Category Archives: Legends

Life-saving dirty secrets land MRSA in the poo

Apple girl
You have to do it when you’re little –
play dirty to play safe

Blam!

Suddenly you’re back a thousand years, toiling on a farm in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex.

That super-star tough guy Canute hasn’t arrived yet – he’s only due in Poole Harbour in September or so – it’s too hot for fighting and pillaging now.

Dirt under your fingernails

So you’re out in the fields, getting all muddy, then chopping up garlic and leeks for tonight’s meal – a bubbling stew with wine and stuff you make in that brass pot your forefathers brought over from Denmark in the last invasion.

Oh yeah, and with the leftovers, you’re going to dump in some bile from Sunniva, the family cow – your man Betlic has a nasty stye on his eye and your ancient family-recipe goo is just the thing to fix it.

He’s got to wait a week or so before you can use it though – the stuff needs to do its thing – simmer, bubble, mature, whatever. All you know is, it settles down into a kind of paste – and clears up eye infections overnight.

Amazing how things work with min resources, isn’t it?

Back then, there was no such thing as an antibiotic. Nobody even knew what “biotic” was. But when you live on the land, getting good and dirty working the soil, you learn a thing about treating cuts and scratches – or even serious injury.

Make it up as you go along

This mud makes a good poultice, mixed in with pounded comfrey. Those leaves fix your stomach ache if you boil them, then mix the liquid with goat’s wee. Chew that willow bark to fix your headache.

Natural things – and your own body’s immune system, intertwined and reacting to your environment. There are no doctors here, so injuries get trial-and-error treatments handed down through centuries.

But nobody gets sick either – their bodies have built defences to the usual soil bacteria and seasonal viruses. Bad food, of course will do it – or the bite of an animal from another area – different germs you’ve never got used to.

If a doctor examined you in some Twenty-First Century Clinic – nobody would believe the findings. You’re good to go anywhere at all – while your modern cousins are languishing with asthma, hay fever, all kinds of other coughs and sneezes – stuff you shake off without thinking.

‘Cos your immune system’s good, see. Up and running and properly tuned.

Everywhere, threats

Not like them. Allergies of all kinds they can’t get rid of. Immune systems compensating for challenges they haven’t faced for hundreds of years.

But that’s the price of modern living. Safe drinking water and plumbed sewage. Hygienic surroundings. Food produced so carefully there’s no chance of infection. No threats for your system to latch onto – so it finds substitutes.

Like, back in your pre-Canute days, who ever reacted to grass seeds? Or pollen in the air? Or flared up with bee stings? Or swelled up eating nuts?

It didn’t happen because your system knew the odds. It learnt from chewing dirt as a child. Mud and cow bile. Mud and poo – what’s the difference? Babies are tough – and self-teaching their immune systems is why.

You think your stye ointment is just for fixing eye troubles – with no idea of its other healing powers.

You don’t have MRSA in your time – methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus – there are no antibiotics for it to resist. But you don’t have the staph infections either – your eye-gop stops them too.

Body self-destruct

Count yourself lucky.

Because allergies aren’t the only thing that happen when the immune system over-reacts.

Ever heard of sepsis?

Blame it on our over-clean, over-safe, sanitised, pasteurised lifestyle. One tiny, everyday disorder and the system goes into meltdown. It’s only a throat tickle, but the body retaliates as if it’s thermo-nuclear war.

Every antibody in your whole metabolism goes into over-drive, but there’s nothing serious to react to. But everything’s gung-ho, so the body attacks itself.

Which is what happens when the immune system has nothing to do. And why 37,000 people die from sepsis every year. Not big, like cancer, but every bit as deadly – which is why heartbroken families have helped put together a trust fund to fight it.

Yeah, MRSA – and all those other hospital-acquired infections. Other bugs too, that we’ve lost our defences for – because we’re too clean-obsessed for our own good.

We’re in it now

Because it’s too late now to go play in the mud. We’re all grown up and unable to learn. A bit of dirt and we all come down with something dreadful – like our every-time-a-coconut holiday friend, norovirus.

So it’s not just MRSA that’s in the poo, it’s us.

OK, so clean-obsessed works, up to a point. Time to go wash your hands. And blast all the germs and viruses around you out of existence with a Hypersteriliser.

And that’s no secret, just common sense.

Smitten by aliens from outer space

Spacewoman
Space, the final frontier: to boldly go where no germs can ever get you

It’s an affliction we’ve suffered from for nearly fifty years.

And enjoyed every second. Charmed and intrigued by an alien space being – that inscrutable and totally logical Vulcan known as Doctor Spock.

Boldly gone

Sadly, the charismatic Leonard Nimoy who played Spock in the 1960s TV series Star Trek, has passed on.

It is the end of a legend.

But our fascination and often dread for things alien is a lasting legacy – and the spirit of Spock will live on for aeons to come.

“Is there life out there?” is a question we already seem to have answered ourselves.

Out of which comes our continuing paranoia – “What if it comes here?”

It’s not just in sci-fi that it receives such focus.

Real eggheads in research centres all over the world worry about it in sci-fact too.

When the original Star Trek took to the airwaves  in 1966, space travel was still just throwing rockets up and watching them go round and round.

Three years later came Apollo 11 and two men walked on the moon.

Infection from space

Alien exposure!

What dangers did they risk? What contamination did they face?

And most paranoid of all, what extra-terrestrial hazards did they bring back?

They walked the moon’s surface, moon dust was on their clothing. The moon’s electro-magnetic influence infused their being.

More to the point, out of the six Apollo moon landings between 1969 and 1972, 2,415 samples of rock from the moon – almost a third of a ton – came back too.

And what defence do we have from possible alien life forms? (Tweet this) Embryo creatures trapped in lunar basalt, or deadly viruses set to take over our planet?

It is a recurring headache for scientists everywhere – how to avoid contamination of space with Earth-originated organisms.

And the other way around. How to prevent our own contamination.

Kinda difficult now that some 300,000 pieces of space junk larger than 1 cm are estimated to be in orbit up to 1,200 miles out – detritus from rocket stages, old satellites and other broken bits of nothing.

Science hoo-hah?

Not a bit of it.

Earth contamination

After the Apollo 12 mission, the camera from a previous Surveyor 3 probe was brought back to Earth and found to have Streptococcus mitis alive on its casing –  attributed by NASA to its not being sterilised on Earth prior to launch, two and a half years previously.

A technician sneezed on it.

NASA’s watchdog against any repeat is its Office of Planetary Protection, which applies muscle to measure, control and reduce spacecraft microbial contamination by law.

Sterilising spacecraft is difficult, given their construction from sensitive materials and the many fragile electronics systems involved. Repeated exposure to ultra violet light covers many stages of preparation, so does bombarding with gamma rays.

But Earth’s microbes have already proved themselves able to withstand extremes of temperature, radiation exposure, and even survive being in a vacuum.

Outer space? Been there, done that.

Currently, two methods are accepted for sterilising spacecraft – cooking with dry heat up to 233 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 hours – or exposure to hydrogen peroxide.

The hydrogen peroxide route is under close scrutiny – favoured for its effectiveness in eliminating all viruses and bacteria – but questioned for the moisture it introduces when deployed as a vapour, a major advantage over manual wipe methods.

Sterilising that works

That could be about to change – and remember, you read about it right here, first.

Already deployed throughout hospitals and public buildings is an automatic Hypersteriliser that ionises hydrogen peroxide into a dry mist that substantially outperforms the vapour method.

Ionising in the spray nozzle causes the hydrogen peroxide molecules  to become charged, dispersing widely and quickly as their like charges repel each other, forcing them apart.

The same charge attracts them to any surfaces or airborne particles, actively grabbing at viruses and bacteria which they destroy by thrusting oxygen atoms at them. In as little as an hour, any enclosed space and its contents becomes clinically sterile.

Good to know we have that kind of protection. Especially as we are still smitten.

As we learned from the movie Alien – in space, no one can hear you scream.

Think nobody cares? How about ambulance crews?

Lizzy Pickup
Paramedic Lizzy Pickup pulled an unconscious mum from a blazing house (with thanks to Gazette Live)

Time to review your belief in saints.

There’s two in your rear-view mirror, coming up fast – Mercedes Sprinter, blue lights flashing.

On a shout for some bloke who fell down the stairs at a stag do. Broken collar-bone, nasty head gash, heavy bruises and unconscious.

Real live care

Or they could be on the way to your place – your wife can’t breathe and she’s having a panic attack.

Real people with professional skills and bucket-loads of a quality no-one else has got. (Tweet this)

Compassion.

The only people in the world who give you time when others turn away.

Well think about it.

Two in the morning, who do you call?

Your Doc doesn’t do call-outs any more. The help-lines don’t understand you – or you can’t understand them. Online stuff is confusing – and you’re getting more worried by the second.

Thank goodness

Then the knock at the door.

Relief, reassurance, confidence.

Solid professionals with an easy feel.

World-class paramedics who know what they’re doing.

Strangers who do more to help you than the rest of the world combined.

Because two in the morning is a very scary place when things go wrong.

You need your Mum. You need your Dad. You need a doctor, medicine, encouragement, help.

And here’s two of them all in green – all these things and more.

Ordinary people like the rest of us. But with a caring feel and commitment  no-one could ever teach – kind-heartedness straight from the soul.

Yes, they’re quick. But they take their time. Rushing a patient creates problems.
You’re panicky, your wife can’t talk – so the first thing they get is garbled, disjointed, and not very accurate.

They do the checks – blood pressure, temperature, breathing. Step One, assess and stabilise.

They put her on oxygen, wrap her in a blanket – why didn’t you think of that?

Steady does it

Will they take her to hospital?

Quiet voices, steady, calming.

Colour in her cheeks now, no more gasping for air.

They take their time, but the clock is ticking. There’s a radio alert, tense, urgent.

Your wife smiles. You know the signs. Time to put the kettle on.

The two saints decline – the blonde girl with the pony tail, younger than your daughter. And the dark one with rosy cheeks.

So grown-up, but just kids – looking after the whole world.

Your wife gets tablets and a shot. More like herself and breathing easy. Back to bed, less distressing than A&E.

The two saints go. Twenty minutes and the world returns to normal.

Back to confidence. Back to being you.

They leave without lights or siren. Another ten hours ahead of them before they’re off shift.

The only people in the whole world who care when nobody else does. (Tweet this)

Harder worked than any of us will ever be. More stretched, more challenged. Yet by some miracle, totally dedicated to looking after you and me.

Think about that next time some wazzock bad-mouths them on TV.

They’ll help him too, if he needs it.

Nice to believe in human goodness again.

Red-faced Rudolf forced to take a rain check

Sneezing Santa
Christmas emergency: a serious infection alert has cancelled this year’s traditional delivery

Sorry folks, that famous and long-awaited sleigh ride won’t be happening this year.

Seems that red nose of Rudolph’s is causing major ructions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Alarm bells are going off that it’s a warning symptom of H5N1 or other avian flu – one of the nasty ones.

Pandemic alert

With only days to this year’s round-the-world distribution trip, the whole delivery team – Rudolph, Santa and all the helpers – are under lockdown. Strict quarantine against any new pandemic breaking loose.

Despite high expectations and the world-famous nature of the trip, looks like the CDC has had Santa and Rudolph under surveillance for a long time.

Germ-spreading fomites

High on the list of worries is the huge sack of fomites – objects or substances which are capable of carrying infectious organisms from one individual to another.

Though each is individually gift-wrapped and addressed, there are no facilities aboard the sleigh to ensure they are properly disinfected and pathogen-free.

The lack of washing facilities aboard is also identified as a major health risk.

Asked for comment, Santa was overcome by a coughing fit, but did manage to identify that a back-up system was in place.

UV protection

Prior to departure, presents will be sterilised by longer than usual exposure to the Aurora Borealis at the North Pole. The ultra violet light present in the phenomenon will ensure all viruses and bacteria are removed before take-off.

Actual delivery will be by a fleet of high altitude NASA Global Hawk drones. For Santa watchers, high intensity white strobe lights will substitute for Rudolph’s more familiar red glow.

The whole journey can be tracked as normal via the official NORAD Santa Tracker website.

Hike hygiene levels high

Advice from the Santa Corporation is that children should be sure to wash their hands thoroughly before eating or opening presents – and be sure to follow proper hygiene when going to the toilet.

An upgraded delivery system is already in preparation for next year.

Merry Christmas everyone – and keep well!

Luvvy-Duvvy Dentist Saves Lives

Indian Beauty
Pulsed ultra violet –
protection against pathogens in seconds

Blame British Airways. It was their sirloin steak that collapsed the tooth filling at 36,000 feet.

The very next chomp brought agony at 2.00 in the morning as the side of the tooth broke off onto the plastic plate.

Four more hours to Mumbai. With the paracetamol from the cabin attendant doing nothing at all. A pounding headache and cheek swollen out like a puffer fish.

Hurry up and wait

Murder at the airport. Ten hours to get a passport stamp, though it could only have been ten minutes. The hotel sent a car, hooray. Except the driver spoke no English – happy-happy cruising like we had all day.

Not nice to die at sunrise – in a strange place, thousands of miles from home.

Except the manager was brilliant. One look and he reached for the phone.

“Emergency please, doctor luvvy-duvvy.”

A mistake, surely. Or an unfamiliar Indian name.

Doctor Lavi Davi, that seemed about right.

The manager spun the driver round and shoved him at the car. “Jaldi karana,” he yelled and slammed the door.

No cruising now. Lewis Hamilton on steroids. Schoolkids, bikes, bullock carts, buses – all the people on the planet crammed into the single road ahead. No need for pain-killers, just triple double tranquillisers.

Another ten minutes that felt like ten hours.

The Empire sleeps on

Quieter side streets. A crumbling wall. A short dusty driveway to a broken down colonial relic of a house from the days of the Raj.

Doctor Luvvy-Duvvy in big letters on a purple signboard.

Out of the car in a cloud of dust. Through a crowded waiting room into air conditioned coolness and a waiting dentist’s chair.

The door shut.  Ah, sanity!

A big 4×4 pulled up outside. A flashy designer job for climbing up on pavements. Mercedes or Porsche or something. This would bend the debit card.

A nurse set up the chair. Flashy was right. The latest recliner model with all the goodies. She set up the splash-bib and Health & Safety glasses. Just like home.

“Doctor will be here now.” She nodded at the car outside the window.

A vision stepped in. Straight from a Bollywood movie. Poised, elegant and drop-dead gorgeous.

She pulled a purple smock over her head. The heart-shaped badge said Luvvy-Duvvy.

“Doctor Geetha Khan,” she said. Melodic, like wind chimes. “Let’s take a look.”

Silky smooth, surely a goddess. “The hotel said it was life or death.”

The gentle dental touch

Her fingers were careful, bred to handling crystal. The touch was confident. She knew her stuff.

Another ten minutes. Ten hours for discomfort. Ten seconds while this magical creature worked her miracle. Pain gone, swelling gone. Relief at being human again.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” It couldn’t be said enough.

She smiled. The whole world sighed.

Sitting up, slightly giddy. “Please tell me, I’m new to your country. Why Luvvy-Duvvy?

The smile broadened – somewhere the light shone brighter and flowers opened their petals.

Ultra violet germ killer

“Over there,” she pointed to a grey box on wheels, the Luvvy-Duvvy badge big across its front panel. “We named our practice after it – it saves lives.”

Luvvy-Duvvy?”

“Come.” She took my hand – instant, irreversible love.

Back into the crowded waiting room, the nurse coming too. The Doc-goddess had a remote in her hand. She pulled the door to, not quite closing it.

“Watch.”

Reflected purple light flickered off the wall panels inside.

Pulsed ultra-violet,” she said. “This is a hot country. People come straight in off the street, bringing all manner of germs. Take your chances outside, operating theatre inside.”

She nodded at the door. “Luvvy-Duvvy for the UV. That thing sterilises my operating room before and after every patient. Five minutes, bang.”

She pushed open the door. A long glass tube was subsiding back into the machine. “No viruses, no bacteria. I work with people’s open mouths every day. No infections on my watch.”

The crowded waiting room was watching.

“Please excuse me, this is a busy day,” she said. Wind chimes again. “Enjoy our country while you can. Just don’t chew on that side for a day or two.”

A miracle place, India. Can’t help loving the place.

Luvvy-duvvy me.

It’s not the smell that makes you sick – it’s the germs

Class of school children
Heroes are people who make germs go away, like our teacher

It started out as Coronation Chicken on a crispy baguette – big enough to stop the most ravenous appetite with some left over.

It was the left-over that was the problem.

When the builders finished at the school, the summer holidays had three-and-a-half weeks left to run.

Three-and-a-half weeks with no air conditioning and ventilation. By which time the classroom for 4CH was decidedly ripe.

Opening the windows sort of fixed it. But of course the school had to be locked up at night. Air fresheners didn’t crack it either. A few seconds of lavender, then back to the yuck.

Allan Armstrong was the caretaker. He’d been there for yonks and knew just what was needed. A good swab out with a hefty dose of bleach would sort it, no problem.

Unfortunately, it made it worse. The smell was so strong it made the kids’ eyes run. Christa Holmfirth, their teacher, went further and burst into tears.

The classroom had to be abandoned, displacing them all to the assembly hall – unwanted, unloved and shoved to one side.

But tears or not, Christa was no helpless female.

Determined, she braved the classroom during her lunch break and tracked the smell down to the new panelling under the windows.

The heck with asking for permission, she kicked it in with her shoe, snapping the heel in the process – and there was this crinkled packet, half-covered with green gunge.

Smell was one thing, but what kind of GERMS were her children going to come down with? The thing must be crawling with bacteria.

She took it out at arm’s length and marched it to the wheelie-bin behind the school kitchen.

Her colleagues complained that she was stinking the place out.

Then they looked at her face. Whatever they said, Christa was taking no prisoners. And they shrank visibly when she pulled the aerosol out of her handbag.

She showed them the label. Total release fogger – kills germs in seconds. Clobbering the smell did nothing, so she was going to sterilise the whole room.

Fighting her nausea, she went back to the classroom and shut all the windows. She put the aerosol on a desk in the middle, pressed the button and actually ran for the door as if the smell we attacking her.

It took five minutes for the sick feeling to die down. By that time, as she saw through the glass panel, the room looked like a sauna gone wrong, everything ghostly in a cloud of mist.

Her big mistake was telling the kids about it, they wanted to see too. Well, you try telling thirty excited kids with no home that their classroom is full of fog. They were kids and curious.

Curious, but not brave enough to go in. Which was probably just as well.

Christa’s aerosol was based on ammonium chloride, a lighter than air mist which killed germs by oxidising them – ripping them apart by shoving oxygen atoms at them. Lower powered than the super-oxidiser, hydrogen peroxide, but it did the business.Handy in an aerosol too.

Not harmful, but not a good idea to breathe in either.

Twenty minutes later, the room was clear – and the other teachers were complaining about the noise in the passage. Christa went first and opened all the windows wide.

“Oooh!” They all stood there sniffing.

Christa was in tears again. Because the smell was gone. No stink, no germs, her kids were safe.

Which made the waterworks start Big Time. Difficult to resist when a bunch of eight-year-olds suddenly burst out clapping.

Miss Holmfirth, their heroine. The most popular Year Four teacher in UK.

If you could see germs, you’d be scared too

Man surrounded by germs
Get worried – germs are all around

Harry Venables was still an intern when it happened.

They chose him because he was single, with no girlfriend or family connections. A loner working the night shift who could keep his mouth shut.

At least that’s how it occurred to Harry later, after the spooks disappeared back into the woodwork.

It was just after three, in the middle of the graveyard shift, and he was loitering in the ambulance loading bay at Coombe General. Loitering with a pack of twenty he was about to finish.

He’d just lit up when The Voice spoke to him. He thought of it as The Voice because he never saw the bloke. They only spoke at the ambulance bay and The Voice was always behind him.

Ten grand they offered him, a good step towards a deposit on a flat. He was young, he was observant, he was qualified, he had the nerve and stamina for long hours in A&E, he was a natural.

Nothing bad, they told him. Nothing to do with crime or terrorism.

Yeah, right. They “forgot” to mention terrifying.

They were sort of virtual reality goggles and he was to test them. Choose a quiet moment and walk through A&E with them on. Make a professional assessment without anyone seeing him.

Ten minutes, ten grand. A walk in the park.

They were made by the same people who invented thermal imaging surveillance for the CIA. The difference was, they were medical – to view and be aware of germs. All the pathogens and bio-crud in the environment of the hospital. Back at Vauxhall, they called them “biofecals.”

He put them on twenty minutes later, after the ruptured appendix and just before the three car pile-up on the M3.

Wow, but they shocked him. A horror movie with the aliens already infecting the planet.
The hospital had high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtering in the aircon, so he thought the place was safe. When he saw the vents stirring around this film of bluey-pink stuff, he was not so sure.

Wherever he looked there was this haze of colour, darker in some places than others. He got it after a moment, different colours for different germs, he just didn’t know which was which.

It reminded him of something – swirls of dyed coffee crystals, but not so brilliant – caught up and moving in the air all around him, like stuff suspended in water.

The red stuff worried him most, at its thickest around patients with external wounds. He hoped it wasn’t MRSA, or clostridium perfringens, one of the bacteria that caused gangrene.

There was stuff on his hands too, though he washed them after the fag – and rubbed them off with alcohol gel. It wouldn’t wipe away, though more alcohol helped.

But the worst was the whole place infested with these tinges of colour. The hospital prided itself on its hygiene, it’s A&E was one of the most impressive in the country. Light tinges coloured the beds and the worktops around them.

The killer was the darker smudges of colour around the edge of the surfaces. Where the cleaning wipes hadn’t reached because the top was priority. The underside of things was grim too. And on the cables and tubes connecting equipment, a thick coating of coloured spider webs and dust.

It made him scared and it made him sick. He ripped the goggles off and just made it back to the ambulance bay before he threw up. Damn, and now he was out of cigarettes too.

The Voice reached from behind and took the goggles. Describing his experience was worse. As a practicing doctor he knew what the colours meant. By the time he finished, he was shaking.

No wonder people got sick and died – even in hospital, where they hoped to be protected.

Out of sight, out of mind, whatever our germ protection system was amounted to virtually nothing. And how bad could it be in the outside world?

He went back in and washed his hands again. He was a doctor, he had to do something about this. There had to be a way to keep patients safe and sterilised. And the greater public too. Another story that starts here.

He found the ten grand in his bank account. It felt dirty, diseased, like the germs that had put it there. Without even thinking, he donated the lot to cancer research.

The road to healthy business

Coach on Motorway
Everybody safe, sterilised from germs

Poor Mrs Bremridge.

She took ill on the way back from the matinée at the Royal Theatre. A one-man presentation of Gogol’s Diary of a Madman with James Tibbott – a bit high-brow for her companions but perfect for Molly B. She had quite a career in the West End until Russell swept her off her feet to Kenya.

Billy Young was the coach driver, standing in for Erin because he had the Transit licence and Erin only drove the Scanias – too big deal to handle a load of OAPs.

So it was up to him to do something when Mrs B had her attack.

He didn’t know what it was, but it looked bad, shivering and shaking like she was having a fit. And the moans. It was because she made so much noise that Billy stopped in the first place. Poor old dear looked like she might not make it.

So Billy took no chances. Drove straight to A&E, fighting panic all the way that the others would come down with it too. Some kind of bug, you never knew what it was – and suddenly you’re disabled in a wheelchair with half your gut removed.

Unbelievable, but having a busload of OAPs on their doorstep worked for Mrs B. The triage nurse had her put straight through for treatment without even waiting. Which was how come Billy knew what it was before they left. Malaria apparently – once you had it, attacks kept recurring.

Billy shivered. Not for him. So when he dropped the lot of them at the Civic Centre, he got the bus back to the yard and scrubbed it down with the first things he could find – washing up liquid and bleach from under the sink.

It got to him at home too. Poor Mrs Bremridge, shaking so violently. It spooked him bad and that was no lie. It set him thinking too. Maybe bleach wasn’t enough. What if he caught it, exposed to it all the time because it kept lurking in his bus?

Panic sent him to the Internet – where he found it. An aerosol bomb that misted up enclosed spaces with ammonium chloride. Killed all germs by oxidising them, it said on the label, knocked them down in mid-air. Shut the windows, put the thing in the middle of the floor, hit the button.

It sure misted up the place, a white haze that ghosted the whole of the inside. Trouble was, his Dad caught him at it – it was his company after all. Gave him an earful about filling a perfectly good bus with white smoke.

He calmed down when Billy explained though. Two pints of Best Bitter it took before the Old Man got it. Another two and he reckoned Billy was a genius.  Sterilise the vehicle was what the stuff did, made it safe from germs for everyone who stepped aboard. A business advantage, they’d be rich.

And how many times had Billy himself had to hop over to Germany or the Czech Republic because one of their other drivers had caught a bug from one of the passengers? A whole coach-load marooned in a hotel that they had to pay for, and then argue about with the insurance company.

They bought a job lot of aerosols after that. Enough for their whole fleet to carry every day they were away from home – Billy’s Dad, Len, Erin, Billy himself and Fagin – thirty-five bombs a week minimum.

Their accountant complained of course, but it was worth every penny being able to guarantee that every trip was sterilised. And business went boom, boom!

Then the Old Man got smart. Found a machine that worked cheaper and did the job automatically. Misted up all their buses every night in the yard – with hydrogen peroxide mist which was way more potent. And what the heck, they had to clean the buses anyway, so pushing a button was no effort.

Stopped a lot of people getting ill Billy reckoned. Him and the other drivers for a start. They didn’t seem to come down with the sniffles any more, at least not as much. Of course they still had people throw up on the road, school-kids with motion sickness or whatever.

But thanks to Mrs Bremridge, it was never anything serious. They had sterilised coaches now, the best service on the road. Let those posh London companies chew on that.

Double your money – get rid of the germs

Open freway
Where the money is – when there’s no germs

‘It’s only earning money when it’s on the road.’

Russell Dalton learnt that rule the hard way when he started his business with just one lorry.

He brainwashed his son with it, when they bought their second vehicle – a Mercedes Actros 1848 which cost a bomb, but which his son said was the best economy because it was the best.

OK, so it was second-hand, it still had to make money. Ensure every trip was a full load and they’d be laughing. His son could have the Merc, he was Foden man himself. They didn’t make ’em any more, but they always kept going and brought the money in.

Trouble was, they had this new contract to haul fruit. Fine, they bought two refrigerated trailers to handle it, but the trips were only one-way. Super-clean or nothing for the supplier’s bananas – which meant no return loads to top up the kitty. To keep clean they had to run empty.

Throwing money away, that’s what it was.

With an average of two hundred miles a trip, Dalton actually felt pain at coming back with nothing. Specially when they could bring junk packaging back – full loads, all they could carry. Money for old rope from a long-time pal.

Which is round about when Dalton discovered the Cobra machine. Some farmer on the Internet was using this gun-thing to sterilise his livestock sheds. Zapping airborne germs so his cows never got sick. STERILISING, for Pete’s sake. Must be industrial strength battery acid with all that cow dung and hay.

Until he checked it out. The thing sent out a fine mist of hydrogen peroxide, the same stuff his Mum used to use on his scraped knees when he was a nipper. Apparently the HP latched onto germs in mid-air with a 99.9999% kill rate. No smell in the barn, nothing. Just healthy cows.

Which got Dalton thinking about bananas. If 99.9999% of bacteria could be wiped out in the 45 minutes it took to work, his lorries would be safer than an operating theatre.

What the heck, there might be money in it. So he bought himself as germ detection kit for a couple of grand. Got a Cobra and misted up the Foden after another one-way banana trip. Clean as a whistle, actually better than it was before he started.

So he got on the blower to the supplier.

If he could could guarantee no viruses or bacteria every trip, would the supplier let him haul other stuff on the return?

The bloke just about had a cadenza. “Backfilling” was unhygienic, he said. Customers would get food poisoning and the outlets he supplied would sue.

So Dalton showed him the detection kit. Ran it round his lorry, the supplier’s warehouse  and his offices too. Red-faced, the bloke was. With all the burger crumbs on his desk, his own office was more contaminated than their toilets!

It proved Dalton’s point though. And got the nod to carry stuff on return trips, on condition that every new delivery had the lorry hosed out and sterilised before loading. A piece of cake – done!

Which is why you’ll find Dalton is jumping up and down about his new Actros. The one they ordered when the balance sheet nearly doubled.

Damn it, those things only make money on the road, what’s it doing sitting in the dealer’s showroom?

How I survived when germs killed my business!

Bad guys with guns
Don’t take chances, germs are deadly

Sven Bjerg had it good. In just three years he could understand the mad English language and its totally weird slang. He had a car and flat, done-up nice in a posh part of town.

And his online business was looking good at the bank, showing a nice profit and growing visibly.

The office he ran looked pretty juj too. His team of twenty sat open-plan at fitted workstations on the top floor above a high street boutique – designer wall prints, soft downlights, plush carpet and the best heating-aircon system in the country.

His staff loved him. Everybody on big salaries with big incentives, everything laid on, nothing too much trouble. Every week there was a lunch or free drinks in the pub. If somebody needed a day off, they took it without coming off their leave. Early birds before 7.00 am had free bacon butties.

Which is right about where Bjerg’s disaster started, although he didn’t know it. With staff earning bucket-loads of cash, everyone worked round the clock. Fast food at their desks or round the conference room table. Coffee and snacks constantly on the go.

Of course every night, the place looked like a bomb had hit it. No problem, Bjerg found this team of Latvian cleaners who made the whole place sparkle. Vacuum the floors, dump the rubbish, feather-dust the desks and neaten all the paper piles.

Except it wasn’t good enough. Though they looked lean, those beechwood work tables were  crawling with 400 times more microbes than a toilet seat. Spilled drinks, crumbs from biscuits and sandwiches mixed with street dust bred germ colonies of 20,000 microbes per square inch.

It got worse, because everything was so efficient. To dose everybody equally, the triple whammy aircon system stirred up the air so that staff lived on a constant but invisible stream of Rhinovirus, MRSA, Salmonella, Norovirus, Campylobacter and E. coli.

Sick leave was generous of course, as much time as anyone wanted, on full pay.

Until the day came that everybody was sick all at once.

Bjerg himself tried to make it into work. For two hours he sat on the loo more than at his desk, threw up three times, and blacked out once.

It couldn’t be the Latvians, the place looked spotless. Could anything be lurking on the phones, keyboards or spaghetti of cables on every desk?

Last throw of the dice, in two days he’d be out of business.

He made one call. Maybe somebody could blitz the place and get rid of what was killing them.

They did, with a fine-mist spray of hydrogen peroxide. Sealed the whole place up and fogged it out, total room sterilisation in 45 minutes. And the cost?

Bjerg had change out of £350.

The place gets done every week now. Misted up and sterilised while everybody relaxes.
And they’re all on bonuses because nobody goes sick. Making a fortune.

So many people pester him to work there, he’s specially asked to keep quiet about it .
We won’t keep quiet about the hydrogen peroxide though.

At offices, schools, hotels, restaurants, on trains, buses and planes – everybody needs to know they can be safe from germs wherever they are.

Not bad for a Nineteenth Century discovery your doctor has probably forgotten about. And so inexpensive, drug companies don’t make any money out of it.

It could save your life though. And your business!