Category Archives: Safe & Sterilised

Could you be criminally charged for infecting your work colleagues?

Bizgirl in handcuffs
It could happen – nicked for not washing your hands

We might not think we act criminally, and certainly not intentionally.

But if colleagues become ill or die from an infection we’ve introduced, can we not be held liable?

It is already an offence to transmit HIV – either knowingly, or unknowingly.

People are never the same once that affliction takes hold of them. So infection constitutes an crime under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

We’re all of us prone to seemingly limitless diseases, but nothing ever happens unless we’re exposed to them.

We all work and socialise together, which means we often cross-infect each other – passing round the snuffles or an upset tummy without really thinking about it.

Negligence and drug failure

Most of these infections are entirely preventable with proper hand hygiene, which we are unforgivably lax about. So that infection by the usual suspects – escherichia coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, MRSA, colds, flu and norovirus – is almost inevitable across a year.

As we are at the moment, we sort of take that in our stride.

There’s only one problem.

Without most of us knowing it, our Number One miracle drugs – antibiotics – are rapidly losing the battle against superbugs resistant to them. We’re already at the threshold where they stop working altogether.

Which changes things Big Time, if you think about HIV. Without antibiotics, ANY infection or disease is suddenly life-threatening. Particularly if there is an underlying condition to be made worse – which one way or another, most of us have by the time we reach 25.

Death threat

Which means if you breeze into the office with ANY kind of ailment – even a sniffle that you just laugh off – it could mean the death sentence for one of your colleagues.

And count on it, cross-infection is highly likely. These days, we all work together in big offices of 20 or more. Or smaller spaces all served by the same HVAC system. Constantly exposed to each other’s condition with zero protection.

As we’re now starting to realise, each of us is home to a massive colony of bacteria in, on, and around our bodies at all times – our very own personal and individually unique microbiome.

We carry around a cloud of microbes directly related to who we are, our health, our mental state, our gender, and a zillion other influences. A signature more detailed and accurate than any fingerprint, retina scan or DNA sample.

Not only that, our individual clouds can completely displace and take over from any existing cloud in a matter of hours. So that scientists can determine when we were in a location. Our physical state when we were there. Even what we may have had to eat or drink before we got there.

Biological fingerprint

That gives us each a forensic profile that can only be ours. Irrefutable proof that any infection or ailment we may be carrying is the source of exposure. And cause of colleagues succumbing to a particular illness and deterioration of their life condition.

Now here’s the thing. By analysing the traces of microbiome present in a scene, existing technology is barely a step away from finding us culpable of causing health detriments to others.

If for example, we’re negligent in ensuring proper hand hygiene after a visit to the toilet, are we not criminally responsible for the MRSA of a colleague? And without antibiotics that work any more, is our action not a threat to life – culpable negligence, manslaughter or murder?

Avoiding hygiene felony

Suddenly, not washing your hands could become an Offence Against the Person, punishable by long term or even life imprisonment.

And it’s not just us, but our bosses too.

We might get done for not washing our hands. They could get nicked for not keeping the workplace safe and free from germs.

Again, remembering that this is against the background of total antibiotics failure. Our only defence against serious illness is heightened hygiene discipline.

Which is why bosses will be glad to look at a Hypersteriliser. Press one button and forty minutes later, ALL viruses and bacteria are no more – oxidised to nothing by hydrogen peroxide mist.

The germs will be back next morning of course – our combined microbiomes quickly repopulating the space and laying claim to it.

But germ threshold levels will be reduced – and back down to zero at the end of the day, when repeat treatment annihilates them again. A daily discipline, just like cleaning your teeth.

Yes, daily.

Because think about it. If we all have the opportunity to eliminate germs to make us all safer, it must be criminally wrong not to use it.

Sterile is secure.

Picture Copyright: elnur / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-07-22 18:03:45.

What’s suddenly gone missing from our hospitals and surgeries?

Astounded businesswoman
No more repeat outbreaks, no more germs coming back and back and back – we’re safe

Not just missing, but gone completely.

First thing in the morning usually. As the place opens up and new staff come on.

Hunt around all you like, there’s nary a trace. Quite the opposite of the potential crisis last night.

Breathe deep, breathe easy. Because now, there’s no germs.

They’ve been taken out by one of the new germ-busting machines that are starting to revolutionise health care from top to bottom.

Normal germ control is at best haphazard and often ineffective.

It’s also labour intensive, a schlep to do, usually seen as a low-grade dogsbody job with no motivation. Executed with primitive mop-and-bucket and wipe-down rag.

More “low-giene” than hygiene

With methods like these, even deep clean procedures often fall short – usually relying on more concentrated solutions of bleach. Backed up by impressive-sounding but equally ineffective applications of steam .

Downside issues are basic but crucial. How can you be sure that all areas have been reached, particularly remote cracks and crevices? And how can you ensure that the air is sterilised too?

Answer, you can’t.

Which is why the germ-busting machines are so vital.

Two types are finding favour, both faster and way more effective than wipe-down hand-work.

Ultraviolet irradiation. Or whole-room subjection to an oxidising agent.

UV units are quick and simple. Just wheel one into place, vacate the room and turn on the “death rays”. Five or ten minutes exposure is usually long enough to destroy most pathogenic microbes. A real asset in places with high occupancy turnover, like dentists’ operating rooms.

Against that, repeat exposures in different positions are necessary to fully cover a room – as a light source, UV’s big disadvantage is untouched shadow areas.

So either room treatment is superficial – fine if it’s largely empty to minimise shadows – or fiddly, requiring four or five re-dos to be sure of coverage, a downtime of an hour or more.

Oxidising efficency

Oxidising machines take more time, with varying success depending on what they use and how they operate – basically by destroying the cell structure of viruses and bacteria.

Usual procedure is to generate the oxidising agent – ozone or hydrogen peroxide – for long enough to fill the air space and ensure contact with all surfaces. Leave it time to kill the pathogens, then vent the room clear.

Exposure time is of course the critical element – and why steam is less effective. Steam needs extended heat to kill, but is nearly always applied by hose or lance that can only be momentary.

Bacteria easily survive such flashes – like a quick tap of the kettle with your finger. They even multiply in the increased moistness left  behind. Nothing like as effective as oxidising, which rips them apart by shoving oxygen atoms at them.

Top of the class for potency is definitely ozone, a kind of super-oxygen itself – but highly unstable in normal atmosphere and dangerous  to humans.

More friendly is hydrogen peroxide, the very same substance that the body itself produces as an internal germ-fighter.

It’s also potent – the Royal Navy once used it to power submarines – but equally effective in milder preparations, the 3% solution your chemist sells as mouthwash is really quite gentle.

The big differences are in method of dispersal and again, contact time.

Effortless gas plasma

Most machines fog up a room with a solution of vaporised hydrogen peroxide strong enough (32%) to kill germs on short contact – relying on the force of pump action to spread across all areas and surfaces.

Such concentration is hazardous to humans and corrosive to some materials. It’s also damp, pushing up humidity levels which bacteria like, requiring a lengthy dry-out process afterwards before the room can be used again.

The breakthrough is to ionise the hydrogen peroxide. Morphing it from a gaseous vapour  into a plasma – electrically charged particles that themselves produce further antimicrobials. Hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, nitrogen species. Plus even ozone and UV, both germ fighters in their own right.

The effect is dynamic, boosting a mild 6% solution into super-performance because of its charge. Press the start button on the machine – it’s called a Hypersteriliser – and see for yourself. (Video demo here).

On exit from the machine, all particles are negative, causing them to repel each other aggressively, forcing them apart. This drives them outwards in all directions, hard up against all surfaces and penetrating deep into cracks,  trying to escape each other. Dispersal is 100%.

Equally aggressive, the negative charge vigorously reaches out and grabs at positively charged viruses and bacteria. Locked together, contact time is prolonged, the microbes don’t stand a chance.

The killing action depletes the charge – decomposing into harmless oxygen and water, in quantities so small it evaporates quickly to nothing.

99.9999% missing

Result, a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6 – meaning 99.9999% effectiveness, that’s down to 1 in a million. There are no germs, the place is safe. Until us humans walk in and start repopulating with our own personal germ clouds.

No germs, no problems.

Gone missing at Salford Royal Hospital, Doncaster and Bassetlaw, South Warwickshire, Coventry & Warwickshire, Burton, Queen Victoria in East Grinstead, Tameside – and a rapidly increasing number of clinics and surgeries across the country.

Gone missing and good riddance.

Because get rid of all the germs and they don’t come back. No more repeat outbreaks that have griefed so many healthcare centres recently.

And good health to all of us.

Picture Copyright: citalliance / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-07-14 14:21:05.

Snatched from death – escape by soap and water

Stressed out woman
We have close encounters every day – and we’re only aware of them if we’re unlucky

Phew! A lucky escape.

Another few seconds and you would have been gone.

Some nasty bug – a killer variant of cholera – spread by contaminated food.

Not from your five-star beach hotel of course.

But from your fingers.

Hidden dangers – unaware

Because of the crack-of-dawn start to your sight-seeing tour. A mad dash to the loo before you held the coach up. The market, the temple, the boat-trip, the beach barbie. An amazing day – but without one chance to wash your hands. Or even think about it.

A sizzling plate of food and you’re about to dive in – until you check the grubby fingerprints on your water glass.

Ew, that was you! A whole day’s yuck on your hands – which you don’t even see because germs are too small.

But you excuse yourself anyway and head for the bathroom – all glitter and glass and wafting incense. And luckily for you, a good sensible soap and running hot water.

Grubby fingerprints gone. Gunge from the handrails, manky stuff in the street, don’t-ask from the funny place – and yes, you’re not even aware of it, but faecal residue as well – poo from the loo.

Back home of course, you might get away with it. At worst a touch of norovirus and gone. Not nice while it happens, but you’ll survive. A reminder to ALWAYS wash your hands.

Not quite the same on holiday, especially in hot countries. Germs breed easier, transfer easier – and are very often more deadly. Not worth the risk. And totally avoidable if you wash your hands.

Of course that’s our problem isn’t it?

Unseen, unclean

Our hands don’t LOOK dirty, so we think they’re clean. We’re just not dirt-aware enough to keep remembering. But who wants norovirus – or worse, to come home from their holiday in a box?

Keeping them clean is a schlep too, because germs are everywhere – billions and billions of viruses and bacteria – on every surface, in the air, on our own skin except where we’ve washed our hands. Everything might look harmless, but in reality is a potential nightmare, especially at the office.

OK, we can’t do much about germs surrounding us outside in the open, but we can do something about them in our living space. And the way we are with out modern lifestyles, we spend 90% of our time indoors anyway.

Uh huh. Not exactly the healthiest. WE might be harmless to ourselves, but indoors is a space we share with lots of others – school, work, eating out, entertainment.

Personal germ clouds

And every single one of us carries around our own swirling cloud of hidden bacteria –  so uniquely distinct to each of us that cops in the near future will be able to ID we were there – just by reading our lingering germ-sign.

Which adds up to germs on everything around us – and clouds of germs towed around by others surrounding us. So easy to pick up – by breathing or touching something – and then absently touching our mouth or eyes.

What could it be? Norovirus, salmonella, campylobacter, or escherichia coli? Enough to hospitalise us if they’re bad, or finish us off if we’re unlucky. Or sometimes even worse. How about that cholera variant you had that close call with – from other colleagues back from holiday?

But like soap and water takes germs off your hands, you can take away the germs surrounding you too. Kinda important if you have an underlying medical condition that maybe even you don’t know about. Or one of your colleagues does – and a simple infection triggers a whole life-threatening experience.

Safe and sterile

Which is why all kinds of places are using ionised hydrogen peroxide – misting up their rooms to take down all viruses and bacteria. Safe and sterile every morning, in addition to clean floors and empty waste bins. No smells, no germs, no health problems.

Lucky escapes every day. And you never have to worry about them.

Picture Copyright: joseasreyes / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-05-27 12:00:53.

Yes, total room sterilising can always be safe

Positive doctors
No germs, no smells, no headaches, no problem!

Yes, be safe.

Because this is one of those “not any more” stories.

Not any more the nasties, not any more the miseries.

Because not so long ago, getting rid of germs was more like getting rid of you.

No more schlep

It took hard scrubbing to get the place clean. With stuff so strong it took the top of your head off. Your eyes ran. You coughed and sneezed. Plus your back ached, your fingers were rubbed raw, exactly as if the germs had got you.

Yeah, well that’s what slaving away with bleach will do. And the place always smells terrible afterwards. Headaches, itchy skin – we’ve all been there.

OK, so the wise guys decided to fog the place up. You still had to scrub, but the germ-killer was spread through the air, hopefully reaching everywhere – especially all those hidey-holes no-one could reach.

Trouble was, that stuff was potent too. Toxic de luxe.

Doing your head in

Have you ever smelt aerosolised formaldehyde? Or those quaternary ammonium compounds? Which is why the CDC recommend not to use them.

Not just yuck. You’d die too, if you were a germ.

Except they don’t, do they? Germs, that is. Not in serious enough numbers at least. The place just stinks and there’s still the risk of infection. But that was back then.

Next thing they tried was ethylene oxide – EtO to the initiated. It killed germs better but was way too potent. A bit too toxic too. Still made you think your head was going to burst.

Hi, hydrogen peroxide

Then somebody had a brainwave and chose hydrogen peroxide – high powered, a known oxidiser, decomposed to just oxygen and water afterwards – what was not to like?

Too watery was the first part. It needed special dryers to get rid of the damp. Which made it dodgy with electrical stuff and computers. Short circuits and things. Risky.

Still too strong was the second part. Sure you can buy hydrogen peroxide at the chemist in a 3% solution. Safe to use at home. But way too weak to spray into the air and clobber nasties like clostridium difficile or MRSA. To do that, you had to rack it way up – 32% and even higher.

Back to the watering eyes and sore throat. And a bit more than that.

Did we mention strong oxidising properties? Because at 32% it’s a bit iffy – strong enough to eat plastic and chew certain metals, a bit too enthusiastic on all kinds of surfaces – especially with repeat treatments.

Ah, but that’s vaporised hydrogen peroxide. Mixed with water and sprayed as thin as possible. That’s why the 32%. Spread out into little tiny droplets it needs all that oomph to be sure of clobbering the germs. And it certainly does that – all viruses and bacteria are oxidised to nothing.

Except 32% is way too hazardous for general use. It needs specially trained staff, work areas have to be evacuated, and everybody needs to wear protective clothing.

Hello, ionised alternative

The revolution is ionised hydrogen peroxide. A safe process that makes it way more effective. And allows it to be milder – only a 6% solution instead of 32%, same as you can buy in Boots for doing your hair. Remember peroxide blondes?

There’s two ways to ionise the stuff – heat or electricity.

Heat is preferred because it is cheaper. All them hydrogen peroxide atoms get hot under the collar until they develop a charge, usually negative – which makes them reach out and grab at pathogens, usually positively charged, like iron filings to a magnet.

Electricity is the clever alternative – and it also means low temperature operation, no risk of melting anything the stuff come in contact with.

At the sprayer nozzle a great fat electric arc charges the parting atoms, forcing them to spread apart from each other because like charges repel. This means the hydrogen peroxide actively spreads itself out and away, reaching deep into cracks and crevices trying to escape from itself. Positively forced dispersal unlike of the vaporised stuff, which just billows like steam.

This spreadability means the droplets can be smaller, finer and ride the air better – especially with the lighter load of the 6% solution. Drier too. No moisture to mess up keyboards or cabling. And of course, too mild to attack surfaces, even sensitive ones.

No compromise on performance though. Ionising physically changes the state of the hydrogen peroxide from a gaseous vapour to a plasma – a charged gas. The effect is like hitting the turbo button. Even more antimicrobials are suddenly produced – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, super-oxidising ozone and ultraviolet – all of them potent germ-busters. 6% running on steroids.

Souped up performance

A word of caution though. Yes, it’s safe. But this IS hydrogen peroxide and it IS potent, unless you’re wearing protection, stay away. Hoicked up with radicals and stuff, its oxidising strength is way more than the 32% version.

OK, so ionised hydrogen peroxide spreads better, uses a weaker solution, kills germs more effectively, is drier and gentler to surfaces, and still becomes harmless after action, reverting back to just oxygen and water – so little water that it evaporates before it touches anything.

Easy, huh?

And push button simple with a Hypersteriliser. Just wheel the thing in, connect to power, press the button, and get out of Dodge. Allow forty odd minutes for the average-sized room  and the place is totally sterile – Log 6 kill to be precise, 99.9999% of germs utterly gone.

So now you’re safe. From germs, from nasty smells, from carry-over effects.

Totally sterile, yeah!

Picture Copyright: justmeyo / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-05-11 16:53:57.

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.