Category Archives: Issues

Sick on holiday: fake claim or genuine, why it’s usually your fault

Fake travel sickness
Yes, we can be unlucky – but with food poisoning we’re most of us red-handed

Fake claims are in the news lately.

Food poisoning, mostly.

Massive demands that backfire as travel firms put up a fight. Big penalties too.

£25K for a woman in Wales.

An upcoming dispute already topping £52K for a family in Liverpool.

Not the holiday bonanza anyone was hoping for. And bad for all of us, fake claims like these are on the rise.

Yeah well, with in-your-face “ambulance-chasers” tempting us to make get-rich-quick claims right there on our sun-loungers, we ought to expect hotels and travel companies to play hardball.

Sure, being ill on holiday is the pits and feels like the end of the world. But if it’s really genuine and LOOKS LIKE IT, as long as we get medical help and advise our accommodation people immediately, there should be no problem.

Fake claim, false blame

It is after all, not easy to fake high temperature, body sweats, continuous vomiting and diarrhoea.

That said though, there’s still the awkward reality that it’s most likely our own fault.

Why?

Because food poisoning is basically all about contamination. We ingest germs with whatever we eat, our bodies react, we get sick.

And our own hands – which go everywhere and do everything – are the most contaminated of all.

Not that we want to accept that.

When food poisoning strikes, we usually blame (or our solicitors do):

  • Kitchen staff not washing THEIR hands in preparing food
  • Dirty kitchen utensils
  • Mix-ups of raw and cooked meat
  • Food prepared in a dirty environment
  • Hazardous chemicals (like cleaning agents) contaminating food
Hygiene from hell

But we’re not so goody-goody ourselves. Even when we’re at home, our hygiene record is scary.

On holiday, it’s even worse.

Because, think about it – we’re out and about, doing stuff. Who wants to stop and wash hands?

On the go all the time, we’re trying to maximise our experience. In a few days, we’ll have to fly home again.

So we’re up at sparrow’s tweet and never let up. Rushing here, cruising there – no chance to even think of washing hands. And often with nowhere to do so, even if we wanted to.

Uh huh.

So whatever it is, lunch or dinner, there’s often a whole day in front of sitting down at table. And our hands have touched everything imaginable on the way.

Down the hatch – oooh!

And guess what?

Few of us are in the 12% of hand washers, so we just sit there and scoff.

And because it’s holiday, odds are likely that we’re eating straight with our hands.

Burgers, pizza, wraps, sandwiches, fish and chips, kebabs, ice creams – they’re all feelgood holiday favourites we can’t get enough of.

So it’s down the hatch and licking our fingers, with nary a thought about clean anything – unless our hands are VISIBLY dirty. Fake confidence.

Four hours later – ooh, I don’t feel so good.

Now whatever it is kicks in and ruins the holiday.

Norovirus, salmonella, campylobacter, e.coli, c.difficile – they all give us the runs and have us spewing our guts out.

But don’t worry. That nice man at the poolside said just get a chemist’s receipt for Imodium and you can claim it all back – EasyJet, care hire, the hotel, everything.

Reputation management

Yeah, right.

One finger pointing, three others pointing back.

For a hotel or restaurant to fall down on hygiene is bad news – even in darkest Peru.

There’s reputation at stake, a licence to lose, a whole livelihood to go down the tubes.

Which means sure, slip-ups happen. But they’re not the norm.

Unless we’ve lucked onto a place teeming with cockroaches and unlikely to pass ANY inspection short of a shutdown, it’s usually our own fault.

Which is dumb when you think about it, because it’s the easiest thing in the world to carry antibacterial wipes or gel. In our handbag or pocket, it goes where we go – our hands can always be safe from germs.

Plus before  we start pointing fingers, most food places are pretty strict about their own standards of hygiene. Tourists bring money, so you can bet everything that can be cleaned will be. Wiped down with bleach, swept, polished and vacuumed within an inch of its life.

In some places, even clobbered with hydrogen peroxide mist to take out ALL the germs. No chance we can fake our way out of that.

Walk in there and the whole place is sterilised. Any hint of food poisoning and they’d probably string us up.

OK, we’re getting itchy feet. Already packed for next week. Passports and boarding passes at the ready.

Got the hand wipes and the gel?

No need to fake anything, just have a good time.

Health alert: those black mould marks could cost you thousands

Mould accuse
Mould in the workplace is a whole can of worms

So what? Mould marks are everywhere. This is Britain, for heck’s sake – it rains.

Sure it rains. But not inside.

Mould and damp conditions are unhealthy as you can get. For your staff and your balance sheet.

A full house of trouble. Sick building syndrome, asthma, colds, flu, rheumatism, pneumonia. Outbreaks over and over again, accelerating as the mould gets worse.

The paying starts – and never stops

Staff off sick, productivity down the plughole, profits plunging – feelgood become feelbad.

And even worse once the council finds out. Health & Safety people all over you, building inspectors ripping up the walls, dragging days in court.

Then the fines.

How much could you be in for?

Depends.

Could be a one-off £5K fine.

Or the whole deal. Sickness compensation, absentee costs, insurance claims, nasty.

And all on your watch.

Duty of care

Like we said yesterday with legionnaire’s disease, it’s your duty to protect staff against hazards.

And believe us, mould might look like nothing – but those ugly black marks can kill as effectively as any bullet.

All it needs is an underlying complication. Respiratory problems, a weak heart – if your staff member dies, it could even be manslaughter.

Or you could leave it be.

Do nothing and let exposure for healthy staff rack up. Until one day, they have an underlying complication of their own. Or maybe it’s you, lying on oxygen in ICU, wondering if you’ll ever get your life back.

Wet, wet, wet – moisture is the enemy

OK, so do something.

But before you rush off and call in the steam cleaners, remember mould thrives when it’s warm and wet.

So here’s a few no-go words to keep in mind.

Wet, vapour, humidity, condensation, moisture and steam equals mould, respiratory problems and legionella.

Sure, you might get the stuff off the walls. But the lasting moisture accelerates it coming back.

And not just mould, but other pathogens. Viruses, bacteria. Get the place wet, and you’re opening a restaurant for them.

Which means you’ve got to go dry.

Besides, who wants moisture dripping on cables in the IT suite? Or getting into documents, come to that. Crinkled paper, water marks, pages sticking together. Not so easy to look professional.

Wake the tiger

Only one thing for it.

Ionised hydrogen peroxide in an ultra-fine mist. A mild 6% solution that doesn’t need lots of water to help it disperse. So it sits, light and agile in the air, not really wet at all.

A sleeping tiger that wakens to pounce.

Ionising makes it aggressively disperse in all directions. Hard up against all surfaces, probing deep into inaccessible places, clawing through the air itself.

Which means germs don’t stand a chance, including mould. Ionised particles seize them like prey, ripping them to pieces by oxidising their cells.

Look again, and those ugly black marks have turned to grey. Nobody home any more. So with almost no effort, they brush easily away.

No smell either – the usual sign of pathogens at work. All stopped now, the place is sterile.

End of the feelbad.

All germs gone, now for the cause

The place is dry too. No moisture to encourage a comeback. The stuff evaporates to nothing.

Job done.

At least, for now.

Because the mould might be gone, but not the cause.

That leaky roof or busted pipe needs fixing fast, or it will be back again.

And sure, you can keep hitting the place with hydrogen peroxide, your staff will always be safe.

But that won’t get the council off your back. Or the Health & Safety brigade.

Fix the problem, or they WILL hit you.

Like they did with these guys. Leaky pipe, occupational asthma, £12,000 compensation PLUS six months building work to make good.

Not worth the PT – and who wants that kind of black mark against them?

Why your biggest threat to business is one you can’t see

Blindfolded businesswoman
Blind to the risks – just because we can’t SEE germs doesn’t mean they’re not there

Can’t see it – and possibly don’t even know that it exists.

But one just like it recently killed two people and hospitalised 21 others – landing discount warehouse JTF Wholesale with a £1 million fine, plus £200,000 in damages.

They were lucky it didn’t cost them jail sentences – for negligence contributing to manslaughter.

And why couldn’t they see it?

Because a single cell of the bacteria that caused this tragedy – legionella pneumophila, known more commonly as legionnaire’s disease – is only 3 microns across. Invisible to the naked eye without 10,000 times microscope magnification.

It was lurking in a hot tub on display, waiting for customers to prey on. The tub hadn’t been used for weeks, allowing the bacteria to grow – spreading through the air as soon as it was turned on.

Anywhere, any time, germs are waiting

Which is all it takes to spread legionella anywhere – a water system that stands still for a few days, or even hours. Like hot water systems for showers and central heating. Or holding tanks for air conditioning systems.

Basically any business premises – office or shop.

And by law it is the duty of any management to ensure that staff and employees are protected from exposure to this deadly killer.

Bet you didn’t know that – but it’s there.

And ignorantia juris non excusat – ignorance of the law is no excuse.

You ARE obliged to provide protection from germs – part of your duty of care.

Check out the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA), the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).

Fail to ensure your people are safe and a £1 million fine is not impossible. It’s happened before. Last year, G4S Cash Solutions was fined £1.8 million for similarly putting people at risk.

Out of money, out of business

Big bucks. Enough to put even rock solid companies well and truly out of business.

But that’s only the beginning of what invisible germs are already costing you – if only you knew it. Threats you can’t see, chomping away at your bottom line.

For a start, business experts PwC put absenteeism – days off sick from work – at £29 BILLION.

But more realistically, germs cost 10 TIMES MORE than that in presenteeism – people struggling to work while still unwell.

And it’s not just legionella.

In any unprotected business, staff and customers have all kinds of other germs to cope with. From everyday colds and flu, or tummy bugs like norovirus – to serious illnesses like e.coli, clostridium difficile, campylobacter and MRSA. All superbugs that cannot be treated by antibiotics.

And all costing THOUSANDS right now without really realising it. The price of accepting illness as a fact of life – instead of doing something about it.

Get out of jail free

Because it’s all fixable for very little effort or expense – including legionella.

OK, with legionella, you DO need to know what you’re doing, so you’re best off consulting the experts.

But for pretty well everything else, a daily mist up of ionised hydrogen peroxide is all it takes to remove ALL viruses and bacteria. Easily handled by your existing cleaning service or your own facilities management team.

You can’t see it working apart from the mist. But you can tell it has.

Any smells that were lingering in your premises are now gone. And any trace of mould has now turned from black to grey – dead cells ready to be swept away.

Still can’t see it?

Ask your bank

Wait till you check your bank balance and productivity levels.

Fewer absences, fewer underperformances from staff unwell at work. More enthusiasm, more commitment to succeed. Greater support from customers and suppliers.

Worth a bob or two, no?

And you’d have to be blind not to see it.

Buttons, touchscreens, and how we take our lives in our hands every day

Girls texting
Your touchscreen doesn’t lie – those greasy smears are dirt and germs right off your fingers

Ever seen what touchscreens look like after making a call?

Smeared with facial oils, make-up, hair grease and street dirt.

And that’s just the stuff you can see.

It’s not just touchscreens that are like that either.

It’s everything. Mostly with stuff we can’t see.

But it’s there, though.

Surrounded by yuck

Along with a whole lot of other gunk. Gubbins from somebody’s burger. Dust. Atmospheric grime. Faecal traces. And germs like you can’t believe – e.coli, klebsiella pneumoniae, salmonella, MRSA, norovirus – all the nasties.

And not just there either.

On lift buttons – especially at the Ground Floor, the one that gets pressed most.

On cash machine keypads.

And all the things in our pockets or handbags – money, keys, wallet, cleanser, hairbrush, everything.

Which if you think about it, means our actual bags as well. And everything outside them too. Laden with germs even though we can’t see them.

But we’re touching them all the time. Handrails, door handles, light switches, shopping trolleys – every one of them like our touchscreens, except there’s no shiny glass to show it up.

All of them things that seldom, if ever, get cleaned. Which is why they’re twenty, thirty, and forty times more germ-laden than a toilet seat. Because at least a toilet seat gets cleaned once a day.

So ask yourself, when was the last time any of us cleaned the inside of our leather handbags?

Or our hands themselves, come to that?

Looks are deceiving

They might not LOOK dirty, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t.

Especially after that chicken wrap for lunch with the dreamy mayonnaise topping. As our touchscreen will show, if we don’t lick our fingers off afterwards. Can’t find a tissue? Well, never mind.

And it goes on from there.

The gunk we can’t see on our desks at work, growing daily on the bits our sleeves haven’t wiped off. Hiding among the dust bunnies under our computer keyboards. Feeding off the crumbs of biscuits and the snacks we eat al desko.

And all the while – touching all these things and picking up fragments of everything that’s on them –  none of us ever think of washing our hands.

Our hands – which do everything, and go everywhere.

Like unconsciously touching our faces, every two or three minutes – sometimes up to three thousand times a day. Playing with our mouth, or fiddling with our eyes – the sensitive soft tissue through which most infections enter the body.

Playing games with our lives when there’s germs all around. GERMS, GERMS, GERMS.

Yes well, let all these touchscreens remind us. Before we take a tissue to them, or wipe them off on our sleeves. We don’t even need to take a memo. Those smear marks on the glass mean our health is at hazard – and we need to wash our hands NOW.

Phew, safe for the moment – but now we can’t touch anything, including our own touchscreens. Not unless we clean the gunk off that too.

Better hygiene or else

Which means everything if we want to be safe. Everything we use, everything we touch – and everything surrounding them. The air itself too, because anything as small as a germ can go airborne any second – and ride around on room currents for the whole of the day.

Uh huh. So we’ve got to wash the room too. Or whatever shared space we’re in. Restaurant, coffee shop, bar, schoolroom, office – or car, train and bus, come to that.

Not practical with mop and bucket, right? And besides, how do you wash the air?

Ah, but dirt and grime we can live with – we have so far, it’s just the germs we’ve got to handle.

OK, so the trick is to neutralise them with ionised hydrogen peroxide mist. The stuff reaches everywhere and eliminates them on contact. No need to rub and scrub, just press a button. Forty minutes later – all surfaces, the air itself – the whole place is sterile.

Better haul out our touchscreens and write that memo now. The one to ourselves about not taking chances and protecting our lives from germs.

Do it now before we clean forget. Or we’re sick of having to take MORE medicine.

Picture Copyright: gpointstudio / 123RF Stock Photo

Next stop, Queasy Tummy and Norovirus – hold on tight please

Two girls on tube
Yes, hold on tight. But don’t touch anything else – and make sure your hands are clean afterwards. You life could depend on it.

Hold on? We don’t think so.

Be super careful, more like. OCD like your life depends on it.

Which it does.

Especially if you’re not carrying disposable gloves, antibacterial gel or hand wipes.

Because after our blog of yesterday,  it seems germs on the Underground are far more of a threat than we think – as this mind-boggling post from Dr Ed demonstrates.

Too many germs, too easy to touch

Not surprising with 5 million passengers a day.

All crammed in tight, breathing the same air, hanging on to the same poles and grab handles. And all with the same dodgy hygiene habits:

Yeah, right.

Dirty hands touching dirty things, is it any wonder we’re always coming down with something?

121 different kinds of viruses and bacteria – according to research commissioned by insurance experts,  Staveley Head. 9 of them superbugs – potentially lethal killers that doctors can no longer treat with antibiotics.

Catching a bug on the tube and taking it to work. Falling ill and having to call it in. And probably passing it round to colleagues while doing so.

And all at ENORMOUS expense

It’s that kind of exposure that contributes to the £29 billion a year that sick leave costs the country.

And even worse than that, the 10 TIMES MORE it costs in unwell people coming to work anyway and toughing it out. £290 billion and counting.

£319 billion that adds up to. Enough to bankroll the NHS a whopping TWO AND A HALF TIMES over.

Or closer to home, individual organisations can get a hold on their own costs here.

Staggering, right?

Yet what do we do about it?

All that money and people bleat about cuts.

When all the time there is money for the taking – £319 billion if we play our cards right – just by ramping up our hygiene.

Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene

Like washing hands properly and often – as the folks at Northampton Hospital have been telling us for the last five years.

And like doing something to get rid of those germs. Hold everything – stop the exposure, stop the illnesses, stop all that money going down the drain.

Which means time to say, “Hold it, enough.”

Because it IS possible to eliminate germs pretty well completely. They’ll come back of course, they always do. But just like brushing our teeth, it is possible to be safe and protected every day – in the workplace, on the tube, in fact anywhere there is an enclosed space.

All it takes is regular treatment with ionised hydrogen peroxide, and the problem goes away.

ALL viruses, ALL bacteria, ALL parasites, ALL mould – end of the line, gone.

So come on people, don’t put up with it any more. Right now, the average is that we’ll all feel off-colour in some way or other every three days. Aren’t we all heartily sick of it?

Already the tube people have gone far enough to worry about air quality and do something about that. So when are they going to get a hold on the germ issue?

Let’s hope we don’t need an epidemic first.

Picture Copyright: william87 / 123RF Stock Photo

Now deadly superbugs resist disinfectants too

Biohazard team
Disinfect all you like – once germs resist, nowhere is safe

It’s our own fault really. Teaching bugs how to resist. Believe it or not, by having a go with disinfectants too often.

Too often, or too carelessly?

Because bacteria are survivors, see? They’ve been on this planet longer than any other living thing. So they can cope with extremes. Acid environments, polluted with metals.  Even boiling water.

Which makes resisting disinfectants a bit of a doddle.

Slap-happy routine

Especially when disinfectants come at them every day.  Routine same-old, everybody’s used to it – plenty of slap-happy mistakes.

Not properly applied, so bits get missed. Not strong enough, so not all are killed. Not exposed for long enough, so even more escape.  And always repetitive, so they know what’s coming.

More of the same, get ready. And not all of them are dead from last time.

Not dead, and not driven out –  every time they get stronger. Better able to resist. More used to defending themselves.

Plus, if it gets too hard to resist, they get clever.

Like going up against bleach – the one substance bacteria has a problem with, because it oxidises them.

But not a problem if the bleach is too weak, or not left on for long enough.

Billions of years of being clever

A couple of capfuls in a bucket of water makes a solution that’s not nearly strong enough. And the usual wipe-on, wipe-off won’t leave it there nearly long enough – bleach takes 30 minutes exposure time to be sure of a kill.

Plus, bacteria can live with the smell, even if we humans can’t. The rest is just outlasting the stuff. Ensuring there are enough bacteria around to keep going.

Not a problem when you can regenerate yourself quickly. E. coli for instance – including its deadly O157 variant – can replicate itself every 20 minutes.  If a batch get wiped out, they’re easily back at strength in just hours.

The other trick is to hide behind biofilms – hard-to-remove slime that protects bacteria from contact with the bleach.

Or to unfold a heat-shock protein, Hsp33, which binds and protects other proteins from harm, helping the bacteria to survive.

All of which means, if you’re going to disinfect something, do it properly.

Life’s a bleach – or not

Use bleach, slap it on thick and leave it there for 30 minutes or more. Not always that simple as bleach attacks metals, particularly stainless steel. Your nose will tell you it’s pretty corrosive to other substances too.

Otherwise, you’re teaching the bacteria to resist. Giving it an immunity to further disinfectants used against it in the future. AND teaching it antibiotic resistance as well.

Or there is an easier solution – which no bacteria can resist, no matter what. No viruses or fungi either.

Simply mist the place up with ionised hydrogen peroxide.

Electrostatically charged, the stuff reaches everywhere. Including the air, which never normally gets touched, even though it’s 80% of the average room space. And forced hard up against all those hard-to-reach places your sponge or cleaning cloth can’t get at.

Like bleach, the action is by oxidising. But exposure time is 30 seconds, not 30 minutes.

Because boosted by ionising into a plasma mist, hydrogen peroxide releases a slew of other other antimicrobials. Hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet.

Oxygen atoms reach out and grab at germs, ripping their cell structure apart.

40 minutes later, and it’s done and dusted. Disinfected AND sterilised.

The mist reverts to eco-friendly oxygen and water, which evaporates – and the whole place is germ-free. 99.9999% gone – no bacteria, no viruses, no fungi – to a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level.

No slopping around on top of the necessary rubbing and scrubbing. No noxious fumes either.

Hard to resist?

You bet.

Picture Copyright: kadmy / 123RF Stock Photo

How under-powered disinfectants can actually create superbugs

Pointing to biohazard symbol
Make that disinfectant solution too weak – and you’ll make it antibiotic resistant, sure as anything

Kill germs. Make you safe. It’s what disinfectants are supposed to do.

But only if you let them.

Only if they’re at full strength – and applied for full contact time.

Maximum bleach, flat-out for 30 minutes. Complete exposure.

None of this diluted and sloshed around with a wet rag nonsense.

Resistance in the making

Anything less than full power and there are germ survivors.

Maybe not many of them, but they are the toughies that win through.

Hit them again and they’re less likely to succumb.

They’ve learnt how to resist, mutated to become immune.

Bacteria for instance, have in-built protein pumps that expel toxic substances from their cells. “Efflux pumps” to remove disinfectants AND antibiotics, making bugs drug-resistant.

And how dangerous is that?

OK, so there is a work surface, perhaps for food prep. Wiped down for 30 seconds with a usual 6% bleach solution, everyone thinks it’s disinfected, safe.

Instead, it’s alive with MRSA – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.

Already resistant to antibiotics, it easily resists to the under-dose of bleach.

Too weak, not long enough – did you feel a breeze, just then?

Not good enough

So now it’s resistant to bleach too – sodium hypochlorite.

Or maybe chlorhexidine – the preferred disinfectant for instruments. Which in its underpowered state can trigger resistance to colistin – an antibiotic of last resort. As discovered by researchers investigating klebsiella pneumoniae – a superbug capable of causing pneumonia, meningitis and urinary tract infections.

Uh huh. So somebody comes down with MRSA – redness, swelling, pain and high temperature.

They have to be isolated to keep others safe. Quarantined in a separate room. Only handled with gloves, apron and mask for protection.

And OK, the food prep area is suspect – so it’s done again.

More 6% solution – more thorough this time, wiped down and scrubbed for 5 minutes.

Still not enough.

MRSA still in residence – along with a few other bugs it’s passed on its immunity to.

Resistant to bleach and antibiotics too.

Last resort defences breached

Like carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) – unlikely in the everyday, but possible in hospital.

Dangerous?

Oh yes.

Carbapenem is the other group of our last-resort antibiotics. The ones to use when all else fails. If they don’t work – and colistin too – the poor patient is up a gumtree. Only clever doctors and the very best care can bring them back.

Meanwhile, that food prep area is still unsafe.

Scrubbed raw, it still contaminated with MRSA.

Still a place for other bacteria to learn how to survive first bleach, then antibiotics.

How antibiotic resisdtance happensAnd now it’s too late.

Flood the place for hours in 100% bleach solution – that MRSA still knows how to overcome it.

However strong the treatment, anything made up on that food prep area will still be contaminated. That MRSA is there for keeps.

Unless of course, you change the rules.

Game changer

After the rub and scrub, mist the place up with ionised hydrogen peroxide (iHP).

Because NO GERM can survive being ripped apart by oxygen atoms. Which is what happens in the 30 seconds that electrostatically-charged iHP particles physically grab hold of bacteria, viruses and fungi, oxidising them to oblivion.

And that’s only a 6% solution too. But ionised to hundreds of times the firepower by becoming a plasma. Releasing other antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet.

No rub and scrub either – the stuff disperses in actively all directions, forced apart by that same electrostatic charge. Through the air, hard up against all surfaces, deep into cracks and crevices.

Not just disinfecting, but sterilising. Making ALL GERMS dead. 99.9999% gone – to a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level. No bugs, no superbugs, no nothing.

Under-strength disinfectants – that’s really playing with fire.

There are enough superbugs already resistant to antibiotics. We don’t need any more.

Picture Copyright: michaklootwijk / 123RF Stock Photo and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Listen up G20, antibiotics are already off the rails, start funding alternatives

Doctor derailed
Long-term antibiotics are a train smash – for the sake of global health, it’s time to get the G20 back on track

Let’s hope the G20 can get it right.

Meeting in Berlin, world health ministers have agreed to tackle antibiotics resistance.

They need to do a lot more than that, these miracle wonder drugs are now right off the track.

Yeah, OK – antibiotics resistance. Superbugs immune to everything we throw at them. Caused by over use and abuse of antibiotics – two thirds of all prescriptions are unnecessary.

But tightening up procedures is not likely to achieve anything. Not when 70% of antibiotics are not used on humans at all, but on animals.

Not to make them better, but to fatten them up.

How resistance is created

So sure, there’s over use and abuse – 240,000 tonnes of it every year. The world has 7½  billion people to feed and there’s money to be made doing it.

So never mind that an antibiotic like colistin is held back by doctors as a drug of last resort. There’s a factory in China producing 10,000 tonnes of it a year – to fatten up pigs.

Which means superbug immunity is accelerating all the time. On volumes like that, bacteria have plenty of opportunity to develop resistance. And pass their invulnerability on to others.

And it gets worse.

Not only are bacteria resistant to antibiotics, they’re becoming resistant to antiseptics and disinfectants too. So that doctors and care workers THINK they’ve scrubbed and scoured their hands clean – and they’re still covered in superbugs.

Resistance and fatness

Worse still, the antibiotics fed to animals get into the human food chain. Via residues in meat and in manure used for cultivation. In such volumes, every food type is affected – meat, poultry, fish, fruit, vegetables, cereals, grain.

Every human on earth is daily absorbing micro-doses of the most efficient growth promoter every invented. Like animals, people are getting fat. Clinically obese and on the road to diabetes, asthma, heart disease and cancer.

Result – except in the short term, antibiotics are more dangerous than life-saving. They might prevent infection for a heart transplant or a caesarean birth. But the superbugs they spawn already kill 25,000 people a year in the EU – the same as road accidents.

And with the slow death of obesity, antibiotics will kill many millions more.

Start again

All of which should say to the G20 – stop wasting time and money. Antibiotics have outlasted their usefulness, it’s time to find replacements.

Replacement bacteria-killers to protect life. Replacement hygiene methods to ensure safety. And replacement growth promoters to produce food.

They already exist.

Bacteriophages are viruses that kill bacteria. They can be specifically targeted. And they can be quickly modified, mutating just as bacteria mutate to prevent acquiring resistance.

Ionised hydrogen peroxide misting kills ALL germs, not just bacteria – viruses and fungi too. No hospital need ever again run the risk of pathogens not removed before procedures.

Probiotics and in-feed enzymes have  worked as growth promoters in Sweden and Nordic countries since 1986. Maybe not as spectacularly, but certainly successfully. And food production is a big industry, there’ll be no shortage of funds if finding better methods is in need of funding.

So come on G20, how about it?

Drop all this antibiotic stuff and let’s get back on track.

Picture Copyright: designbydx / 123RF Stock Photo

How to recover 3 months extra productivity from every 12 months you pay

Businesswoman with germs
Even the best can’t deliver 100% when germs take them down

Unwell at work, unable to let go.

Job pressure, tight deadlines, refusing to let colleagues down.

Total professional, salt of the earth, reliable to the last.

But head pounding, guts churning – about as much use as a first-day rookie.

Sound familiar?

One of your star staff members. Or it could even be you. Walking wounded and total loose cannon.

Concentration all over the place, unable to focus – every decision costing big bucks.

Hanging in there, determined to ignore the flu or food poisoning or whatever it is they’ve struggled to work with. Nowhere near 100% productivity.

Less than best

But that’s what you pay for, isn’t it? 100% of the best and worth every penny.

Except for the off days, when things can – and do – go totally pear-shaped.

No, not the 6 days everybody’s entitled to, taking off sick at home. You’ve already budgeted for that – with Plan B all ready when key staffers go off grid.

But have you ever added up the days when you don’t feel up to it, but go to work anyway? It’s way more than you ever imagine. Nobody is ever 100% all of the time – or even close.

Most of us might get through three days in a row without some kind of twinge or niggle. Nothing serious – just enough to play havoc with our thinking. Number skills or memory recall, one or both somehow missing – or not quite there when we want them.

57.5 days a year we’re like that, according to a GCC report validated against the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Workplace Health and Productivity Questionnaire (HPQ).

That’s almost 3 working months. A whole quarter of a year’s worth of productivity gone for a loop. Not anybody’s fault, but an undeniable fact of life.

And a massive hole in your operating budget that you can’t even see. Up, down – staff productivity is what it is. We all assume 100%, but it seldom is. So the costs are absorbed without even thinking. Money paid out and never recovered.

Get back

OK, some of it, you can never get back.

About a third of unwell at work costs are musculoskeletal issues – injuries, cramps, arthritis, muscle pain, back complaints. Treatable yes, but not going to go away in a hurry – and probably not avoidable.

Another third are mental. Stress or emotional issues – at work, or outside. We all know how concentration falters with a loss in the family, or a relationship turns difficult.

But the remaining third you can do something about. The ones caused by germs.

Illness or infection – they can come from outside and pass around. But they’re just as likely to originate in the workplace. People working closely together, breathing the same air, sharing the same space, touching the same objects – it’s inevitable.

Sure the place gets cleaned regularly. But not all of it. Some items rarely get attention – and some not at all.

Horrible hygiene

For instance, how many people might use a touchscreen – and how often does it get cleaned? Once a week? Once a month? Or even ever?

Yet we all know germs transfer by contact. Things we use with our hands – keypads, doorknobs, light switches, documents. And our personal items too – keys, wallets, money, cosmetics. Never cleaned, are they? Yet they’re always around.

So are some sobering hygiene facts – we’re less wholesome than we like to think.

On top of which, germs linger easily in workplaces. They might get cleaned regularly, but how often are they disinfected? Which is how come an ordinary desk might harbour 10 million germs.

And how about the air we breathe?

Classy places might have HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters in the air conditioning. So that germs down to 3 microns in size are prevented from circulating.

But germs like rhinovirus – posh name for the common cold – are smaller. So small, they could fall through the pores of an unglazed plate – if they were heavy enough for gravity to affect them.

Since they’re not, they float around freely, riding the smallest eddies. MRSA, e.coli, salmonella, bacillus, enterococci, campylobacter, shigella and cholera are all undersize, waiting for the chance to infect us.

Not nice if we catch them. Big challenges to productivity.

Prevention better than cure

But totally avoidable if we eliminate them in the first place.

No germs at work, no chance to get sick. Those 57.5 days start looking a lot less.

Easy to do, too. Add getting rid of germs to your regular cleaning schedule. A step beyond a lick and promise to actually making the place safe.

All it takes is a frequent mist-up of hydrogen peroxide. Charged particles easily disperse through the air, spreading everywhere, positively snatching at bacteria, viruses and fungi, oxidising them to oblivion. No germs, anywhere – on any surface, or in the air. The place is sterile – safe and secure.

And now you start getting your own back. 100% productivity all of the time moves closer. The most positive step towards workplace wellness you could take. Way better than medical examinations, gym membership, feng shui décor or fresh fruit at reception.

Way better for your bank balance too. Because now you’re not paying for 12 months and only getting 9. Productivity is up and you haven’t spent a bean getting there. Germonomics in action.

Staff feel better too. More full of beans and energy. Ready to take on the world.

Which is what you’re REALLY paying them for, isn’t it?

Picture Copyright: chrisfromparis/ 123RF Stock Photo

Forget computer viruses, your real unwell-at-work cost is already a ransom

Germs in office
Virus alert – better call a doctor because IT can’t help

Computer viruses you can fix. You can even turn the things off and work on paper.

We’re not so lucky with the human price tag though.

Viruses can take us down – or destroy us completely.

Take norovirus, for example.

Highly contagious, extremely unpleasant – with gut-wrenching cramps, violent projectile vomiting and uncontrollable burning diarrhoea that put us out of action for 3 days or more.

Get complications, like dehydration – and we’re in hospital fighting for our lives.  Around 800 of us don’t actually make it.

Worse viruses than IT

But it’s not the being off work that costs. You’ve already budgeted for that – £522 per year according to the CIPD.

Much worse is the build-up and the aftermath. Staff members toughing it out to come to work feeling like death. Trying to work like that – and infecting colleagues without meaning to.

You pay for that too, though you don’t notice it. Highly professional people at half-power or less. Not really with it, making mistakes, missing out detail. Well just how much can you concentrate, when all you want to do is crawl away and die?

OK, so we’re over the norovirus in a few days – and a bit wobbly both sides.

But it’s not just norovirus. There’s rotavirus too – otherwise known as the common cold. And flu. And other kinds of tummy bug that FEEL as bad as norovirus – campylobacter, salmonella, e.coli, shigella, the list goes on for ever. And that’s not even looking at the dangerous ones.

Which means from the money angle, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. On average we’re unwell at work for 57.5 days a year. Almost three working months – at a cost of around £5,220 a year, reckoning on 10 times the cost of absenteeism.

Invisible costs

Invisible expenditure that, because you just absorb it. Your salaries are worked out for a twelve month period, assuming productivity at 100%.

In reality, though you don’t see it as an overhead, you only get nine months’ worth of value. The other 3 months  as we’ve seen, are staff dragging themselves through the motions. They’re doing their damnedest , but at nowhere near 100%. Plus you’ve got to factor in all the hiccups.

And that’s for ALL of us – not one or two!

Viruses make no distinction – neither do bacteria or fungi. A germ strike at work affects everybody from the chief exec down.

And Sod’s Law ensures it always happens at the least convenient moment. As the make-or-break contract approaches its deadline.  At the one critical moment when it’s all hands to the pump.

So let’s see, that’s £522 cost for being off sick – and £5,220 cost struggling through things at work. A grand total of £5,742 per staff member per year. Plus all the lost business from not performing at 100%. Doesn’t that sound like a ransom?

With a staff of just 10, that’s a cost over-run of more than £50,000. So OK, there’s always problems with servers and firewalls and stuff – but does your IT system plough through expensive unforeseens like that?

Alongside the human cost, that’s likely to be chickenfeed. But hey, they are your most valuable assets after all.

Germ defences, the nightly reboot

There is an upside though.

Like computers, you can switch off workplace germs just like that. And if there’s no germs, your staff can’t get sick, can they?

Oh, they’ll still bring in illnesses they’ve picked up outside. Like the 12 antibiotic-resistant superbugs they can pick up on the Underground. Or the 121 others they can catch on buses and taxis.

But step inside their workplace and they’re at germ zero.

The place is sterile thanks to a nightly mist-up of hydrogen peroxide that oxidises ALL bacteria, viruses and fungi to nothing. 99.9999% germ-free – to a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level.

Yes, they might still have their bug. But there’s nowhere for it to dwell, less chance to transfer it, and it’s hiding place will be neutralised in the next nightly treatment. Not just quarantined, but totally blasted out of existence.

Like a firewall for human viruses (bacteria and fungi too) – only better.

Picture Copyright: kzenon / 123RF Stock Photo