Category Archives: Safe & Sterilised

Norovirus: why frantic $40K cleanup could still come unstuck

Anxious businesswoman
It’s not just the cost, norovirus can kill a business reputation stone-cold dead

You don’t take chances with norovirus.

Very unpleasant – and very bad for business – it has a boomerang property that keeps it coming back and back, whatever anyone does.

Boomerang in Kansas?

Which may soon be the experience of the popular New Theatre Restaurant in Kansas City. With 400 people down with norovirus last week, but determined to stay open, they’ve had hit-teams spray the place with a “Lysol-like” disinfectant – the same kind of stuff used on cruise liners – and boldly kept on going. Comedy performances of Out of Order starring Gary Sandy of WKRP in Cincinnati fame are to continue uninterrupted.

Let’s hope they’re not too hasty.

Norovirus is a nasty not to be wished on anyone. Cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea – up to four days and more, feeling like the end of the world.

Violent and explosive vomiting is one reason why a Lysol-type spray (similar to Dettol aerosol) may not be enough. It’s one of the ways the virus ensures it spreads as wide as possible. You’re not just being sick, you’re rocketing out your guts further and farther than with any other upchuck.

So if that spray doesn’t reach into every little nook and cranny, norovirus can be back in full raging force just hours later.

Virulent and vindictive

Norovirus is more contagious than other viruses too – 1,000 times more potent than everyday winter flu. All it takes is 10 tiny particles (around 2 microns in size) to become infected – and one particle can contain 100,000,000,000 particles.

But that’s not the only reason New Theatre Restaurant might still be in trouble. The spray they’ve used is water-based, hose-piping around trying to cover all areas. It’s potency is 99.9% effective – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 3.

Not really good enough.

Water-based vapour starts falling to the floor as soon as it’s dispersed. It never reaches ceilings or walls, the water drops are too heavy. And with a potency of just 10 particles needed to start an infection, 99.9% efficiency might work for an hour or two – then it’s back to square one.

Meanwhile, the super-light particles of norovirus float easily around on the smallest wafts of air – smaller and lighter than the molecules around them – lighter than nitrogen and hydrogen (once used to lift airships), tinier than dust, wispier than smoke, so almost nothing they may never fall to the floor, ever.

Yeah, it infects on contact – but how do you think it spreads?

Plus, there’s the boomerang effect.

Repeat performances

Get rid of norovirus – or think you do – and it’s back, with interest in days. Again and again and again.

Check out the sad story of Fred Olsen Line’s cruise liner Amsterdam in 2002.

FOUR times the ship sailed from Port Canaveral, Florida, with a load of happy, expectant holiday passengers. FOUR times, the ship had to put back with outbreaks of norovirus. It got so bad that passengers on the later voyages were even warned before embarking!

Only when the ship was pulled from service and 600 workers took TEN DAYS to disinfect the ship under supervision of the CDC, was the boomerang cycle broken.

Imagine the cost – FOUR fully-loaded voyages with 1,300 passengers paying upwards of $1,200 each – TEN days of docking fees and port costs – plus labour for 600 workers, cleaning down to detail fomite objects like poker chips and bedside bibles – not much change out of 10 million.

Alongside that kind of money, New Theatre Restaurant’s 40 grand begins to look like chicken feed.

And was it the same Lysol-type spray that was so ineffective on Amsterdam? In which case look out future audiences of Out of Order – you may not be as safe as you think you are.

No more norovirus

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Norovirus might be potent – out of reach in the air, or hiding in cracks and crevices. But there IS a way to clobber it good – along with all other viruses and bacteria too – just by pressing a button.

The trick is to use a Hypersteriliser or a number of them. Called the Halo in the States, this minor miracle is a nifty portable machine about the size of a small wheelie-bin that sprays the air with hydrogen peroxide.

Not just any hydrogen peroxide either. It’s a 6% solution – the same strength you might use in a mouthwash/teeth whitener from the chemist – boosted with silver, the proven antiseptic treatment doctors used for burns and wounds before antibiotics were discovered.

It’s also ionised, so that as it mists the room or auditorium, the particles of hydrogen peroxide become charged, pushing dynamically to disperse away from each other. Spreading everywhere – hard up against walls and ceilings, deep into cracks and crevices – over, under and behind things where most clean-ups never even get considered.

Ionising actually changes the state of the hydrogen peroxide too. Already smaller and finer than water droplets – lighter than air like the viruses it preys on – the mist changes from a gas to a plasma, an electrostatically-charged cloud reaching out and grabbing at live bacteria and viruses, oxidising them to nothing.

A whole kit of extra antimicrobials help it do this – because ionising releases further hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone (a more voracious oxidiser than hydrogen peroxide), and ultraviolet. Look carefully in a darkened room, and you may even see a faint purple glow.

Safe and sterile

An hour or so later and it’s all over. 99.9999% of germs are gone – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6 – and the hydrogen peroxide reverts back to just oxygen and water, in such small quantities that it evaporates to nothing.

Ain’t no norovirus boomeranging back after that treatment. Theatre-goers can enjoy their dinner and the show without a care in the world.

But let’s hope they’ve fixed it already.

Picture Copyright: natulrich / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-02-01 14:06:50.

How we’ll survive now antibiotics don’t work

Doctor washing
No more pills – from now on, everything gets done the hard way

Scary stuff this.

No safety net. Like driving on bald tyres.

Any accident, any surgery, any infection, any fever – we’re on our own. Either our immune systems will handle it, or they won’t. Game over.

End of the line

Because now there’s no more failsafe. No last second backup. Real Friday 13th.

No more silly buggers, the Doc can’t save you if your misadventure goes pear-shaped. The cupboard is empty.

Don’t believe it?

Already we’ve got MRSA – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – the scourge of every hospital and big bogey of AMR – antimicrobial resistance. This superbug lives naturally in your nose, for goodness sake.

Wipe your face, then touch a cut – and you’re up a gum tree.

Because methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin – take any of them and the bug might get even stronger.

And MRSA is just one of our regular 9-to-5 infections. Other AMR stars appearing daily include salmonella, streptococcus, c.difficile, TB, gonorrhoea and e.coli. All of them can kill if we’re not careful – and that doesn’t include the heavy brigade like botulism or cholera.

Over-use and abuse

How did these bacteria get so smart?

Well, we’ve been chucking antibiotics at them on an industrial scale for more than 50 years – plenty of time to learn.

Sure thing, a lot of that is in medicine – we’re a growing cult of pill-poppers. These days the average teenager might be on a course of antibiotics say, five times a year.

Hypochondriac grown-ups are worse – or should that be “cyberchondriacs?” The Internet breeds self-diagnosing adults who demand antibiotics so strongly, there’s doctors and chemists who fear for life and limb.

But agriculture is the real villain. 65,000 tons a year and more to bulk up animals for market – beef, pork, mutton, poultry – right across the board. It’s in plants too –from “natural” recycled animal waste. Over-use big time.

Which also means like it or not – carnivore or vegetarian – we’re all on antibiotics already, absorbed through the food chain. And have been ALL OUR LIVES.

Always read the label, remember? Do not take continuously for more than ten days without consulting a physician.

What the heck, we’ve OD’d all our lives!

Living mutations

No wonder our metabolisms are so different from our grandparents’ – weaker, less resilient, more prone to allergies and minor ailments, ballooning to obesity. Our internal bacteria have mutated so much, we’re hardly the same kind of human beings.

Because if it takes only twenty minutes for a bacterium to adapt and evolve to a new generation, that’s around 438,000 mutations learning how to survive antibiotics since they were first used – they should have got it right by now.

So yeah, antibiotics don’t work any more. And since we’re surrounded by billions and billions of bacteria every second – even colonised inside by over 100 trillion – washing our hands is a start.

Wash ’em off so we don’t infect cuts or swallow anything nasty. Wash, wash, wash.

The sloppy hygiene factor

But there’s a problem, and it’s us.

We touch everything everywhere without thinking of these bacteria. From one second to the next, we never think we’re contaminated. Our hands LOOK clean, so we don’t bother.

Sure, we used to get away with it – the Doc back-stopping us with a load of wonder-drugs. But not any more.

So we’re already in big trouble. From our own sloppy hygiene.

It’s not just hands either. Bacteria are everywhere. On everything, under and behind everything, even inside us. And of course, floating through the air – lighter than smoke or specks of dust – swirling, trailing, riding the smallest breeze, all the way up to 30,000 – higher than Everest.

So as soon as our clean hands touch something, they’re contaminated again.

Repeat and repeat

Which means we’ve got to clean the things we touch. And KEEP CLEANING THEM – because the bacteria keep coming back. Wash, wipe, scrub, it’s a never-ending mission.

Even then, it’s not even half the job. Around 80% of any room we live in is air space to move around in – and there’s no wash, wipe, scrubbing answer for that.

We’re at hazard from each other’s bacteria too – because we’re not all the same. Most of us have weaknesses of some kind or other. So our personal biome – the trailing cloud of bacteria unique to each of us – is trapped and mingles in the air of our work space with everybody else’s.

Just by being together we can infect each other.

Unless of course, the whole place is misted up with a Hypersteriliser, oxidising all germs to nothing with hydrogen peroxide.

Not vaporised hydrogen peroxide either – too strong for safety and making everything wet.

Press the button when everybody’s gone for the night, and the mild 6% solution of hydrogen peroxide is IONISED from a microscopic spray into an electrically-charged gas plasma – a super-performing change of state that  releases even more antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone, and ultraviolet – every particle alive with energy to disperse everywhere and grab pathogens as they fly.

Forty minutes and the place is sterile. No viruses, no bacteria. Zero germs. Every surface safe. The air totally bio-neutral.

Safe till next time

Of course it starts all over again next morning.

As we all breeze in for the day, each trailing our bio-cloud with us – hands alive with bacteria from the steering wheel, the door handle, the ticket machine, the lift button and the loo seat. Er yes, but soap and water fixes most of that.

Wash, wash, wash – it’s our latest antibiotic – which in case you were wondering means “inhibits the growth of, or destroys, microorganisms.”

Phew! We made it.

Never mind that those antibio-whatsits don’t work any more. We know how to be safe.

Enjoy your day.

Originally posted 2015-11-13 13:29:00.

How dentists stop germs straight in off the street

Mouth with germs
Don’t worry, you’re safe from germs.
Every new patient gets a sterile room.

Oh, oh – 2.30.

Time to see the dentist.

A quick in-out, before that cavity drives you crazy. Fifteen minutes tops – problem sorted.

Let’s hope it’s a quickie

You breeze in, five minutes before the time. Nervous, can’t handle waiting, other people staring at you. All rugged up ‘cos it’s winter outside – slushy-gloomy.

The nurse smiles. Richard Hammond teeth whitening. Doctor will see you now.

You clump in, not smiling. Thrilling drilling is not your thing.

The Doc smiles too. Sun-tanned, just back from two weeks in Calabria. Sit back in the chair. Tilt, tilt, tilt. His new scenic of Scilla and Castello Ruffo is on the ceiling. Soothing for nervous types like you. He gives you wraparound specs, but they fog up.

This is it, the moment of tooth.

You can’t see anything, but he’s not drilling. Just tinkering around your mouth with a probe.

And then it hits you.

How safe are you?

The face mask, the latex gloves. To protect him or you?

You’re straight in off the street, still in your coat, pavement grime on your calf boots. If he drills, won’t the germs get in there?

That’s an exposed cavity – sure his instruments are all sterilised – but how safe is that room?

Your feet wiggle, like you can feel the mud through the leather.

Ew!

Lots of people come in here. 15-minute appointments back-to-back, just like yours. Nine-to-five, that’s eight hours – less one off for lunch – 28 patients a day. 28 people with mud on their boots, but you never see anyone sweep the floor.

And all that other street dirt too. Grime in the air that marks collars and cuffs. Germs. All swept in by the gale that happens every time the street door opens. All over everyone’s clothes, their skin…

They think it’s all over

“There we are, all done.”

The dentist is smiling as the chair tips upright. He takes off the wraparounds. Calabria on the walls too. Boats and Italian fishermen.

He helps you out of the chair, comes with you to the door, the nurse too. They both smile – Hollywood brilliance.

The nurse has a remote in her hand. They step out with you and close the door. What’s going on?

The nurse holds up the remote. “My turn?”

He nods and grins at you, kinda schoolboy silly.

“A Captain Kirk moment. Set phasers to stun.”

The nurse presses a button. They both leer at the closed door. Hollywood smiles like movie lights.

The Doc hold up his watch and leans against the wall.

“It only takes five minutes. Our new toy. We call it Starship Enterprise.”

You frown, running your tongue round your teeth. There’s a new roughness where the hole was. Fresh amalgam. And you didn’t even hear the drill. Is something wrong?

The Doc looks embarrassed. Did he notice the mud on your boots?

High-tech hygiene

“It’s our UV light generator, in the corner where your feet were.”

You vaguely remember a thing like a photocopier.

The schoolboy look comes back.

“After every patient, we pop out here and press the button. This super-bright xenon light pops up and pulse-pulse-pulse, kills all the germs it can see – anywhere and everywhere, on the chair, on the instruments, up in the air, all over the place.”

Super-schoolboy now. A gadget freak for sure – or a video game player. Full Hollywood grin too. Super-Jaws.

“Viruses, bacteria, bugs, all gone. And a five minute breather, while we stay out here safe.”

Your turn to grin. No worries about the boots. No worries about anything, you can’t remember.

But you’re curious. Starship Enterprise? UV?

The Doc nudges the door.

“C’mon, take a butcher’s.”

You were right, just like a photocopier – Enterprise is just fantasy. The only difference is a circular hatch on the top. Closed. Where the light lives.

Boys’ toys

He pats it, like it’s a new C320.

“It’s called a Hyperpulse. It bombards the room with high intensity UV light which germs can’t survive. Attacks their DNA – bye bye, bacteria. Every new patient gets a sterile room.”

You smile and your tongue finds the rough spot. Too geeky for you. But not tooth hurty any more. You’d better get back.

No probs, they’re already calling the next patient.

Straight in off the street, yeah.

But safe as houses.

Originally posted 2015-11-12 13:58:49.

Suddenly smitten by co-worker haloes?

Business angel
Temperatures rise, pulses quicken – somebody call a doctor

No, it’s not love in the air – however hard you might wish for it.

Reality is even weirder – an invisible halo round each of us.

Researchers have found that it’s billions and billions and billions of tiny microbes, way too small to see. Our own personal aura of bacteria that surrounds each of us day and night.

Not very heavenly

Ew, bacteria!

Floating all round us?

Gross!

Er, actually they’re supposed to be there. Like bacteria are everywhere. On every surface, round every living thing, even inside us.

Remember your dentist? Lecturing you about cleaning your teeth?

Totally outnumbered

Well according to Sigmund Socransky, associate clinical professor of periodontology (study of teeth structures and diseases) at Harvard University: “In one mouth, the number of bacteria can easily exceed the number of people who live on Earth (more than 6 billion).”

OK, and like everywhere, there’s good guys and bad guys. Cleaning your teeth takes away the food traces the bad guys feed on. Bye bye, bad guys – let the good guys stay to protect your teeth.

There’s even more bacteria in your gut – over 100 trillion. Seems we can’t live without them. They outnumber us more than 10 to 1. Helping us digest stuff, producing proteins to power our systems, leaving us to take a back seat. All perfectly natural.

Feel easier now?

And since we’re colonised so heavily within and without, having a personal halo following us around everywhere doesn’t seem so freakish after all – millions of bacteria, particles of skin cells and little pieces of fungi that break out of our hair – our own unique signature.

Our unique biological ID

This halo of bacteria literally makes itself at home wherever we are. Within minutes, any space we’re in is occupied by our aura. When we leave, traces of it are still there. And so are everybody else’s.

Good guys and bad guys, right?

Our good guys get on with other people’s haloes fine. They give the bad guys a tough time of it too, crowding them out so there’s no place to go – even eating them if they’re bolshy enough.

Trouble is though, we’re not all as perfect as we’d like to be.

A surprising number of us have underlying conditions that weaken us in some way – a previous injury or illness, asthma, TB, any number of digestive disorders. Our good guys have their hands full. Which means if the bad guys get to us, we’re in trouble.

Not the same as coughs and sneezes through the air conditioning is it? Though that happens too.

Without us being aware of it, we could be smitten by a co-workers halo. Picking up a disease or infection just because it was there among the bacteria of somebody else’s halo – staphylococcus or streptococcus possibly, both common in the nose or mouth.

Send in the troops

What defence do we have?

Not a lot in the average workplace. Vacuumed out at the end of the day, waste bins emptied, a quick wipedown with a cleaning cloth – mostly to clear off dust.

When the lights go out, the bacteria stay – waiting to catch us with another dose tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Good bad guy bacteria can survive for weeks if necessary. But they don’t have to if one of us has low resistance. Their new home.

Unless of course, we take the bad guys out.

That means all bacteria of course, good guys too – there’s no way to separate them. Making the whole place sterile so there’s nothing there. Exactly like in hospital. No bacteria, no viruses, no fungi. Completely germ-free and safe.

All it takes is to mist the place up with hydrogen peroxide – an antimicrobial that destroys germs by oxidising them, ripping apart their cell structure with oxygen atoms.

First off, we have to get out of there. Don’t want any harm to our personal bacteria – we NEED them to keep living.

Then a Hypersteriliser generates the mist, ionising it so it spreads everywhere, giving it a charge that snatches at microorganisms on the fly, grabbing hold like a magnet. (Appropriately, they call this machine a Halo in the US).

The stuff penetrates everywhere too, driven by the same charge – round the back of the computers, behind the filing cabinets, under the photocopier.

Safe at last

On every surface as well. Desks, cupboards, walls, ceilings – keyboards, phones, desk organisers – everywhere. Leaving a thin antimicrobial barrier on everything that lasts up to a week – no germs from buttered scone fingers on the keyboard that didn’t get wiped. Forty minutes, job done.

What’s that? You’re still smitten?

Not by bugs, you’re not.

But you know what they say about romance in the office. Better be careful, people will talk.

Originally posted 2015-11-03 15:43:56.

10 million germs on our fingertips – no wonder we get norovirus

Painted fingers
A little bit of soap –
and it’s no, no, norovirus

It’s getting to that time of year again.

Cold outside, central heating on, everybody rugged up close.

Parked off with pizza and the TV – and then it starts. First the yuck feeling that maybe you overdid it.

Here it comes

Then the confirmation. Cramps, nausea – angst that you won’t make it to the loo.

Yeah, it’s back. The old winter vomiting bug and everybody’s favourite – norovirus.

Norovirus: a highly contagious group of related, single-stranded RNA (ribonucleic acid) viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis and food poisoning.

Hold that thought – highly contagious.

Not what we need to know – with a body that’s covered in germs all the time.

Yeah, covered. As in heavily colonised inside and out.

At any one time we might have 332,000 genetically distinct bacteria on just one hand – with another 332,000 on the other, not necessarily the same. That’s 332,000 different types – not individual microbes – all clustered in clumps of up to 10 million.

Watch out, they’re gonna get you

Makes you think when you chomp into that pizza.

10 million. Some of them benign, some of them necessary to be there. Some of them real nasties, like e.coli, salmonella, c. difficile, campylobacter, MRSA, colds, flu – and of course norovirus.

Did you wash your hands? Properly, that is – like get all 10 million of them off?

It only needs 10 particles of norovirus to make you ill – compared to 10,000 particles to give you flu. Six seconds under the tap isn’t going to crack it, especially without soap.

But that’s all most of us give it. IF we wash our hands at all – which 62% of men and 40% of women never do.

So yeah, face it – you’ve got germs on your hands, even if you washed them. And it only takes 10 to catch norovirus – one thousandth of one per cent of the bugs that are usually there.

Forget to wash your hands and it’s like trying to cross the M6 on a busy day – blindfolded.

Why winter?

OK, so why does this norovirus nightmare ramp up in winter?

The medics are still scratching their heads, but common sense says that’s when our resistance is down. With less of the summer feel-good, we’re not so blue-sky happy. Lower temperatures, out in the rain – depressing for your body and for your spirit.

Immunity is reduced – and norovirus is on the rampage.

Inevitable really. By choice we’re all indoors, together in groups wherever we are – at home, at work, at leisure. Often seriously crowded, like a night on the town, clubbing.

And not just with germs on our hands – with germs all over us too. It’s how we are every day. We’re even germs ourselves – our own human body cells outnumbered by bacteria more than 10 to 1.

So it’s not just our hands we have to get clean, it’s our whole living environment – as far as we can.

Because all the things around us are covered in germs too. Tables, chairs, knives, forks, phones – everything. And the air itself, the invisible 80% of the indoor spaces we live in – teeming with invisible microorganisms.

Germ protection force field

Right, so we wash our hands – but we can’t keep standing under a shower all day.

No, so how about we take the germs out of the enclosed spaces we need to occupy?

If there’s no germs in your office, you can’t catch a bug. The same with schools, hotel rooms, restaurants, supermarkets, cruise ships, you name it.

And how do you take the germs out like that?

With a Hypersteriliser.

It’s a bit pricey for home use, but perfect for businesses. Misting up the entire space with super-fine hydrogen peroxide, which grabs at all viruses and bacteria, oxidising them to oblivion.

Ionised too, so it reaches right in to cracks and crevices – all molecules repelling each other with the same electrical charge, forced apart trying to get away from themselves.

Forty minutes later, the place is sterile. Zero germs, no norovirus lurking, no nothing. Nothing to transfer to your hands either, so you’re safe.

Well, as safe as you can be with each of us trailing an invisible aura of microorganisms all the time – our own bio-signature of bacteria unique to us. Mostly benign, but able to affect others.

Sigh. You can’t win all the time. But if you’re living area is totally sterile, you can have a jolly good try.

Originally posted 2015-10-14 15:45:38.

Monthly sick costs £2,220 Sickness avoidance £420

Flaunting cash
You can’t see germs – but you can see the savings when they’re gone

Wow, do we ever pay for a sickie.

131 million days are lost every year because we’re down with something – according to the Office of National Statistics – around 4.4 days per worker at a cost of £29 billion.

Not good if you’re a manager, or running your own business.

Not good for employees either.

Losing hand over fist

Staff off sick means having to double up. Overtime, yes – but not because you wanted it. Working with temps who are not up to speed. Less time to do your own stuff. More stress, stretched patience, being under pressure.

And of course, less to divvy out when it comes to bonus time.

4.4 days – almost a week.

But folks at the Sage Group reckon it’s far higher – and £100 billion too. More like 19 days for ill health, 23 for stress, depression and anxiety. And as the world’s third largest accounting software operation, they ought to know – most bean-counters want it accurate, down to the penny.

Which gets a little hairy when you do the sums.

What if…

Just to grab a perspective, say we’re a company of 20 people in an office, averaging between us around £20,000 a year each. Some kind of sales outfit, or maybe a call centre.

Allow 16 days each for colds, flu, tummy bugs and the usual suspects – and we’re looking at a monthly hit to the company’s bottom line of about £2,220 – more than the take-home for any of us. A deadweight overhead nobody ever sees.

Well, yeah.

Except it’s mostly preventable.

Because – not looking at injuries or long-term physical problems – all those ailments come from germs. Viruses or bacteria we either breathe in or eat – which trigger coughs, sniffles, headaches, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.

And all of which we pass easily from one to another- cooped up together in our open plan office the way we are. Breathing the same air, sharing the same things, touching the same objects and each other, eating at our desks and running the same risks.

Look closely and you’ll see why. Greasy finger marks on keyboards, phones and light switches – dust bunnies behind all those plasma screens. 10 million bacteria on the average desk that we’re working at with out bare hands.

And still sitting there tomorrow, because the average wipe-down doesn’t actually cover all those high touch surfaces. Vacuum the floors, empty the bins, wipe the desks – and that’s yer lot. No wonder sickie costs are £2,220 a month!

No doctor necessary

Now here’s the preventable bit.

To take down all the viruses and bacteria everywhere in the room – dark corners, cracks and crevices too – as well as the air, that 80% of moving-around space that never gets touched – annihilating germs completely.

All it takes is to press one button on a smart-looking machine – about the size of a small wheelie-bin. The Hypersteriliser.

Nifty device, this.

It fills the air with an ultra-fine mist of hydrogen peroxide – ionised, so it actively spreads away from itself. Reaching up and out – hard up against ceilings and walls, onto every surface. Behind, under and on top of filing cabinets, server consoles, copy machines, the works.

The charged molecules reach out and grab all germs on the fly, oxidising them to oblivion.

Next morning, the place is sterile. No viruses, no bacteria, no illnesses to bring anybody down – no pathogens to pass on to each other either.

And it’s like that every morning – day in, day out.

Safe, secure. With machine and misting solution on lease at just £420 a month – less than a quarter of sick leave costs. Costs that no longer have to be met. And work pressure nobody has to keep living with.

Of course, everything could stay the way it is and we all put up with it – cough, sniffle.

Two plus two equals..?

But, let’s see – that’s £2,220 less the £420 lease cost…

What business wouldn’t want to save £1,800 a month – AND have everybody well and smiling at their desks, all up to full horsepower?

Money talks, germs don’t. And the difference is one heck of a packet.

Originally posted 2015-10-06 14:42:53.

Ooh! Norovirus does the dirty on your wallet too

Businesswoman worried
Being sick costs money – and who can afford an unhealthy bank balance?

It’s that time of year again.

Not that norovirus ever takes time off.

Ask any cruise ship passenger, this stomach-churning nasty strikes in warm weather as well as cold. Blue sky holiday? Holiday blues, more like.

Norovirus season

Right now it’s on the rampage again. Sixty children out of action at a New Forest school last week. Another 32 off yesterday.

90 out of the school’s 350 total – a whole quarter absent and the place is still open!

It might not be an epidemic, but it’s pretty damn close. Because – highly contagious and a hardy survivor – norovirus never lets go.

Contagious is right – 1,000 times more virulent than any flu virus. And if you’ve ever seen how fast coughs and sneezes spread through a bunch of junior school kids, you’ll know what a runaway wildfire flu can be.

Plus norovirus takes 24 hours to happen. So infected kids can mingle with the healthy ones without anybody knowing. The slightest touch is enough to transfer it. Playing tag with stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

The hands have it

Then there’s the fomites. The things children touch that others touch too. Desks, chairs, pencils, pens, door handles, computer keyboards, gym equipment, toys, and everything in the lunch hall.

Norovirus can survive on surfaces without a human host for a week, ten days, or more. Any child touching them catches the bug and perpetuates the spread. Touching other surfaces and other kids, keeping the infection going.

Which is where the costs start snowballing.

Most norovirus outbreaks focus on medical issues. But the money side is just as bad.

In a people-intensive place like a junior school, it’s not just children who go off sick, it’s teachers too. But they have to be paid for, even though they’re not there. So do the supply teachers who come in to substitute for them – assuming the school remains open.

If it gets really serious, closing the school is another cost. The whole staff have to be paid, even though they’re doing nothing.

Piling on the pounds

Then there’s containment. No school can keep the books balanced if it’s closed. So specialist crews have to go in and disinfect the place. Crews that cost money.

They need to be thorough. Most “deep clean” procedures have little or no effect. The virus hangs on in cracks and crevices – even in the air itself. And if the contact time with bleach or whatever the purifying agent being used is too short, the infection bounces back again.

In 2002, the Holland America cruise liner Amsterdam suffered repeat outbreaks on four consecutive cruises, despite rigorous cleaning. A whole cruise liner aborting its mission, four times in a row. 1,380 passengers at a time. 1,380 refunds, 1,380 grumpy complaints to friends who chose other cruise lines.

Plenty, plenty lost revenue.

The deep cleans didn’t work. So the only thing was to take the ship out of commission and disinfect thoroughly – a major income-earning unit off-line for more than a week. With expensive hand treatment right down to the fomites of bedding, TV remotes, bibles – and all the poker chips and currency in the casino.

Not good enough

The New Forest school could easily be the same. Germ-killing bleach is fine if it gets everywhere, but normal wipe-clean methods never do. The virus lives on, under, behind, or on top of things. In inaccessible places, clinging to the walls, the ceilings, the light fittings.

Which means JAM (Just Add Money) and the school remains closed. Because the job has to be done again. And again. Until it’s either fumigated properly, or so long passes that the virus dies out.

Meanwhile, the infected children are all at home. Not in isolation either, there’s other family. Mums running ragged, probably with other children to worry about too. And Dads, escaping to the office, but not immune either. All at risk, because who of any of them ever remembers to keep washing their hands?

So businesses in Southampton, Bournemouth – and all around south Hampshire where these Dads work – start having norovirus outbreaks as well. Key staff off sick and not producing. Work projects stalled, orders not being filled, revenue not coming in.

Suddenly, a price tag that could run into millions. And misery – financial and otherwise – for thousands of people along the South Coast.

All because little Jimmy, or Kieron, or Sally-Anne, or Marguerite did not wash their hands – nine times out of ten, the way norovirus starts in the first place – the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

Can it all be avoided? The outbreak contained? All these costs controlled? Life return to normal?

It could be a long process – and a lot of pounds down the drain before anything happens.

To the rescue

Unless of course, Hypersterilisers are brought into play – not just for health’s sake, but to protect everybody’s bank balance.

These deceptively innocent-looking machines destroy ALL viruses and bacteria in a room in around forty minutes. Their super-fine spray of ionised hydrogen peroxide plasma is electrically charged to reach into every remote corner and crevice, grabbing and oxidising germs to oblivion as it does so.

It might take a while to do a whole school – overnight perhaps, running each machine from one room to the next. But once it’s done, the whole place is sterile – no germs of any kind – totally safe.

Of course, once the children come back, they bring their germs with them. Most of the time, OK – assuming they’ve recovered – but often carrying others. Flu, other tummy bugs, MRSA – all kinds of bugs that can’t be detected, because they’re too small to see.

And they’re there alright. Each of us trails a bio-cloud of germs with us wherever we go – and leaves traces behind, wherever we’ve been.

Nae problem.

First, a rigorous drive to get everyone to wash their hands – always after the loo, always before food. Next, nightly treatment with a Hypersteriliser to clobber any germs.

Next morning, back to safe again. No more costs – and bank balances as healthy as the kids.

Originally posted 2015-09-30 14:22:58.

Keep hand-wipes handy – or get wiped out!

Cabin attendant
Welcome aboard. Please make sure your hands are germ-free for take-off!

Seat 11B is a nice place to be.

Next to your squeeze. In front of the wing. Nice big window to check the scene on approach.

Weekend getaway. Or company perk.

Good to get some time to yourself.

Just don’t touch that tray-table in front of you.

At least, not until you’ve wiped it.

Not with a tissue either, but with those antiseptic hand-wipes your bought before boarding.

Unwanted passengers

That THING carries more germs than anywhere else on the plane. Eight times more than the flush button in the loo. And way more than any place in your home – 2,155 colony-forming bacteria per square inch.

That’s 337,796 bacteria crammed onto your lap-sized 16½ by 9½ inch eating space!

Not surprising when you see how some people leave the place when they get off. And the poor airline’s only got twenty minutes on the ground before they’re up and flying again. No chance.

OK, so you’re not going to eat. Spoil your dinner at that posh restaurant you’re going to when you land.

Spoil your dinner anyway if you touch that thing without wiping it down.

But just sitting there with your iPad means the backs of your hands are in contact. And you’re not going to believe it, the average person touches their face 3 to 5 times every waking minute – an unconscious reflex that all of us have.

So you may not ingest those germs from eating, they’ll get in anyway through your mouth or eye openings – you do it to yourself without knowing.

And what surprises can you expect to find?

Stowaway germs

Poo for a start. Those tray tables sometimes get used to change nappies. But poo anyway because so few people wash their hands after going to the loo. Which means high risk of everybody’s holiday favourite norovirus at the very least.

Rhinoviruses (common cold types), influenza, MRSA, E-coli and listeria too.

So it’s not just the tray table you’re going to wipe is it?

You’re going to do your hands too – probably more than once. Whenever you think about it. Whenever you touch something that could harbour germs.

And since it’s a few hours before you land, you’ll have time to reflect on the need to keep doing it when you get off the plane too.

That posh restaurant for example, your special reward for yourself. There’s other people there too, all dolled up to the nines like you.

Impressive, yes. But when did they last wash their hands?

Maybe they showered coming straight from the office. Or maybe they just togged up and ran. Don’t want to waste valuable drinking time – sorry, socialising time.

Unseen party-killers

Except part of this place’s charm is self-service. Eat-as-much-as-you-like – smorgasbord, salad bar, you name it. And all those other people are touching the same serving spoons and forks that you are. You with your antiseptic-wiped hands, them straight in off the street.

Which is why you keep wipes on you all the time of course. You can’t always get to a washroom. And they wipe goo off your hands, which always seems to get on there when you don’t want it – something those antiseptic gels just can’t.

Worth it too – it only takes a few moments. And the food is every bit as amazing as you hoped it would be.

Those other folk from the plane are eating here too. Another getaway couple. Give them a wave. They’re not carrying wipes like you are, so that e.coli attack is going to mess up their whole time here.

Shoulda-woulda-coulda.

All the time, always

Yup, now you’re thinking, it should be a life-time habit.

Not just for your hands. Not just for your tray table. There’s your office desk as well. Didn’t you read somewhere that the average office desk has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat?

Come to that, the office should get a Hypersteriliser as well. So should this restaurant. Sterilise the place properly.

People walk around with 10 million viruses and bacteria on their hands most of the time – trailing a whole bio-cloud of several trillion others. Locked in here overnight, they’re just waiting for new victims to walk in tomorrow.

But not if they’re knocked out with hydrogen peroxide plasma. The whole place is sterile – safe like your hands are.

Hmm, what will that couple do when the e.coli strikes?

Claim food poisoning? Sue the restaurant? They wipe themselves out, then they want to wipe out their hosts.

Which could never be you of course.

Your hands are clean.

Originally posted 2015-09-21 12:44:53.

El Nino freezeups coming: brace for superflu threat

All frosted up
Don’t worry, superflu can’t get you –
as long as you can protect yourself

Brr!

The way this winter is already shaping up, get ready for superflu.

No, no, not the German pop group, you’ll find them here.

National Danger

We mean pandemic superflu – 30 million of us out of action and 80,000 dead. Listed as the UK’s biggest danger after “catastrophic terrorist attacks” in the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.

Certainly looks like we’re getting the weather for it. The El Nino effect is already happening in the Pacific – which means super-cold winter like we saw in 2010.

What makes it a superflu?

However hard medics and researchers try to second guess it, we’re just never ready. For either a superflu virus, or any other kind of fast-spreading superbug.

Yes, we can clobber existing strains – this year’s vaccine protects against the H1N1 “swine flu” virus that struck in 2009, plus two other predicted variants.

Deadly mutants

But the trouble is, viruses keep mutating all the time. As fast as we come up with the vaccines to throw at them, they develop resistance and start again.

And there are lots of strains. For instance, H5N1 is a deadly virulent bird flu that originated in Asia. It’s rare, but 60% of the people who catch it die.

To make things worse – like the common cold – all flu types spread rapidly. Which is why a pandemic is top of the hit list for natural disasters. When a new flu strain strikes, it takes six months to develop a new vaccine against it.

During that time of course, everyone is exposed. Unprotected except for their own daily hygiene habits. Which is where the worst-case scenario figures come from – 30 million infected, 80,000 dead.

Uh huh.

So we’re not just going to be cold, we have to be prepared.

To up our daily hygiene habits and keep those germs at bay.

Get ready

It starts with soap and water. And now it’s deadly serious. Not just a rinse under the tap, but a proper rub and scrub every time we put ourselves at risk.

Always before meals – and always after the loo. Because this winter, our lives could depend on it.

Our surroundings need anti-germ treatment too. We spend winter all closed up and indoors – sharing the same space, breathing the same air. Any germs in that lot and we’re in for it.

Best is a Hypersteriliser.

Mist up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide and no viruses or bacteria stand a chance. In just forty minutes, they’re oxidised to nothing and the room is totally sterilised, safe.

All germs are gone – to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6. That’s 99.9999% destroyed, or 1 in a million.

OK, so the germs are coming.

But they always are.

So it’s not just superflu we’re protecting ourselves against, it’s all the other bugs as well. Especially the superbugs – the nasty ones that have become resistant to antibiotics and other medicines.

MRSA, c.difficile – that other winter misery-guts, norovirus – and all the others.

Vaccine or not, our own hygiene can protect us – come what may.

But don’t forget to rug up well.

It’s going to be cold out there.

Originally posted 2015-09-15 13:31:50.

Colleagues back with holiday bug? You’re next!

Depressed businesswoman
Count on it – whatever they got, you’re coming down with it too

Be glad you didn’t meet them at the airport.

The whole plane-load came down with this one.

Holiday hangover

Loos backed up, overflowing air sick bags – even the flight crew were looking green. A real hero of a pilot too.

Not you, thank goodness – and it was even on the six o’clock news.

Three days to your own holiday and you’re not eating any of that foreign stuff. Strictly good British graze for you, no messing about.

Er, except it’s not over, till it’s over.

Sure your mates are home safe right now. Getting over it with stacks of Imodium and Buscopan. Quarantined and out of it, so everyone in the office is safe.

Glad to see them when they’re better too. Not nice to be ill. Not nice to double up more than you planned on either – extra work when you’re trying to get clear.

But they’re your pals and you like them, so you do it with a smile.

And they like you too, so you score with the pressies – holiday souvenirs to laugh over when the tummy cramps and diarrhoea are finally gone. Some kind of norovirus the Doc said.

Yeah right, just stay off the foreign food.

As if.

What goes around, comes around

Because next thing, you’re down with the same bug too. Out of action, honking your guts out, and you haven’t even packed your bags yet.

Quick! On the phone to the airline. Are you ATOL protected? What about your insurance? You’ve GOT to cancel. Aargh!

Next thing is, why? Why you?

Your mates brought back a bug, they stayed home till they were clean, then you got it. How come?

Look no further those pressies – fridge magnets, coffee mug, T-shirt, pen, music box, bottle of booze, beach towel, souvenir hat, whatever. Fomites, all of them.

So what’s fomites?

The things you touch, that other people touch, that carry germs. Which is everything else in the office too, right? Including the door handles, lift buttons, computer keyboards, phones, light switches, photocopier, you name it.

Because it’s a nasty fact of life that though nobody’s sick, the germs that can make them that way can live for sometimes weeks out in the open.

And not just on fomites.

In the air too

We each of us trail around our own personal bio-aura of bacteria – our signature cloud of microorganisms unique to us – viruses, bacteria, fungi, moulds, dust, whatever.

And this stuff is so light it can hover and linger in the air for days and weeks, waiting to land on somebody and find a new home.

You.

Uh huh.

Your pals came back to work clean, but the bio-aura they brought from home could still carry the bug they suffered. They’re safe, but not your work place.

Yup, the whole office is bugged – inhabited by the same norovirus nasty that flew back from holiday with them.

Which means the only way you’re going to avoid coming down with it – and everybody else who hasn’t yet had a dose – is to nail all those viruses and bacteria before they nail you.

Effective debugging

Not every office has a Hypersteriliser yet.

But with dangerous germs so easily transferred by jet travel – and medical science discovering more and more of them are resistant to antibiotics – such machines could soon become as familiar as window blinds.

Because without major effort or turning the place upside down, one Hypersteriliser can make any room totally sterile and safe from germs in as little forty minutes. No viruses, no bacteria – every microorganism in the place, gone.

It does it by misting up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide – the same stuff that may have sparked life itself on Earth – actively spreading through the air, into cracks and crevices, oxidising viruses and bacteria to nothing.

Haven’t got one in your office yet?

Let’s hope they get one, before too many people go on leave. Or before winter comes with its latest version of bird flu.

Unless they do – and unless you’re meticulous about always washing your hands – you’re next, for sure.

Originally posted 2015-07-24 16:49:44.