus and Clostridium difficile.

Breathe easy?

You can. But you’d better keep watching for those paper cuts. You may not get an infection – but they still hurt like hell.

Originally posted 2014-10-10 12:38:30.

Welcome aboard! Gasp, is that Ebola sitting next to you?

Plane passengers
Let’s hope Ebola hasn’t got a ticket

Er, probably not.

Unless it’s an actual person who is infected.

But the actual virus, lurking in the cabin from an earlier flight? Hopefully not, though it’s getting to be a headache for the airlines.

You see, when you’re up there at 36,000 feet, you really are pretty safe. That air you’re breathing is totally refreshed 20 times an hour. Better still, it’s filtered and purified.

Running continuously under the floor is a set of hospital grade high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters – very effective at trapping microscopic particles like viruses and bacteria.

Because don’t believe that myth about aeroplane flu. If you get the sniffles, it’s more likely that the air is cold and dry – so that’s your mucous membranes  compensating.

So it’s not around while you’re flying.

Different on the ground though, when the aircraft powers down and the aircon goes off. That air is from exiting passengers. As your nose can sometimes tell you – if the turnaround’s a quick one and somebody forgets the air freshener.

And yes, you’re quite right – an air freshener won’t stop Ebola.

But hydrogen peroxide will.

Misted up so it fills the cabin, it takes out bacteria and viruses by oxidising them. They can’t survive the extra oxygen atoms, so their cell structure disintegrates. Bye, bye bad guys like Ebola.

Because it’s not just in the air that the hydrogen peroxide works. It settles on the seat backs, cushions, grab handles and tray tables. Zaps any germs that might be sitting there too.

Right now though, there aren’t too many airlines using the stuff. They’ve never needed to – and any vapour generating systems they might know about are big and clunky – massive trucks, manoeuvring on the ground. Not cheap or quick, either.

That may change real soon. Especially if health authorities start putting aircraft in quarantine. And not just parking in a remote part of the airport either – a complete lockdown for however long it takes.

Real quarantine.

Forty days that used to mean, when the word was first used back in the Fourteenth Century. From the Italian quaranta giorni – the time a ship would be isolated to prevent the spread of Black Death – a nightmare twice as deadly as Ebola will ever be.

But what airline can afford a fleet of multi-million pound Boeings, sitting going nowhere?

Especially when a couple of cans of aerosol ammonium chloride can do an emergency mist up in around half an hour?

Or a hospital-type auto-robot can be hauled aboard to do the same thing with IONISED hydrogen peroxide? Ten times more efficient than the vapour job – and done in half an hour at a cost of around a tenner.

A couple more scares and what’s not to like?

99.9999% germ reduction. No more Ebola. Gone.

So no, that’s not Ebola sitting next to you. Or MRSA, c. difficile, HIV, bird flu, norovirus – or any one of possibly thousands of bio-nasties.

More likely it’s the start of an on-board romance. Or a business deal. Or that well-deserved holiday that you owe yourself.

Enjoy the flight.

Originally posted 2014-10-08 12:33:33.

If soap won’t hold against Ebola, should we burn the place down?

Burning HouseThey didn’t have soap when the world-wide Plague first hit in 1348.

Not unless you were landed gentry and brought the stuff back from Italy or France.

Nobody knew about hygiene or anything, so if you caught the Plague it was a death sentence.

Ebola is a virus.

The Plague was, and is, a bacterium – yersinia pestis. It’s still alive today in various parts of the world – like the south-western US.

And way more deadly.

Virulent as it is, the World Health Organisation puts the average survival rate from Ebola at 50%.

But if you come down with the pneumonic form of the Plague, you’d be lucky to make it at all. Mortality averages at 95% or higher. No wonder they called it the Black Death.

Today of course, we know about hygiene and keeping things clean. Which means controlling vermin and their parasites too – ie, the bacteria-carrying fleas on the rats that brought the Plague to Europe throughout the Fourteenth Century.

Half of Europe died in that first pandemic. And again, right through to the Seventeenth Century.

No soap, no hygiene – so Britain was ravaged repeatedly.

Until the Great Fire of London stopped it dead in its tracks.

By which time Black Death had killed half the people.

Up to 7,000 a week died in the months leading up to that catastrophic blaze.

Which made burning it all down one of the biggest hygiene levellers in history.

So should we get out the matches to stop Ebola?

Surprisingly, good plain old soap and keeping ourselves clean stops a lot of bugs getting to us already. Without dirt and slovenly habits, even Ebola finds it more difficult to get traction.

But just as people were ignorant about germ defence in the Fourteenth Century, so our heads are in the sand about serious protection in the Twenty-First.

Ebola can be stopped, totally – before it even gets to us.

Because like all viruses and bacteria, it cannot survive being oxidised.

OK, we can’t exactly fumigate the whole planet.

But we can mist up enclosed spaces – especially where larger numbers of us congregate – office buildings, schools, hotels, restaurants.

And the super-oxidiser that works is hydrogen peroxide.

Right now, we have the machines and the know-how to mist places up.

Ionising them as it happens, to boost spread and reach. With an electrostatic charge, so it reaches out and grabs germs as it finds them, ripping their cell structure to bits.

Slightly more effective than soap.

And less devastating than reaching for the matches.

You’re still right to be worried about Ebola.

But before anything happens, it IS possible to do something about it.

Originally posted 2014-10-07 11:54:22.

Help, my love-life is killing me!

Lovers breakupTruer than you know.

Ask any teenager. The angst, the gut-wrenching roller-coaster as moods switch, anxieties kick in and self-esteem goes through the floorboards.

Any idea what that does to your body system?

Read the signs – accelerated pulse, irregular breathing, acid stomach, deprived or reduced sleep.

Yeah, OK – we all know the score.

But the symptoms are real. The body’s equilibrium is out of balance and the whole metabolism is at hazard.

Why? Because the threshold is down – the ability to resist viruses and bacteria. The resilience to do things. The strength to stand up to the world. Emotional meltdown.

Perfect for germs to attack – and they do.

Look no further than your nearest TV soap. Just about every love story recognises that downcast lovers can sicken and die.

But they don’t die of love. They die of flu, or gastro, or some usually harmless nuisance bug. Struck down by their own defencelessness.

Young, strong, fully able-bodied – that’s why such losses are a tragedy.

Because once you get beyond say 25 or 30, none of that applies any more. You’re no longer a spring chicken. Injuries or accidents have left their mark. Breathing in all those fumes at work hasn’t helped either.

As your Doc might say, you have “an underlying medical condition.”

IOW – a germ entry-point.

And pretty well all of us have weaknesses of some kind or other. Yet we rattle around happily through life – unaware of the billions and billions of germs that always surround us – that are always ready for the opportunity to invade and damage us.

Yeah, maybe we wash our hands now and then – never as often as we should. And of course we try to keep our surroundings  clean and fresh – wiping and vacuuming, with the occasional scrub.

Yet in the air around us – dragging it around, kind of like our own personal bio-aura – there might be as many as 3.5 million viruses and bacteria to every cubic metre.

Which means if you’re average height – say 1.7 metres – you could be surrounded by upwards of 30 million germs. And that’s just you, by yourself.

Slightly different out in public. Like in the Underground during the rush hour, stuck between stations. Three hundred people in a carriage. Is it any wonder that our “underlying medical condition” makes us want to pull a sickie?

So where is our body armour, our force-field, our invisible barrier against these bio-attacks? Is it just the body’s natural immune threshold and that’s it?

Ulp!

Actually there is a defence – and a mighty good one too.

To sterilise the air around us and everything it touches. Oxidise all viruses and bacteria into oblivion before they can get to us.

Ozone will do it. So will hydrogen peroxide. Ammonium chloride. And a very few of those cleaners and bleaches that work by releasing oxygen.

But walk into a room after one of these things has been in action and the place can be pretty well sterile. Down to three germs per million air particles in a hospital operating room. Or in your own office if you like. Ten minutes misting up the place should do it fine.

Not quite so easy to fall in love with, of course.

But it’s reassuring to know you won’t die.

Originally posted 2014-10-06 14:34:39.

There’s something in the air – and it could kill you

Man staring at bulletIt’s deadlier than a bullet too. Because it hits even when it misses.

Click on your TV and everybody’s in a panic about the ebola virus possibly becoming airborne.

Reality check, right there.

If you cast your mind back to the last time you saw pictures of a hurricane, you’ll quickly realise that ANYTHING can be airborne – buildings, people, sixteen-wheelers, livestock.

So how exactly can a microbe that is just a millionth of the size of the head of a pin be anything but?

One little waft of air will do it. Not even a puff. Get the right wind and it can blow right round the world. That’s how birds wind up on deserted islands. Or spiders from Argentina get to Antarctica every year.

“Possibly airborne?”

Don’t hold your breath. Because if the ebola cells that land on your clothing are concentrated enough, you’re already at risk. If they get inside you, you’re in trouble.

OK, pretend they’re mosquitoes. They’re buzzing around almost invisible, trying to bite you, right?

Buzzing around IN THE AIR. Just like ebola – only you can’t see ebola without a microscope.

Mosquitoes are easy. You grab a can of bug-spray and zap them. Fffffff-ttt! in the air.

Take them down before they take you. No bites, no itching. No worst-case scenario – malaria.

Same thing with ebola. Take down those microbes in the air – before they can get to you. Zap them out of existence.

How? By oxidising them, of course.

Because – surprise, surprise – we’ve known since the Nineteenth Century that no germ can survive having oxygen atoms shoved at it.

Since 1818, when French chemist Louis-Jacques Thenard discovered hydrogen peroxide.

That’s right. Spray the air and everything around with hydrogen peroxide and that ebola  virus is gone. Oblivionsville.

And so is every other bug in the air with it – MRSA, e. coli, c.difficile,  HIV, the whole stinking lot of them.

Which is another clue right there. When a germ infects you, it stinks. That’s your body rotting – turning into some disgusting goo so the germs can eat you.

But when you kill germs, the smells are gone. They can’t eat you, ‘cos they’re dead.

So yes, there’s something in the air.

Remember that next time a load of dust blows into your face.

That there’s billions and billions of nasty microbe thingies in there too. Ebola’s not the only one that’s deadly.

But as long as your body’s defence threshold is good – you’ve slept, you’ve eaten, you’re not drunk, you haven’t taken drugs – you should hold up OK.

Because now you can strike back, with something in the air of your own.

“Possibly airborne?”

It doesn’t have to be a problem.

Originally posted 2014-10-03 12:27:24.