Category Archives: Issues

Viva Southampton: safe haven from norovirus

Happy girl pointing
Lucky you, it’s over – because norovirus feels like the end of the world

If it ever happens to you, it’s the end of the world.

You feel like you’re going to die – and then worry that you won’t.

Because norovirus or any of its tummy bug friends is one of the most miserable experiences you can ever have. Having a ball one minute, sick as a dog, the next.

Especially on a cruise ship.

Think big

And Southampton is home to some of the biggest cruise ships in the world.

In the just the last month, the city has seen the naming ceremony and inaugural sailing of Royal Caribbean’s hi-tech giant Anthem of the Seas – the first-ever daylight visit from Cunard’s Big Three all at the same time – Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria – and the naming by the Queen of P&O’s brand-new Britannia, before the start of her maiden voyage.

Luckily, none of these giants has yet had anyone struck down by norovirus.

But there’s a reason why cruise ships and norovirus keep hitting the news.

Pretty well all of them range round the world – and one of the most popular cruise choices is the Caribbean.

That inevitably means calling at ports in the USA – and as part of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program, ALL cruise ships have to report ANY cases of gastrointestinal sickness, even if there are none.

Because these ships are themselves celebrities, even the smallest outbreak is therefore likely to hit the headlines. Unfair really, as it gives them the reputation of always having cases – when most of the time, they sail healthy and free, year in, year out.

Almost unstoppable

Make no mistake though, once an outbreak starts, it’s difficult to stop. With thousands of people sharing living space close together, physical contact is almost impossible to avoid. And that’s how norovirus spreads – not just from food, but from simple touch – like a handshake or an arm round the shoulder.

Which very much makes norovirus the price for our own lack of hygiene.

Though it’s hard to believe, many of us don’t wash our hands often enough – especially after going to the loo. And even when we do, it’s just a splash that does nothing, not the two-minute cleaning that professional medics know is the only way to be safe.

The don’t-wash-your-hands disease

Yup, norovirus is the don’t-wash-your-hands disease. (Tweet this)

Maybe a good thing, if it teaches us to take up the washing habit. Because it’s not just norovirus you can catch from not washing your hands. There’s plenty more viruses and bacteria out there, waiting to take you down. So getting away with just vomiting and diarrhoea might be the lucky part.

They know all about norovirus in Southampton – and not just from cruise ships.

Last winter, Southampton General Hospital had to close five wards because of it, and four wards the winter before. This winter it’s four wards again, with a total of forty beds in eight wards affected – a meltdown for hard-pressed medics fighting other conditions as well.

So the medics got clever, with effective measures against it.

The medics strike back

First was to recruit reinforcement nurses to cope with the inundation of cases. Next was to open a new ward of all single rooms – an effective way to isolate infectious patients with norovirus or anything more serious.

But the big problem is fighting norovirus in the first place, as all cruise lines know.

Yes, it’s the don’t-wash-your-hands disease, which is how it transmits and spreads.

It also lingers, able to survive for weeks, even months, on surfaces touched by passengers, ready to transfer to new arrivals and perpetuate the infection. It happened to Holland America Line’s Amsterdam in 2002, which could not break the cycle of repeat outbreaks on four consecutive cruises, despite rigorous cleaning.

Only taking the ship out of commission and disinfecting right down to TV remotes, bibles, poker chips and currency – as well as steam cleaning the carpets and discarding all bedding, fixed the problem.

Both ships and hospitals share the same challenge. To sanitise not just easy places reached by regular cleaning – but to be sure of nooks and crannies in difficult to reach spaces, perfect lurking places for all kinds of germs – and norovirus is only one.

Fortunately, the technology exists to handle this – rapidly being snatched up around the world – first in hospitals, but with cruise lines sure to follow quickly.

Technology to the rescue

A wheelie-bin sized Hypersteriliser mists up previously cleaned rooms and enclosed spaces with an ultra-fine mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide.

A natural sterilant in the body, hydrogen peroxide destroys all viruses and bacteria by oxidising them, ripping their cells apart – in the air, on all surfaces – all without physically touching.

Ionising the mist adds the dimension that it spreads everywhere – forcibly driven deep into cracks and crevices by charged molecules that repel each other – reaching under, behind, and pressed hard against walls and ceilings trying to escape themselves.

The same electrostatic charge attracts the molecules to viruses and bacteria – grabbing at them like a magnet. After forty minutes in the average-sized room, the place is sterile – no germs, no nothing, totally safe – to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6 (99.9999% of pathogens destroyed).

If they’d had a Hypersteriliser back in 2002, the Amsterdam repeat outbreaks would not have happened – unless most of the passengers determinedly didn’t wash their hands for the entire trip – when no doubt salmonella, campylobacter, and all kinds of other nasties would have broken out as well.

They haven’t got a Hypersteriliser yet at Southampton General. But you can bet staff are wishing they had something exactly like it, every moment of the day.

Originally posted 2015-05-06 12:37:00.

British winner to take down malaria killer

Gin & Tonic
Cheers! A good G&T won’t
cure malaria, but it will
make you feel better

If you blinked you missed it.

The amazing news hidden deep among all the wars, disasters, Ebola scares and nonsense of electing the World’s First Joke Prime Minister.

End of a world killer?

British drug giant Glaxo Smith Kline has applied for a licence for a new vaccine to defeat malaria, the first-ever defence against this world-killer that looks like being successful.

Four infection types exist to give us grief in our lives – bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. Malaria is by far the worst parasite to invade our bodies and has always ranked high on our list of killer dread diseases.

For the children’s sake

Now for the first time, we might be able to beat it – and significantly the new vaccine is designed specifically to work with children – African children, who are currently dying at one a minute from this terrible affliction – many more times worse than Ebola will ever be.

Actual figures are staggering – 198 MILLION cases in 2013, with 584,000 deaths. And this is one of those where disinfecting and watchful hygiene doesn’t help much – though malaria can be transmitted through contaminated blood.

The most effective defence is mosquito nets – and a darned good insecticide to clobber the anopheles mosquito (only the female of the species) that transmits it.

In the 1940s, the wonder-chemical DDT used to be it (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) – a highly effective insecticide now banned across most of the world for the dangers it brings to the food chain and links to chronic illnesses.

Despite its high efficiency, DDT was found to be so poisonous in its side effects that over-use triggered the American watchdog Environmental Protection Agency in 1962. It killed mosquitoes, but it killed too many humans too.

The world is winning

Killer though it is, malaria is treatable if diagnosed and treated early. But with medical services stretched thin throughout the world’s tropical regions – as the current Ebola crisis demonstrates – treatment is not always possible.

The new vaccine, called RTS,S, is not infallible – but manages to reduce cases among toddlers by 36%. In parallel with this vaccine is an American alternative PfSPZ, intended for adults and still at the trial stage.

It may be too early to toast the success of either – though a celebratory glass may be appropriate if you’ve ever caught malaria and been lucky enough to be treated for it.

Think of England

In the days of Empire, gin and tonic was invented as a refreshing drink that masked the bitter taste of the anti-malarial quinine ingredient added to it.

On behalf of all the African children who now stand a fighting chance – cheers!

Originally posted 2015-04-28 13:26:26.

Camp chicken, ooh – the runs that could kill you

Girl with tummy cramps
You wash your hands,
you wash the chicken for
dinner, why is this happening?

You don’t want to play with this one.

It’s our No 1 cause of food poisoning and you get it from bacteria in raw chicken.

“Campylobacter” is not easy to say.

It’s not easy to stomach either. A week of cramps and diarrhoea are the norm – you can even die from it.

And it’s so potent, ONE DROP of water or juice from a raw chicken is enough to infect someone.

Hurry up and wait

Thing is, nobody’s doing anything about it – basically just running round like chickens with their heads chopped off.

Banging the drum are the Food Standards Agency, who quite rightly alert us to how dangerous campylobacter is and the dangers of handling raw chicken. Their tips and hints for playing safe are first-class and should keep anyone out of trouble.

At the same time they are blaming the supermarkets, moaning that the big chains are doing little or nothing to stop campylobacter occurring in the product they sell.

Uh huh. A hello birdie moment for the FSA, because realistically there’s not a lot supermarkets can do to pressure their suppliers.

Because there’s not much the growers can do either.

Natural in birds

The facts of life are that the campylobacter bacterium is NOT pathogenic in birds. It lives in them quite naturally and they are not affected. It’s a normal condition, like human beings have dandruff.

Which means around 70% of all commercially reared chickens are probably positive for it – enough to bankrupt the industry if forced to destroy them.

Besides, imagine the problems of isolating a flock of unaffected birds.

Tighten up biosecurity, yes. But one drop of moisture – one waft of wind-borne campylobacter molecules – would be enough to contaminate the whole lot. A near impossible task to an industry that has to supply up to 2.2 million birds a week.

Stop campylobacter in chickens?

Get real.

If such a major chunk of birds are affected, the FSA should either ban them outright or wish for the moon.

The real issue

Because for safety’s sake, it has to be assumed that ALL birds have it.

A total switcheroo on the problem.

Because then, it’s not the breeding of birds that’s the issue.

It’s the hygiene standards of how they’re prepared for market. Exactly where the FSA has the high ground and the muscle.

So why aren’t THEY doing something about it?

Step one would be to enforce that chicken may only be distributed in leak-proof packaging. Any fluid or moisture in the product would be contained and unable to contaminate fridges or storage areas in the supply chain.

Step two is for the FSA warnings to get some teeth. Boldly displayed on all chicken packaging, together with advice about handling raw product, avoiding exposure, and the hazards of cross-contamination.

If we’re that worried about it, the technology probably even exists for a low-cost audio-tag to sound a buzzer or recorded voice warning as soon as the packaging is opened. On a volume of 2.2 million chickens a week, it is certainly possible to develop one.

A solvable problem

And there you have it, campylobacter contained.

Properly warned, the public will know how to handle chicken properly and the problem goes away.

Nobody gets hammered, everybody’s happy, and tummy cramps from barbecuing drumsticks just don’t happen.

Come on FSA, how about it?

Originally posted 2015-04-27 12:21:44.

How to catch a plane without catching a bug

Cabin attendant
Welcome aboard our germ-free flight, no norovirus please!

Ready for take-off?

Ready for this year’s bout of norovirus, or whatever it is you’re in for?

Happens every year, right?

Bugs on a plane. Every passenger’s holiday nightmare. Cabin crew too.

And it keeps happening. However much the airlines say they decontaminate their planes.

Everybody’s sick of it

Sure, on short-hauls – from here to the Med and back – there’s not much time for more than a lick and a promise. A quick wipe-down maybe, empty the toilets, grab all the rubbish out of the gangway.

Sometimes not even that. Come and gone in under twenty minutes. So on-board germs get a return trip. Twice as many people to infect. Victims of time-table urgency.

Back at home base though, every aircraft is supposed to get a thorough deep clean. Nose to tail scrub-out “with sodium hypochlorite diluted to a strength of 100mg/l and a 5% solution of formalin, which is itself a 40% solution of formaldehyde gas in water” exactly per the official World Health Organisation cleaning of aircraft guide.

Wipe-down procedures are laid in detail in this impressive manual. Yet still people keep coming down with bugs – cabin crew particularly, exposed to it more often.

What’s wrong?

Are airlines skimping on the job, or are these procedures simply not good enough?

From the looks of it, a bit of both. So if your airline is cutting corners, good luck to you.

But what about how it’s done?

Check out this short clip of cleaning under the seats.

It might look the business, but remember, space is really tight when you’re a passenger, so a lot of stuff winds up under the seats – shoes, bags, snacks, food debris from inflight meals, magazines, nappies, inflight blanket – you name it. Not just on the floor itself, but pushed up on the underside of seats, against the wall, wherever it’s possible to squash something.

Half the job

Uh, huh. But only the floor is cleaned. Thorough enough, but missing out any smears there might be elsewhere. Go through the WHO manual and you’ll see that detailed though it is, there’s lots of other places get missed too – behind things, under things, in the cracks in between things.

Easy places for germs to lurk. Like norovirus. Or Ebola if your aircraft is flying that way.

Which means that even though your plane might be cleaned and disinfected several times over, it can still harbour germs that can get you – as this Air New Zealand case showed up in 2009.

So why aren’t these measures enough? There are measures for avoiding bugs like norovirus, why aren’t they working?

One reason is our mind-set.

If we don’t catch a bug by breathing it in, we think of it as being spread by physical contact – touching each other, or touching surfaces like grab handles, seat backs and armrests (fomites) – actually contracting it through the skin.

ALL germs are airborne

Ahem. Ever noticed what happens when you swirl around in a dusty room? Clouds of stuff everywhere, sometimes so thick you can’t see – floating around, taking an age to settle back down.

Germs are like that – floating around in the air, all the time. And they’re millions of times smaller than a dust speck – invisible, riding the air in their billions – often small enough to go right through your aircraft’s HEPA air conditioning filters without stopping.

Which means clean all the surfaces without cleaning the interior air, and the airlines are only doing half the job. In the still moments at the gate before you step aboard, these germs have time to settle – ready for your hand to make contact on the seat back, as you steady yourself to sit down.

Hello, norovirus.

Unless of course, your airline is using a Hypersteriliser – a machine that kills germs by spraying them with hydrogen peroxide. A lot safer than sodium hypochlorite or formaldehyde – a banned substance anyway in European biocides.

Vaporised hydrogen peroxide is already proven to be superior in ridding germs from aircraft. But by ionising the hydrogen peroxide into a plasma, the Hypersteriliser is even more effective.

Plus performance germ-killing

Two things happen with ionisation.

The hydrogen peroxide molecules become actively charged, like magnets with the same poles together, immediately trying to escape each other. This forces them to disperse in all directions, up through the air and hard up against all surfaces, burrowing deep into cracks to avoid each other.

The charged molecules are actively attracted to the opposite charge of viruses and bacteria, latching onto them in mid-air or wherever they happen to be – oxidising them to oblivion.

The stuff doesn’t clean the plane – that job still has to be done first. But it does get rid of the germs – all of them – to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

Your plane is now sterile. 99.9999% of viruses and bacteria – gone. No norovirus, no anything. (Tweet this)

Just the ticket, eh?

You might like to mention this to your airline next time.

It’ll keep you out of trouble – and your cabin crew would be glad to know.

Originally posted 2015-04-23 11:50:32.

Why do we deprive the NHS of kindness?

Kind nurse
Kindness is personal – you feel it by example and teach it to yourself

The stories don’t go away.

Accusing headlines still roll – long after the Mid Staffs disaster.

Sloppy hygiene, indifferent  care,  patients maltreated and sidelined.

Will nothing save the NHS from self-destruction?

Once more with feeling

It’s from reports like these that the Compassion in Practice programme was begun – a nation-wide initiative led by Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England.

Compassion is so sadly lacking that a special drive is necessary to put it in place. To recognise that patients are human beings, not numbers. That feelings and sensitivities are involved.

All very laudable – but in reality, just another top-down knee-jerk from the rah-rah top dogs. To make it look like some moral responsibility is happening.

Yes, it’s an important project and the people involved in it are obviously committed to the hilt. It’s also doomed to token responses and indifference across the board.

Lip service

Why?

Because though its focus is compassion, in the misguided real world we’ve created for ourselves, our culture no longer includes kindness.

We have become mean, selfish and bad-tempered in ways that would shock our parents. The product of our go-faster, results-driven, material-grabbing society.

And strong though it is, the Compassion in Practice programme is no match for our ingrained reflex of only looking out for Number One.

Its very credo demonstrates the background from which it has sprung: Care, Compassion, Competence, Communication, Courage and Commitment.

Take out “Compassion” and it could be any double-speak marketing plan from selling life insurance to toothpaste. Our sales teams care, we bring you the best through Competence, Communication, Courage and Commitment.

You’ve been a customer. You’ve heard it before.

Poppycock!

All those invisible words strung together to be saluted while the company hymn is sung. Meaningless promises of nothing from their overuse. Right over the heads of patients and medical staff alike.

A real issue

Which is a crying shame because it IS important. Compassion, that is.

People ARE lying in hospital and suffering unnecessarily.

Ignored, unattended and forgotten because that is the way we treat everything in our online, mobile-obsessed, narcissistic society.

Yes, Compassion. But where is the kindness?

Taken away because all of us are stampeded for time.

Gotta get results. Gotta go, go, go.

Come on, let’s move – we’ve got targets here.

Targets!

The most deadly concept ever applied to the NHS. (Tweet this)

Again because people are people, not numbers. And people need time to be treated right. As far away from targets as you could possibly get.

Give of yourself

Because kindness is time.

And sorry, that means none of the “time is money” principles of modern cut-throat business apply here.

Time is giving of yourself and we’re too damn full of ourselves to allow it. It’s the prevailing culture and we’re all immersed in it all the time.

Of course, doctors and nurses try to step out of it – and a lot of them succeed.

Only to get chucked straight back into it, coming off duty. Back to the rat-race – traffic jams, bus queues, grab-while-you-can supermarket offers and first-come-first-served push-shove living.

All of which is the world’s worst experience when you’re ill.

When you’re not yourself and things won’t work properly – scared and unsure you will ever survive.

And all around you is the driving myth that there aren’t enough hours in the day.

That everything must be short, bite-sized and razor-sharp to get through what is needed.

The minimum of care, concern, courtesy, considerateness, cognizance of others and consciousness of their needs.

Impossible to sign up to without time.

Not us any more

Because kindness requires reflexes we no longer have. Listening, paying attention, thinking of others, responding to them with respect and dignity.

You can’t learn these in a weekend workshop. Or wave around a certificate claiming you’ve got them.

They’re life skills we learn the hard way from birth, vital capabilities that get used every day. Or should.

Disciplines that make us better than we are.

That lift us up from being also-rans in the rat-race – into feeling, caring human beings who really do give a damn about the world around us and the people in it.

Kindness in the NHS?

Back to being human

It’s there all right. And it’s up to us to encourage it by our own example. To give Jane Cummings and her team the co-operation, support and teeth that they need.

To prove that Compassion in Practice really does inspire Care, Compassion, Competence, Communication, Courage and Commitment.

To get away from those staff abuse posters that are a daily indictment of the lives we lead.

To get away from the mindset none of us believe anyway. Your call IS important, we care about our customers. Currently, you are Number 17 in a queue.

To be polite and thoughtful even though waiting times are long. To co-operate at every turn to make staff’s work easier. To act with kindness ourselves and inspire it in return.

Because what goes around, comes around.

And it’s not necessarily the NHS that’s to blame.

It’s us.

Originally posted 2015-04-14 14:40:14.

Campylobacter: playing chicken with your health

Girl with tummy ache
Forget to wash your hands and you’ll soon know all about it

Nasty, this one.

And one of the main causes of stomach upsets everywhere.

Cramps, fever, diarrhoea, vomiting. You need it like a hole in the head.

Which anyone who catches it probably has, because you get it by being forgetful.

Seriously, yes.

Not always supermarkets

Because you can blame it on the supermarkets, or the poultry farmers who supply them – but ultimately, it’s your own fault. The same as not washing your hands before handling food – carelessness that can make you very ill.

You see, it’s a fact of life that campylobacter lives naturally in the intestines of healthy birds.

Because of that, it’s also found in water, food, soil, or surfaces that have been contaminated with the faeces of these birds or other animals.

It’s highly contagious, so you can get it from other humans too.

Which means not washing your hands explains the hole in your head.

Campylobacter is not a thing to take chances with.

And since it occurs naturally, it’s up to you to take the necessary precautions. (Tweet this)

Safe if you’re careful

Because as long as you’re careful, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy chicken, turkey or any other kind of poultry. As an affordable source of protein, it’s tasty, easy to prepare, liked by almost everyone and pretty well unbeatable.

First off, it’s safest to assume though that campylobacter is always possible, even likely. So if you have to handle raw poultry at all, ALWAYS wash your hands.

That applies to anything it comes in contact with too – knives, chopping boards, counter-tops. While it’s still raw, it contaminates everything.

It pays to keep it separate from other foods you’re preparing too. Cross-contamination before you’ve cooked anything is all too easy.

Once you’ve cooked things of course, the problem goes away. Just make sure it’s grilled, roasted, boiled, stewed or fried enough to make sure any bacteria cannot survive. Heat kills it, so under-done meat is a hazard.

That said, there IS an onus on the poultry farmer to lessen the risk.

Since campylobacter occurs naturally in healthy birds, removing any risk before sales happen must be part of the cost of doing business.

There are already costs in preparing product for market – often right through to customer-ready finished packaging – so ensuring output is safe to eat lies squarely with the producer.

But supermarkets must accept responsibility too – part of due diligence to ensure ALL foodstuffs conform to regulations and are risk free.

Quality control

Besides, who buys any product without checking it, especially five tons of it at a time?

In fact, knowing that campylobacter is an issue right from the beginning of the supply chain, the food industry and the government should probably have some kind of certification that the product has been officially inspected and is campylobacter-free.

Government, yeah.

As if.

So far they’ve got to the strategy workshop. Expect official action within the next ten years or so.

Either that, or the supermarkets should voluntarily take it on themselves.

What home-maker would not be reassured by a sticker on her purchase that the product has passed all health tests and is guaranteed free from all bacteria? Tesco Product Integrity Checked. Worth paying a little extra for, right?

Which makes it one of those where you pay a little more because you know the quality is better. All supermarkets are price-sensitive, but quality issues are the game-changer.

Safety begins at home

All of which should be in ADDITION to your normal health precautions:

  • Don’t handle raw product
  • Wash your hands if you do
  • Wash all utensils and prep areas
  • Keep poultry separate from other foods
  • Never eat it unless it’s properly cooked

It’s keeping healthy by avoiding germs – the best possible way.

You don’t want to be bent double on the loo, or in hospital with dehydration.

Not playing chicken at all.

And weren’t you brought up never to play with your food?

Originally posted 2015-03-26 13:24:48.

Diddums! It’s toenail panic at A&E

Bare foot
Ow! Really? Unnecessary A&E visits are costing £100 million a year

Sure it hurts.

But it’s not life-threatening, is it?

Not even a major trauma.

More like an aching nag as you go through the day. It even disappears when you’re not thinking about it.

Everyday non-event

Hardly there at all.

Yet you’re one of the 138 people who crowded into your local A&E this morning – and grinding your teeth as the four-hour waiting period winds on and on.

Grrr!

But just look at that crowd.

Desperation stakes, right?

Just trying to keep pace with a mob like that is why the NHS is hiring overflow doctors at £3,200 a shift and nurses at £1,900 a day.

And before you throw a blue fit, the kind of shift these people are in for is twelve hours. Half a day on your feet, snatched moments for a bite to eat, no chance for coffee – and what do you mean, time to go to the loo?

Well how else to solve the overload except throw money at it?

Your money when it comes down to it – it comes off your taxes.

Yes, it’s damn stupid – but just be careful where you point that finger in choosing why this is happening.

Not enough doctors, why?

Too many patients, why?

Bored, selfish, couldn’t care less

Because all this heaving mass of people reckon A&E is where they need to be.

Accident and Emergency – excuse our snigger.

Not crisis handling centres of last resort but first stop for minor worries and social difficulties.

How minor?

A call to the local Doc reveals – Missed Appointments for February:

  • Doctor 217
  • Nurse 56
  • Blood Tests 55

Too busy with Turkish dancing classes. Or Pilates. Or bridge at the Leisure Centre.

T&N, not A&E

Twinges and Niggles, more like.

And failure of everywhere else to take care of the problem.

No sticking plasters in the bathroom cabinet. Too lazy to go to the chemist. Not prepared to wait at the GP’s clinic. So mosey on down to A&E.

It’s the same with all the emergency services.

They’re there to handle real issues – people dying or under bodily threat.

But ask the cops or the fire brigade.

Overwhelmed by trivia or mischief-making nonsense.

How many hoax calls? You won’t believe it.

Like calling 999 for hiccups, or reporting a stolen snowman.

Your local A&E is the same.

And like all the other blue light services, the professionals who operate it cannot take a chance that maybe your problem isn’t serious.

Total waste of time

Your toenail won’t kill, but everybody in A&E gets handled as though it might.

The only people who will listen to you, right?

The only people who give a damn about whether you’re OK, or not OK – because the rest of us are too caught up in ourselves, or too selfish to even lift a finger.

Yes, there are real issues that happen in A&E. Real life-and-death cases, right there, on the spot.

And we are all of us amazingly fortunate that we have such high powered professionals to catch us when we drop.

Which means A&E is not the problem, we are. (Tweet this)

Man up

Fifty years ago, half our aches and pains would not even have been looked at. Not because doctors back then didn’t have the skills, but because nobody considered them significant.

Part of being grown-up. Man up and forget about it was how most people thought. And going to the Doc was only when it was serious.

Now it’s toenails at A&E.

OK, if that’s the way we Brits have decided we want it, we mustn’t whinge if it costs us a bob or two in taxes.

It’s our fault, not A&E’s.

Originally posted 2015-03-24 13:00:16.

Ebola can’t kill love

Mother & daughter
Imagine: all the love in the world and not being able to touch

It’s like being in prison. All your personal freedoms taken away. No contact with anyone – especially those you love.

And being under house arrest, all at the same time.

Because in a drastic bid to stop the spread of this dreadful disease, Ernest Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, has imposed a three-day curfew on all citizens – nobody can leave their home until 6.00 pm next Sunday, March 29.

No doubt about it, this is hell for the people of West Africa.

The end of the world

ANY contact is deadly. No hugs, no kisses, no caresses.

No soothing touch, or reassuring hand hold. No wiping fevered brows, or cleaning away vomit. No handling bloodied clothes or sheets. No physical care of any kind.

Worst of all, no washing the bodies of the dead in time-honoured respect.

Just the slightest touch and the disease transfers.

Inside two weeks, you’ll be dead yourself.

Not just heart-breaking, but beyond comprehension.

Because how can it ever make any sense to a people whose whole life is hands-on – touching and feeling and holding – all the soothing, reassuring gestures that people need when they are down? Or even just being themselves together with others?

Courage and resilience

But West Africans are strong people. Remarkably, they can even laugh at it.

A whole culture has sprung up based on non-contact. The no-touch Ebola handshake – the no-hold Ebola hug – friends just grin and take it in their stride.

Well there has to be something to smile about. The only way to survive this terrible disease is to put a ban on love.

Only love at a distance – caring words, eyes across a room.

Imagine being locked up together with your loved ones for three days and everything physical is forbidden.

And the lock is your own, closed shut to support your country. Voluntarily turning your back on all that life is about.

How many of us could even come close to achieving that for 72 hours – and day after day beyond that if any one of the family is sick?

Yet that is the sacrifice these unfortunate people have to make.

The love doesn’t die, it goes on forever. (Tweet this)

Love is the greatest

But the people die and suffer horribly for showing it. Whoever thought that touch could mean so much?

Which is why special walls display handprints across Liberia, Sierra Leone and everywhere else that Ebola is rife. The mark of survivors who have come through it and pledge themselves to helping others.

Nobody can stop love. But they can find other ways of showing it.

Originally posted 2015-03-23 12:47:37.

Ah, but no superbug survives hydrogen peroxide

Woman boxer
No way any germs are coming back from treatment like this, ma’am

The writing is on the wall, folks. In letters larger than life.

Two alarm bell happenings this week underline it.

The return to UK of a British Army nurse who contracted Ebola on the mercy mission in Sierra Leone and her admission to the Royal Free Hospital.

And the latest “Antibiotic Apocalypse” update that mutating bacteria are making our medicines useless – a potentially greater threat than Ebola.

Chief Medic warning

This warning comes from no less than Professor Dame Sally Davies herself – Chief Medical Officer for England – that we need to up our game in hygiene, or risk killing ourselves by carelessness.

Actually, Dame Sally’s main thrust is for drug companies to get back into research developing new antibiotics – a new super-class to take on the superbugs.

No new antibiotic has hit the market since 1987. And it’s unlikely to. There’s more money to be made manufacturing pills that patients need to take several times a day for the rest of their life – than meeting the cost of a drug that may only be used in emergencies.

Which spotlights the scary elephant in the room – that medicines don’t work anymore.

Hence, says Dame Sally, we need to rediscover hygiene.

“Half of men don’t wash their hands when they go to the lavatory – which takes the bugs from the bum, or the prick, to the tap – to the door handle – and then out potentially to food and friends. We have to take this seriously.”

Washing hands saves lives

Yes, washing hands is again the issue. Because prevention is better than cure.

So is washing and disinfecting everything that gets used in hospitals – beds, instruments, equipment, furniture, everything.

And did we mention the walls, ceiling and floor?

That too – even the airspace that fills most of any hospital room – which never gets cleaned because you can’t hand-wipe empty nothing.

Truth is – like antibiotics themselves – wipe cleaning is no longer up to the job.

If we’re going to rediscover hygiene, we’ve got to take on those killer bugs everywhere we can. Which means not just out in the open – but underneath, behind and on top of things – plus the cracks and crevices in between.

That sexy coil of wire for the blood pressure machine? It gets handled 20 times a day and what is it cleaned with? Formaldehyde is banned as a carcinogen, bleach attacks the plastic insulation – and anyway, to wipe that cable after every use would pull its soldered ends apart in weeks.

Sterilising technology

OK, how about UV? There’s this American company jumping up and down about the UV robots it has supplied to Sierra Leone which zaps germs in minutes, sterilising everything including Ebola.

It’s a nifty machine and a real step forward (something like this). No viruses, no bacteria – pretty well sterile. But it’s not too good getting underneath, behind or on top of things, because you can’t bend light rays. You need to keep shifting it around to be effective.

So? Fog the place up with hydrogen peroxide. It attacks germs by oxidising them, job done. Like no virus or bacteria survives being ripped apart by oxygen atoms tearing through it.

Especially if you go the whole hog.

All germs – gone

Don’t just spray the stuff in the air – ionise it in a Hypersteriliser, so it disperses faster, finer than water droplets, almost like a plasma. So it actively reaches out and grabs pathogens on the fly, destroying them in mid-air.

So it’s electrostatically attracted deep into cracks and crevices, where hand wipes cannot reach.

So it sterilises the air, where most germs normally are. You’ve seen grains of dust fly around – every bug in the universe is microscopically smaller than that – so don’t let anyone tell you that germs aren’t airborne all the time.

So it’s dry and in a mild concentration, that doesn’t attack surfaces or harm electrical connections – plugs, sockets, keyboards and stuff.

So it decomposes into nothing afterwards, just water and oxygen.

Oh yes, and boost it with colloidal silver while you’re doing all this – so it performs three times better. So that an ultra thin residue of silver is left on all surfaces afterwards, an antibacterial barrier for ongoing protection.

Is that rediscovering enough?

Available now

You can destroy all pathogens right now, just by pressing a button – in as little as forty minutes, depending on room size. (Tweet this)

And it makes the place sterile to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6 –that is, 99.9999% germ-free. Safe, sterile and secure.

It won’t stop superbugs having a go at you if they get inside your body.

But sure as heck, it will prevent them getting to you in the first place.

Originally posted 2015-03-13 12:26:30.

If the Doc can’t talk English, go to the vet

Worried vet
Without English, how can you hope to explain your symptoms?

Grumpy, uncommunicative, or plain non capisco?

It took Dr Kate Granger’s now famous social media campaign to get doctors and nurses just to say “Hello, my name is…

Sure, hospital staff are busy and rushed off their feet, but doesn’t there always have to be time to make a human connection?

Not a sausage factory

A patient is a real person, not a lump of meat.

Or – to open up the latest can of worms – doesn’t the Doc speak English?

A kind of basic issue that.

Like, is the Doc qualified in the first place?

Because even if a doctor is totally brilliant, if the only language of communication is Italian, Bengali or Finnish, how can anyone be expected to do the job properly?

Basic people skills

Yes, employing foreign medics might be a way to solve our current tsunami of hospital cases – but not if they don’t understand the patient.

And it’s not just introducing their name and saying “how do you do?”, like Kate Granger is asking.

Talking to your doctor is so crucial, we’re right to be worried if there’s no understanding.

It’s such a huge issue that credit card giant American Express is running a TV commercial worldwide about finding “a doctor who speaks your language.”

Crucial is right.

Understanding symptoms

You’re the patient, the only person in the whole world who can isolate what’s wrong with you.

It might be a painful gasp, “I feel crook,” and a clutch at your ribs. But at least the Doc has something to go on.

Because from there, it’s possible to ask questions. To help narrow down whatever is necessary to make a diagnosis.

Without English, there’s not even that.

Which is why you would be better off at the vet.

In the hands of a professional who is trained around not being able to communicate.

Observation and experience

Because animals can’t talk or make gestures. They can only feel ill, like you do.

And a vet has a better idea of what to look for when words aren’t available. Can interpret grunts, whines and squeaks more accurately than listening to Swahili.

Which makes sharing language and talking to patients much more of a key issue than politicians and whoever those admin people are might imagine.

More than just for courtesy and making patients feel welcome too.

Confidence and wellbeing are both qualities a good doctor can instil.

A few quiet, well-chosen words from a recognised authority figure work better than any medicine – saving time, money, heartache and worry.

Common sense

It’s plain common sense, anyway.

If you were to go and live in a Martian society, you’d get nowhere unless you spoke Martian. Unless you meshed with their society, understood their needs and recognised what motivated them.

Which is exactly what a doctor needs to engage with patients in Britain.
It doesn’t have to be perfect English – it can even have a heavy accent.

Without it though, things can go horribly wrong.

It’s enough of a challenge fighting viruses and bacteria – without struggling with words as well. (Tweet this)

Your extremely life could lean on it.

Originally posted 2015-03-12 13:16:17.