All round the country, parents are breathing a sigh of relief. Their children have survived the first week of school.
Seasoned Mums take such anxiety in their stride, quickly forgetting how worried they were. How they had only days ago convinced themselves of the worst – and that their precious offspring were soon to be no more.
It’s OCD overkill of course, but such apprehension is actually useful.
Not because Betsy-kins will be chomped by another child or have her foot run over by a tea trolley.
Crazy things happen in one’s head, but the realities are a lot simpler. There is therapy that the worst thing was only a splinter, or that another girl stole her sweater.
Yes, our kids are at more hazard with other kids, but in ways we can’t see. Thirty children in a classroom is one thing. The billions and billions of microbes that surround each one of them is quite another.
Children are remarkably resilient. They don’t break like glass or china. Nor do they come down with one bug after another because of these microbes. Their systems are used to living with them, so nothing happens. Eating mud-pies doesn’t kill them.
It’s different at school. All of a sudden, the “home” microbes their bodies are used to meet up with a whole load of others. Thirty children in one room. Sudden exposure. It can happen.
In the classroom – at assembly, where all the classes are together – in the refectory for lunch. Betsy-kins comes home feeling funny – and the next day she’s in hospital.
Except it’s all entirely preventable. As long as none of those germs gets INSIDE the body, all our children are safe.
So the trick is to clobber them first. The germs, that is.
They might be deadly, but ALL viruses and bacteria are vulnerable.
Outside the body, swirling in the air, there is nothing to protect them. Even though they’re too microscopically small to see.
Shove extra oxygen atoms at them and they die. Their cell structure is ripped apart, they cannot survive. And that applies to deadly malaria or yellow fever just as much as the common cold. No germ can avoid it. Whatever the pathogen, oxidising them is the end.
Which is what hydrogen peroxide does. The same stuff our own Mums used to put on cuts and scratches. That makes girls’ hair go blonde. That we use as a mouthwash to make our teeth go white.
And it’s so easy too. Mist the classrooms with it before the kids get there and the whole place is sterilised. There ‘s even a machine that does it automatically.
It puts out a super-fine mist that’s as light as the air itself and reaches everywhere. With a low, low hydrogen peroxide content that’s about the same as the mouthwash. Safe because it resolves after use into oxygen and water. Super-efficient because it’s ionised.
No, no, not pollution – not just smoke and dust and airborne waste, but actually purging the air itself free of harmful bacteria.
Because like it or not – germs, viruses, bacteria, pathogens, whatever you want to call these horrible bugs – are all in the air, all the time. Billions and billions of them, too small for the eye to see. So tiny that several million of them would fit on the head of a pin.
You’ve seen dust move on the air, swirling around, up there for days. Well imagine stuff that is tinier than that, so light it rides the air for ever, sometimes never settling at all. That’s how germs move about, hoping to catch on one of us and make us ill. To feed and breed on us until we die.
Yes they spread by contact too, from somebody who is infected. But don’t kid yourself you’re safe, just by keeping your distance. If there’s germs in the room – and there always are – chances are good some that some of them will land on you.
Just maybe not enough of them to do any harm.
You see, just one or two of them have still got to get through your skin, into your lungs or digestive system.
Somehow they’ve got to get through the acid mantle, the protective dermis itself, then beat the antibodies in white blood cells – neutrophils, leukocytes that trigger hydrogen peroxide, the body’s own natural germ killer that oxidises them to nothing.
No chance, right? A suicide mission.
But not the same when some sneezes all over you, or glad-hands you from their hospital bed.
That’s not individual cells any more – there’s several million in a gob of snot or sneeze-spray – even more with skin-to-skin contact.
Boom. Right there, they gotcha. You are now infected.
And all the time we’re running round, scrubbing hands, clothes, counters, worktops, tables and whatever, convinced we’re protecting ourselves.
Well yes, we are – from the 20% of germs that have actually settled on objects around us.
The other 80% are still swirling around – in singles, in clumps, and sometimes dirty great droplets, just waiting to get us. And if we’re careless, they will.
So how do we scrub the air – as well as all the work surfaces and stuff?
Mist up a sealed room with ionised hydrogen peroxide spray and it’s airborne, just like the germs are. It’s light too, finer than water droplets – electrostatically charged to reach out and grab onto things like viruses and bacteria.
Forty minutes or so later, you’re in a room that’s totally sterilised. No bacteria, nothing.
Even the hydrogen peroxide’s gone too – as it releases those oxidising atoms, it decomposes into just oxygen and water. Actually water vapour which evaporates, because there’s no trace of drops or anything.
Trouble is though, not enough of us know we should do this. We’re still rushing around, slaving at floors and surfaces and wiping our hands with gel, hoping we’ll get away with it.
Not wrong. But not enough. Clean is not necessarily safe.
To beat germs and win, we need to fight the other 80% as well. Because until we do, we’re all going to catch a bug. Sooner or later.
Seal up a room, spray this stuff in – and within 40 minutes all germs are dead. The place is sterile. Not a trace of a bug anywhere – including superbugs, the growing number of ugly mutations that are able to resist antibiotics.
Catch one of them, and you could be a goner.
So don’t take chances. Zap them first, while they’re floating around looking for you.
A pre-emptive strike.
Sprayed up into the air because that’s where germs are.
What, you think they’re only on worktops, floors and surfaces?
20% of them are, maybe. That’s where they settle, where most of their food opportunity is.
But 80% of any room is empty space – how else would we move around and be able to do things?
And these germ things are microscopic.
Take rhinovirus, for example – a really nasty infection as summer comes to an end. One cell is not even 0.02 microns across – you could get thousand of them on the head of a pin. A million.
Which means they’re so light, they’re always floating around- riding the air, sometimes not even settling in their whole life cycle.
Ready to catch on your clothing though. And your face, and your hands and any bit of you that’s exposed. Well, you’ve seen the pictures of the medics suited up against ebola.
And yes, they might spread on contact, but how do you think any kind of infection got there in the first place?
But ionised hydrogen peroxide is super-fine too – smaller than droplets of water. And electrostatically charged to spread up and out, reaching into cracks and crevices. Actively grabbing germs and destroying them.
All that’s left is oxygen and water – a film of moisture so thin, you hardly know it’s there.
Except that the room you’re standing in is utterly safe. No chance for superbugs, no illness, you’re well on your way to reaching 100.
Unless of course, you brought a bug with you.
Although you’re pretty safe, even then.
It can never be said enough, our doctors and nurses are the best in the world.
Most cleaning/sanitising/sterilising procedures are applied to surfaces only – usually just horizontal – worktops, bedding, tables, chair, floors.
Yet 80% of most rooms is air – necessary space for us to move around in. All of it untouched by conventional hygiene disciplines.
Reality is that ALL microbes are airborne most of the time. Think of dust motes you might have seen in a ray of sunshine – billions and billions of them.
Well, microbes are billions of times smaller – too small to be seen. So small they are virtually weightless, riding the air on every swirl and eddy, wafting around you in constant movement.
Think of them as raindrops and you would be walking around soaked all the time, drops hanging off your eyebrows, nose, ears, everywhere. The air surrounds you, you are immersed in viruses and bacteria all the time, some good, some bad.
Which is why misting up treatment areas with hydrogen peroxide is so much more effective than surface applications. It destroys viruses and bacteria on the 20% of all exposed surfaces – AND in the 80% of enclosed air surrounding them.
It’s not just SOME of a room that is sterilised, it’s ALL of it.
The best investment you can make in your personal good health is to scrub your fingernails.
Germs, you see – and yes, you’ve heard it all before.
Nag, nag, wash your hands.
BECAUSE IF YOU DON’T, YOU’LL DIE!
No seriously, just think about it for twenty seconds.
Right now, a whole string of medicines that doctors usually give us when we’re sick aren’t working any more. Or to be more accurate, those killer viruses and bacteria have developed an immunity to them.
It hasn’t happened yet, but the whole medical profession is getting ready for it. Within the next 10 years, germs from a paper cut could be the end of you.
And that’s you now, the very picture of health – in the gym every day, running 2K at weekends, lots of greens in your diet, and watching your drinking.
But it’s a bit more difficult on the other side of 35. Or 50, or 70. When the body slows down it’s more susceptible to risk. And with all those germs out there going superbug, that risk is getting worse.
Because even BEFORE you get ill you’re surrounded by billions of germs everyday. They’re in the air all around you. And when your lungs weaken because of the smoking, or your heart strains more because of the extra 10Ks body weight, those germs are going to nail you in preference to anybody younger.
Unless you nail them first.
Which is a whole new hygiene level we’ve got to get used to in the future.
Scrub your nails?
Not good enough. If you want to be safe, you’ve got to scrub the world around you. Everything you touch, even the very air you breathe. Because that’s where the germs are, waiting to get you.
But don’t worry. More and more places are becoming safer because they’re sterilised – pathogen no-go zones, toally free from germs – hotel rooms, doctor’s surgeries, school canteens, luxury coach rides to Germany.
Inside each of them, a super-fine mist of hydrogen peroxide oxidises all germs and bacteria to nothing. No germs, no infection, absolutely sterile.
Which is kind of reassuring when you’re getting on a bit. Once you’re over 80, it’s all that much more likely SOMETHING will upset the apple-cart. So it’s nice not to know it won’t be germs.
Time to nag those youngsters into looking after themselves a bit more than they do.
No germs, healthy living, they can live for ever – which is what their soul is telling them they can do anyway. And why not? They’re entitled to live to a ripe old age as much as you are.
One of those cardboard cartons, crushed open in the boot by the sharp edge of other shopping. Dripping everywhere. Soaking into the carpet, the boot lining, right through to the NVH material underneath because you got stuck two hours in a jam.
Ew. Not just the mess, the smell. Especially in summer. You’ll never get rid of it, even if you scrub with carbolic.
And it’s not just the smell either. Mould, bacteria, nasties growing in there that could make you very ill. You wouldn’t be the first to trade in your car for it.
It’s not all that unusual either. Imagine how often it happens with delivery trucks and courtesy vans – the supermarket drop-off that delivers to your door.
A bit more difficult there. Time is money, so those vehicles are on the road all the time. And if you’ve ever poked your nose in one delivering next door, some of them really pong!
You can’t see the germs that make the smell, but your nose tells you they’re there.
But don’t forget about the others you can’t see – the ones with no smell. Like, how would you recognise norovirus, or salmonella, or campylobacter without a microscope?
OK, you might try a deodoriser – spray it up good with a pleasant smell. Not really a good idea because it just masks what’s underneath. You’re still exposed, you could still get ill.
Unless of course, you actually sterilise.
You can do that you know. Mist up your car with a germ-killing oxidiser. A bit pricey at around a tenner, but easy and effortless in an aerosol.
It’ll stop the smell and nail the bacteria too. Though you’ll have to keep doing it. It kills the germs in the air and on all the surfaces – but not the yucky stuff that impregnated deep down. Only replacing the fabric can fix that.
So what about the delivery vehicles?
It’s not good. Most of the time they just get hosed out. Which leaves damp, dark interiors – exactly what viruses and bacteria like to breed.
Though that too can be fixed by sterilising. It takes around twenty minutes for a mist-spray of hydrogen peroxide to work. Bye-bye smells and the inside is completely sterile.
Exactly the sort of thing you’d expect an upmarket supermarket to do. To their local drop-off vehicles and their hulking great pantechnicons too.
If they’re not, maybe you should insist. They already spend money making them look clean on the road – upholding the corporate image, you know.
So what’s a few pence and a couple of minutes on top. Especially when the driver’s sleeping – they’re not delivering then, are they?
And they’re already charging premium prices, so you’re pretty well paying for it.
Not to get rid of the pong either, though that helps. But to be sure there’s never any germs in anything you buy and eat.
Bananas from Chile, lamb from New Zealand, oranges from Spain, grapes from South Africa – an amazing amount of stuff from overseas.
All shipped in by container, those big 20-foot jobbies you see thundering down the M25. Every day, thousands and thousands of them – stuff to keep us going.
Unwanted passengers too.
Every once in a while there’s a lizard or a tarantula in someone’s shopping. Slightly hazardous to your health.
Unseen passengers too. More dangerous because there’s more of them. Billions and billions of microscopic viruses or bacteria. Often dread diseases waiting for a chance.
But not always.
Most containers get hosed out when they’re unloaded. Gunk and dirt taken out to make sure they’re clean. Good practice, but not good enough. Not these days.
Because germs just love damp places to hide and breed. Especially in warm countries, baked by the sun. In empty containers waiting for a load.
That’s if they get the chance.
More and more shippers choose to sterilise their containers before they’re loaded.
Sometimes with dry ice, sometimes with ozone, some even try super-heated steam.
Most effective is hydrogen peroxide. Sprayed in as a micro-mist finer than water, ionised so it disperses and spreads into every little crevice. In mid-air or on every surface, it finds and clings to harmful pathogens, forcing oxygen atoms at them.
No virus or bacteria can survive being oxidised. Its whole cell structure is ripped to shreds. There’s no smell or odour either – permanently gone.
And to make doubly sure, the hydrogen peroxide is boosted with of colloidal silver, renowned for its germ-killing since the Nineteenth Century. In 40 minutes, that container it totally sterile. Safe and good to go for its journey to your supermarket depot.
Nothing but air and moisture – because when hydrogen peroxide has done its work, it decomposes to oxygen and water. So if there are any unintended passengers – a ladybird on your roses from Kenya – they’re in the boxes from the grower, not anywhere else.
Kind of reassuring isn’t it?
Millions of containers travelling the world for you – and you stay protected.
If we believed everything we read, we’d hide under the bed and never come out.
That’s not to deny that things can be pretty ropey. But it sure helps to throw a little common sense at the scares we see.
Like today’s paper has this report that the MERS virus might be airborne instead of transmitted by contact.
That makes it faster and easier to spread. Panicsville.
Well, no. But it’s worth thinking about.
What is MERS? It’s another flu-type bug, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – so far found mostly in Saudi Arabia. A particularly nasty thing to catch because it can kill you.
It’s a serious respiratory illness caused by a type of virus known as a coronavirus (CoV). Around 850 people have gone down with it in the last two years.
Another flu-virus? Imagine that running round our schools – like SARS and all the other scares we’ve had over the years. Are our kids safe? Should we be worried?
It bears watching, but no.
In the first place, it seems to have originated through contact with camels, not a regular occurrence on the M25. In the second place, 850 cases sounds bad, but it’s min. Two Boeing-loads. Half an hour’s traffic through the doors at Tesco.
The revelation here is that researchers now think that it may airborne.
Because if you think about it, ALL viruses and bacteria are airborne. They have to be because of their size. Even the biggest is barely a thousandth the size of a grain of dust. Which means these things are so light they may never settle.
Always in suspension, they’re free to float anywhere and everywhere on the slightest waft of air current. To see this in dynamic suspension, check the eye-opening animation on Cells Alive.
Which means that though infection may be accelerated by human contact – the germs like a nice warm body to make a home in – it may not be spread purely by coughs and sneezes, touching, or exposure to body fluids.
Those pathogens are up there hovering, all the time – and given the right chances, they’ll make something of it. Which explains how a lot of first cases may originate. How else, if there was nobody else around to catch it from?
Back in the 70s, South African botanist Lyall Watson wrote about spiders discovered in Antarctica during the summer. Not possible because there was no life-support – no trees, no insects, and temperatures that would kill as soon as the sun went. Yet the spiders were there.
Blown by the wind. From South America.
Now if spiders can blow two thousand miles to the southern ice-cap, what kind of bugs might we have floating around us here? In our homes, in our workplace, in our kids’ classrooms at school?
Relax. It’s possible to destroy all viruses and bacteria in the air within about 45 minutes. To sterilise the place utterly.
Your kids’ school might not have it, but there’s a dinky wheelie-bin sized auto-robot that sprays a micro-mist of hydrogen peroxide up into the air, oxidising harmful pathogens to nothing at a sterilisation assurance level of Log 6.
Behind the mumbo-jumbo, that means it kills 99.9999% of germs – ripping them apart by shoving oxygen atoms at them. And that’s both airborne AND on exposed surfaces. Not just on top of, but underneath as well. The bits that don’t get cleaned because they’re out of sight.
So MERS need not be such a worry after all. Except to those poor souls who’ve got it.
To you and me though, it’s another thing to be watchful for. Camels aren’t particularly plentiful where we are. But you can secure the hydrogen peroxide treatment just by picking the phone.
Not a day to stay under the bed. There’s a whole wonderful world out there to enjoy.
Norovirus, ugh! Not only does it feel like the end of the world – seems nothing can stop the dreaded repeat outbreak.
Repeat, repeat and repeat – it boomerangs back and back again. Highly contagious, seriously pernicious – despite the most meticulous deep clean procedures.
Which either means it really IS impossible to beat. Or whatever we’re doing to stop it simply isn’t good enough.
Harsh truth when a thorough job usually involves ripping the place apart. Head-blowing bleach stink with hard scrubbing everywhere for hours – and STILL the bug comes back again.
Know your enemy
Yes, but norovirus is no ordinary stomach bug. It’s the ultimate survivor.
For a start, it only takes ten microscopic particles of the virus to start an infection. Compare that with flu, at maybe between ten and forty times that – and you’re looking at a much more vicious enemy.
Vicious is right.
It’s also why norovirus is so violent – crippling cramps, projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhoea.
Exactly right to spread itself as far and wide as possible – the widest opportunity to start new infections with any newcomers who unsuspectingly chance along.
Plus of course, it might only infect on contact – but it DISPERSES through the air.
Well sure, each particle is barely 2 microns across – light enough to ride the air currents in any room for hours or days. Breathe in just ten of them through your mouth, swallow – and chances are you’ll be hanging onto the loo in utter misery, just 12 hours from now.
And those horrid upchucks?
Yes gruesome, but think of how far they reach and spread.
Across the impact area on the furniture and floor, obviously. Exactly the right place to move in with mop and bucket. But how about underneath? Or behind?
And those are just the big gobs of stuff.
How about the individual particles swirling around – settling everywhere or still riding the breeze? Reach those with sponge or squeegee too?
Wipe down the surfaces, yes – but how about in the coils of power cables, or down the back of electronic equipment? How about the sheets of paper lying on the nearest table – the first thing to be removed by unthinking hands?
The floors get scrubbed. The walls too. Every surface is rubbed down within an inch of its life.
But seldom underneath. And seldom in those hard-to-reach places that nobody thinks about. Cracks, crevices – tiny places where a 2 micron particle might survive for weeks on end.
Which means deep clean or not – the infection never went away in the first place.
Start using the room again, and those norovirus particles are only too ready to come out and do their thing. Not gone. And certainly not forgotten. Repeat, repeat and repeat.
Not good enough
And anyhow, how effective is the stuff we’re using?
That bleach solution might be strong enough to rip your head off, but how does it stack up against a survivor like norovirus? A wipe with even a concentrated solution won’t crack it – to kill norovirus, bleach has to be in continuous contact for at least TWENTY minutes.
So even though a surface is treated, it still might not be safe.
Same thing with steam.
You can give yourself a nasty burn if your not careful. But to kill norovirus, even that kind of heat takes TWO minutes of constant contact or more to do the job. Like bacteria, viruses can survive in the frozen Antarctic, or live happily in a seething volcano. What’s a little steam bath, now and then?
And how are you applying it? With a waving hosepipe?
Well, yes. Because if you did apply superhot steam to everything continuously for two minutes, it would be sodden through and probably useless – shorted out or fused, if it’s anything electric.
And have you seen what bleach does to surfaces with prolonged contact? Shrivelled up or corroded very quickly.
Which puts us where? Hours of work down the drain and the bug still present. Repeat, repeat and repeat.
We think we’re safe, but norovirus is just biding its time. Ready for its repeat performance, just when you thought it was safe.
Money, money, money – not just health
Don’t worry, we’re not the only ones. How about an expensive investment like a cruise ship? Hundreds of passengers, sick and ready to sue.
Thousands down the drain and STILL norovirus comes back – like Fred Olsen Line’s Balmoral, struck down SIX times since 2009.
All of which says, if you want to get rid of norovirus, there’s no pussy-footing around.
Conventional cleaning just won’t work. And that’s all it is anyway – cleaning.
It’s not actually sterilising – making germs dead, so they can’t infect anything.
Repeat, repeat and repeat
The job’s not done and norovirus is still lurking.
OK, so get unconventional.
Think killing germs, not just cleaning.
Especially getting to the airborne stuff that never gets treated anyway. Yet 80% of pretty well every room we live in is nothing else!
You can throw technology at it, like ultraviolet radiation – that will at least do something.
But there’s a downside to that too. Light can’t go round corners, unless you have lots of mirrors. So blitzing a room with UV means either a lot of exposures in different positions – or manhandling great unwieldy pieces of shiny metal (glass would break).
Oh and yes – a variation on the contact time. The potency of UV as a germ-killer falls off rapidly with distance from the light source. Unless everything’s within about ten feet, those pesky norovirus particles won’t be cashing in their chips just yet.
Which leaves fogging.
Like the insect control people do when they fumigate a house – pump a load of germ-killer into the air and let it swirl around. The usual choice is hydrogen peroxide, an effective germ killer and less toxic than most alternatives.
But also fraught with a few problems.
Just getting it into the air doesn’t make it reach behind, underneath or on top of things. There’s nothing to push it into cracks or crevices either.
It will kill the germs alright, norovirus included. But without effective dispersal to reach everywhere, there’s still nothing to prevent repeat outbreaks.
And just consider fogging the place up with a vapour. Lots of moisture to play havoc with sensitive equipment and paper. Enough that a second machine is necessary alongside the fogging one – to dry everything out after the vapour has done its work.
Plus there’s the old question of contact time. As a vapour the stuff is heavier than air, so doesn’t stay airborne long.
To compensate, a strong solution is necessary – 32%, about the maximum permissible without being totally toxic. Yes it kills, but it’s also pretty corrosive – not good on plastics or sensitive surfaces – and certainly not good for computers.
So what, repeat norovirus outbreaks are inevitable – even with technology?
The RIGHT technology
Depends on the technology.
Because it IS possible to mist up the place with a safe solution of just 6% hydrogen peroxide. And have it spread everywhere by ionising it – so it tries to escape from itself, yet reaches out and clamps hold of germs as it does so.
Contact time is less than 2 minutes – because ionising changes the stuff into a plasma, which multiplies its oxidising power several times over. Forty minutes tops, and the whole place is sterile – no germs anywhere, not even norovirus – repeat or no repeat.
OK, yes, this a blatant plug. But if you’re as sick of one norovirus repeat after another as we are, you’ll be glad to know there’s a system that works.
And not just on norovirus either – on everything.
Your way of giving germs the same dirty treatment they give you.
Hypersteriliser units are supplied to businesses and institutions across the UK, notably the haematology and other critical units at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester; Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital; South Warwickshire Hospital; Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital; and Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.
The Halo Hypersteriliser system achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed.It is the only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. It is also EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.
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