Except 2 hours later, cramps like dying. Upchucks more violent than a volcano. And you don’t want to know about the runs.
Don’t blame the restaurant
But forget about suing anyone.
79 people ahead of this one ordered burger and chips. 38 people after.
None of them had anything wrong. Somebody having a laugh?
How come one case of “food poisoning” when everyone else was clean?
Clean – hold that thought.
As in clean hands.
Except it didn’t happen, did it?
The price of forgetfulness
Like doing the ton-up with eyes shut – on bald tyres, with no brakes or seatbelt.
Yeah, possible to get away with it once. Maybe even twice.
But keep chowing that burger without soap and water first – crashed and burned is inevitable.
Like hitting a brick wall. Gruesome at home, solo. Not nice either, at A&E. Better pray the stomach pump works. That dehydration doesn’t crash the body completely.
Dead from a hamburger?
Not unless it lodged in the throat – a Heimlich manoeuvre gone screwy. Not unless it was murder – strychnine or arsenic laced on top.
Hot off the grill
Because a burger gets cooked from frozen – dropped on the grill where it sizzles and does its thing at 155°F – that’s 68°C – too hot for germs like e.coli or salmonella. No food poisoning there.
Ah, but the hands that unwrap it and scoff it. On average, walking down the street, 10 million microbes on each hand. 20 million on both.
Yeah sure, plenty of harmless stuff, nothing to worry about.
Plenty of bad stuff as well. Like faecal matter from being careless in the loo. And all the usual suspects – e.coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, MRSA, flu and norovirus. Too small to see, but there anyway – just waiting for an opportunity.
Any one of those – crash and burn big time. Only about 100 deaths each per bug. Annoying reality though – dead unfortunately means dead. No chance to go round and wash hands again. Too late to say sorry.
Better to live
Reality means gone to the big fast food joint in the sky.
Time to slow down. Take it easy, wash hands first.
Inside you too – as much as 6 pounds of them. Smaller than the eye can see, which means billions and billions. Like, more than 60 billion in your mouth alone – more than the number of people on Earth.
Yes, you’re covered in germs – and you’re still walking around, happy as Larry.
Living with danger
First off, your immune system is up and running, keeping you out of trouble. Like a Star Trek force-field, it prevents infections happening before they start.
That cut on your hand, for instance. It bled a bit, so you sucked at it until it stopped. Maybe washed it, but that made it bleed more. So you held a tissue over it before it stopped you doing stuff – and then you forgot about it.
A cut, on your hand. Which you use for everything. Getting goo in it, dirt and crud. Petrol even, from filling the car. Dirty water, clean water, hair gel, raw food. See how your force-field protects you?
And it’s stronger, more effective for all the dirt you used to eat as a kid. All the bacteria types it learnt about and sussed how to handle. The body’s bio-database, keeping you healthy.
The 2% bad guys
Second, not all germs are bad. Only around 2% contain harmful pathogens that can actually do you damage. The rest are either benign, just coasting until they find the REAL host they’re looking for, or even actively beneficial.
It’s not just pro-biotic yoghurt that’s good for you. Down in your gut there’s around 4,000 other bacteria types necessary for digestion. The body did a deal with them millennia ago – now they live inside you in perfect synergy – you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.
Thing is though, 2% of billions and billions is still a lot.
Which means you’re still at hazard if you don’t take care.
Snatch hold of a grab-handle in the Underground and you’re probably OK, even though it’s a high-touch object and certainly has germs on it. Just not the bad guys, most of the time.
Grab hold of a bed-rail visiting somebody in hospital though, and it’s another story. It’s a high-touch object too, but in hospital people are ill. A large number of ill people all in one place. So all that hand-washing they bang on about is to protect you as much as them.
And just because you’re safe most of the time doesn’t mean you should take chances.
Wash, wash, wash
Washing your hands after using the loo is like super-important. It’s impossible to avoid getting yuck on them, especially if you do a No 2.
But you’ve got to wash properly, not waggle your fingers under the tap. Use soap and work it around and through your fingers. Keep at it while you run all of “Happy Birthday” through your head. 90% of us never do this – and then wonder why we come down with norovirus or salmonella or e. coli or whatever.
Use a paper towel to dry off with too. Not a cloth one, even at home. Germs cling onto that big time.
And not one of those air dryers either – you know, the hot-blow squeegees? Just look around, on the walls and floor where they’ve got these things. Drops of water, right? Faecal-contaminated water from somebody’s bum.
So keep your hands to yourself and get out of Dodge, ASAP. You’re in a bad location where the 2% boys hang out – which is why public toilets have the bad rep that they do. They might look spic and span, but all that moisture – germs love it, floating around in the air.
And bad germs from our hands probably cause more illnesses than any other sources put together. We touch ourselves and each other – particularly our faces – and the 2% boys climb in through the soft mucous membranes of our eyes, nose and mouth.
Next thing you know, heave-ho, up-chuck, beebaa siren – and they’re rushing you into an over-crowded A&E.
A Little Bit of Soap
Yup, suddenly you’re another statistic for the punch-drunk NHS – continually reeling from admissions like yours – that could all have been prevented by a Little Bit of Soap, like the Jarmels sang in 1961.
If 95% of us don’t wash our hands properly, how many hospital cases could we prevent if we did? (Tweet this)
Which is why, wherever germs threaten, more and more places are starting to use a Hypersteriliser.
No, it won’t clean your hands – nor will it knock out the billions of good germs already inside your body.
But it will take out ALL germs – including the 2% boys – in any room that’s treated with its super-fine germ-killing hydrogen peroxide plasma mist.
No getting sick, no over-crowded hospital – even though you’re still covered in germs.
Like, have you ever wondered where we get our masochistic Nineteenth Century convictions about keeping healthy?
Actually, it’s more about the things we use to KEEP us healthy.
Do we really want things to be like this?
Antiseptics have to sting, medicines have to taste awful, and disinfectants have to smell so strong they take the roof of your head off.
True isn’t it, that if your tummy medicine doesn’t taste like the end of the world, you KNOW it’s not going to work?
Except that maybe, just maybe, the doctors are coming round to thinking otherwise.
Because buried deep in a recent issue of Occupational & Environmental Medicine is a report about the use of bleach as a disinfectant and the potentially harmful effects it has on children.
Well, hello reality.
How many of us remember school rooms ponging to high heaven – so strong we got headaches, felt dizzy and please Miss, I don’t feel very well before rushing outside to throw up?
Seems that from way back, our phobia to get rid of germs has driven us to use some pretty toxic preparations – they kill germs, yes – but they do a pretty good number on us too.
Bleach and carbolic – has your body ever suffered anything quite as noxious in the name of good health? Sure, there’s no germs in the place, but the air is not breathable either.
So it comes as no surprise that the learned O&EM report links bleach with respiratory problems among kids – specifically influenza, tonsillitis, sinusitis, otitis, bronchitis and pneumonia.
In homes and schools where bleach is regularly used, all of these conditions are all too common – even the risk of re-infection is 18% higher too.
Are we mad or what?
The killer germ-killer
Once upon a time the king germ-killer of choice used to be formaldehyde. Effective certainly, but fatal if ingested, highly irritable to the skin and breathing airways, and linked repeatedly to cancer.
This stuff is so toxic it’s now banned pretty well world-wide for general use – and treated as highly hazardous by industry.
Check the side effects of bleach and they’re pretty much the same, yet still we keep using it as a frontline defence. And have you seen what it does to plastics and lots of other materials?
Plus it’s difficult and unpleasant to use too. Rubber gloves and face mask.
And even then, it’s only effective as a wipe-down disinfectant. It doesn’t kill all germs, only some – and despite the fumes, does nothing to clobber pathogens floating around in the air – which let’s face it, is 80% of the indoor space around us.
Yes, we’re masochistic.
So here is this clumsy, toxic, evil-smelling stuff that doesn’t exactly do all the things it’s supposed to and we keep on using it.
The safe steriliser
When all the time there’s another Nineteenth Century germ-killer that is so completely safe to use, our own bodies manufacture the stuff to defend against infections – which kills ALL viruses and bacteria – and which leaves no trace of itself after use, the whole place is odour-free and sterile.
Yup, it’s our good friend hydrogen peroxide – the same teeth-whitening, disinfecting and colour-bleaching secret of “bottle blondes” that you can buy over the counter at Boots or Superdrug.
But with a difference.
Souped up in a Hypersteriliser, it ionises to work as a plasma, actively spreading everywhere as a super-fine mist – pushed hard against walls, ceilings, floors, furniture and underneath things too, even deep into cracks and crevices – actively snatching at viruses and bacteria to rip them apart by oxidising them.
And when it’s all over, it reverts back to oxygen and water, which immediately evaporates to nothing. No coughs, no colds, not even a mild twinge of headache. Slightly less hazardous than the other things we try – which could be more closely related to paint-stripper.
Yes, germs are dangerous and need drastic action.
But we don’t have to kill our kids for it. (Tweet this)
Seems any sterilising effort needs stinky chemicals that give you a headache and strips away paint if you’re not careful.
Bleach, formaldehyde, peracetic acid – don’t think for a second that any of that stuff is good for you.
Not nice, however you do it
Either that or it’s heat so hot, you can’t stand it.
Or messing around with ultra violet light and exposing yourself to whatever.
Or worst of the lot, you’re playing around with some noxious gas that does your head in with the slightest whiff.
On top of which, you’ve usually got to scrub like crazy before you get anywhere. Then wash the whole lot off afterwards.
Strictly for the birds.
Like ordinary washing, but nastier.
Still basically manual wipe.
Which means how hard you scrub, and for how long, also comes into it.
Plus, how can you be sure you haven’t missed a bit?
And how about all the surfaces you can’t normally reach? Like underneath things? Or behind? Or on top? And all those wires and tubes for the equipment you use? Computer cables, screens, keyboards, phones?
Get liquid in any of them and BGRZAPF! Things stop working.
And what about the air? All that room space around you?
Less than perfect, the job’s not done
So whatever you try, 80% of the germs around you don’t even get touched.
And those bugs are sneaky – just about nothing stops them.
Like the Streptococcus mitis bacterium we came across in yesterday’s blog. Coming back to life after two and a half years on the moon – surviving launch, space vacuum, radiation exposure, deep-freeze at 20 degrees above absolute zero, with no nutrient, water or energy source.
Miss one of those things with your squidging sponge and you’re right back where you started.
OK, so technology can help a bit.
Like, bung everything in an autoclave – if you can find one that’s big enough. Fine for instruments, but a bit difficult with a whole room full of stuff.
Then there’s an American company which has this robot thingy that zaps out ultra violet light. Kills all germs dead in minutes, job done.
Well yes, but we have a similar machine and it only works for line of sight. Any obstruction that the light rays can’t get to the back of remains untreated. And the dose gets weaker, the further you are from the machine.
A good idea, but you’ve got to work at it. Move it around a lot so the light rays get everywhere. Like we said, those bugs are sneaky.
All right, how about gas? It gets into the air, spreads around behind things, surely that’s the answer.
Things don’t get much more potent than ozone, a kind of super-oxygen that kills all viruses and bacteria stone-cold dead – the same stuff that high up in the atmosphere protects the Earth from the sun’s deadly radiation.
Uh, huh. But to be effective, its concentration level can be very hazardous. Mild doses are fine for taking out smells and getting rid of mould. But even then, the place has to be evacuated and you’ve got to vent it out thoroughly before it’s safe to use the room.
Sticking with airborne ideas, fogging up the place is another method that is often tried – usually with hydrogen peroxide, a powerful oxidiser, just like ozone – but a lot more people-friendly.
Water-based, the problem is getting the stuff to disperse efficiently. The vapour is heavier than air and takes time to reach everywhere. It’s also wet and needs to be dried off after treatment. Drip, drip into electrical connections, also a hassle. And again, the concentration level necessary makes it hazardous to work with.
How, how, how, to get rid of all the difficulties?
Check out the Hypersteriliser machine. Round the world, hospitals, clinics and care centres are beginning to hike sterilising hygiene to a whole new level with it.
Yes, it uses hydrogen peroxide – but ionised, so it’s finer than air and spreads better – electrically charged so it actively reaches out and grabs viruses and bacteria on the fly.
It’s also boosted with colloidal silver. And remember? Way back before antibiotics, it was silver compounds that were the first choice in dealing with infections.
In fact silver sulfadiazine cream was the standard antibacterial treatment for serious burns until well into the 1990s.
Better still, silver’s antibacterial properties get dramatically enhanced by an electrical field – exactly what happens to it in the nozzle of the Hypersteriliser.
So it’s not just hydrogen peroxide misting out – it’s a Twenty-First Century germ-killer that takes sterilising a whole quantum leap into vastly more effective protection. (Tweet this)
There’s no schlep either. Just press a button and it works itself.
A bit better than a sponge and bleach – but stick around. We’ll always need spot sterilising as a failsafe.
It’s an affliction we’ve suffered from for nearly fifty years.
And enjoyed every second. Charmed and intrigued by an alien space being – that inscrutable and totally logical Vulcan known as Doctor Spock.
Sadly, the charismatic Leonard Nimoy who played Spock in the 1960s TV series Star Trek, has passed on.
It is the end of a legend.
But our fascination and often dread for things alien is a lasting legacy – and the spirit of Spock will live on for aeons to come.
“Is there life out there?” is a question we already seem to have answered ourselves.
Out of which comes our continuing paranoia – “What if it comes here?”
It’s not just in sci-fi that it receives such focus.
Real eggheads in research centres all over the world worry about it in sci-fact too.
When the original Star Trek took to the airwaves in 1966, space travel was still just throwing rockets up and watching them go round and round.
Three years later came Apollo 11 and two men walked on the moon.
Infection from space
What dangers did they risk? What contamination did they face?
And most paranoid of all, what extra-terrestrial hazards did they bring back?
They walked the moon’s surface, moon dust was on their clothing. The moon’s electro-magnetic influence infused their being.
More to the point, out of the six Apollo moon landings between 1969 and 1972, 2,415 samples of rock from the moon – almost a third of a ton – came back too.
And what defence do we have from possible alien life forms? (Tweet this) Embryo creatures trapped in lunar basalt, or deadly viruses set to take over our planet?
It is a recurring headache for scientists everywhere – how to avoid contamination of space with Earth-originated organisms.
And the other way around. How to prevent our own contamination.
Kinda difficult now that some 300,000 pieces of space junk larger than 1 cm are estimated to be in orbit up to 1,200 miles out – detritus from rocket stages, old satellites and other broken bits of nothing.
Not a bit of it.
After the Apollo 12 mission, the camera from a previous Surveyor 3 probe was brought back to Earth and found to have Streptococcus mitis alive on its casing – attributed by NASA to its not being sterilised on Earth prior to launch, two and a half years previously.
A technician sneezed on it.
NASA’s watchdog against any repeat is its Office of Planetary Protection, which applies muscle to measure, control and reduce spacecraft microbial contamination by law.
Sterilising spacecraft is difficult, given their construction from sensitive materials and the many fragile electronics systems involved. Repeated exposure to ultra violet light covers many stages of preparation, so does bombarding with gamma rays.
But Earth’s microbes have already proved themselves able to withstand extremes of temperature, radiation exposure, and even survive being in a vacuum.
Outer space? Been there, done that.
Currently, two methods are accepted for sterilising spacecraft – cooking with dry heat up to 233 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 hours – or exposure to hydrogen peroxide.
The hydrogen peroxide route is under close scrutiny – favoured for its effectiveness in eliminating all viruses and bacteria – but questioned for the moisture it introduces when deployed as a vapour, a major advantage over manual wipe methods.
Sterilising that works
That could be about to change – and remember, you read about it right here, first.
Already deployed throughout hospitals and public buildings is an automatic Hypersteriliser that ionises hydrogen peroxide into a dry mist that substantially outperforms the vapour method.
Ionising in the spray nozzle causes the hydrogen peroxide molecules to become charged, dispersing widely and quickly as their like charges repel each other, forcing them apart.
The same charge attracts them to any surfaces or airborne particles, actively grabbing at viruses and bacteria which they destroy by thrusting oxygen atoms at them. In as little as an hour, any enclosed space and its contents becomes clinically sterile.
Good to know we have that kind of protection. Especially as we are still smitten.
As we learned from the movie Alien – in space, no one can hear you scream.
No doubt about it. You’ve got someone’s second-hand germs.
Well nobody smokes at work, right?
And nobody smokes at home. You haven’t been near a pub or bar – and nobody you know even thinks about it.
So how else have you got this smoker’s-type cough that makes you feel so lousy?
It’s not just cigarette smoke that hangs in the air. And it’s not just stale tobacco that pongs up the place.
Germs can’t read that “No Smoking” sign – but if they could, they’d be laughing.
Because there’s billions and billions of germs all around us, all the time. Oh yes, there are, don’t kid yourself.
But we don’t think of them, do we? Out of sight, out of mind.
Invisible in the air
You can’t see cigarette smoke either, after the first few seconds. And yes, it’s deadly too – but those other germs you can’t see can bring on sickness and misery ten times worse.
Ten times worse than lung cancer?
Take your pick of cholera, typhoid, Ebola, malaria, yellow fever, or whatever.
Or just plain norovirus if you’re lucky – Delhi belly or equivalent. A few days and you’re over it.
But why are you still taking chances?
So far, you’ve escaped the ills of smoking – the cancer, the asthma, the COPD.
No smoke around you – and people respect the law.
But where’s the sign that says “No Germs”? “No Viruses”. “No Bacteria.” “Pathogens will be prosecuted?”
No wonder people go off sick – none of us are doing anything about it.
It is an offence to spread germs in these premises
We’ve gone all legal and outlawed smoke from enclosed spaces, but we’re still doing nothing about the rest.
Look no further than your own office space. How many of you are working in there -20? 30?
And how’s your office hygiene coping with the germs they bring in every day – on their clothes, on their shoes – carried in with their tummies, or breathed out from puffing up the stairs?
No, that nightly go-round with the vacuum cleaner, emptying the waste bins and quick wipe-down of all the desks isn’t going to crack it. In fact germs thrive on moist surfaces, so they quite possibly multiply.
Might as well call in sick before you start – you’re going to get it, whether you like it or not.
Well no, because our immune systems are accustomed to this kind of abuse. It’s only when we’re down that things happen to us. We over-work, over-eat, have an accident, or get depressed.
The second the body goes out of balance, those germs are in there like a flash.
But of course, that’s if your office isn’t booby-trapped already. Sick building syndrome, legionnaire’s disease – they’re both demonstrations of environmental germs at work.
Boom! That’s you gone.
But only if you let it.
Seeing the light
Companies are starting to wise up to lifting hygiene levels at work. And, gasp, even some government departments.
The place gets cleaned every night – and then blitzed with a Hypersteriliser. One hour of exposure to hydrogen peroxide and the germ threshold drops to zero. (Tweet this)
There you go, germs gone, nary an infection anywhere.
No viruses or bacteria of any kind until the staff rock up tomorrow morning. Then they’re back in force, of course – on their clothes, on their shoes, you get the picture.
But at least the desks are sterile and safe to use. The place is neutral. Nothing lingers in the air or the heating system. The coffee machine and biscuit cupboard are free of all hazards – unless you scald yourself on a latte.
So if you’re going to catch a bug, at least it won’t be off your desk or the photocopier. Except Jones from Accounts had better watch herself, coughing all over everyone like that.
Needs a few days off, poor dear. Passive germs are active in the Underground.
A lot of the time, the cause is our own sloppy hygiene.
Or, a bit more scary, we can also THINK ourselves ill.
Sounds weird, but we all know the truth of it.
Know that feeling before an interview when your body goes crazy?
Upset tummy, unexpected shivers, apprehension and dread filling your head.
It’s not germs causing that.
Or more specifically, it’s you stressing yourself out.
Most of the time, it’s a one-off we get over quickly.
You’ve done the dentist, yes the root canal hurt, but now it’s over.
The relief is so strong, you get the munchies. And the heck with your sore mouth, that chicken and chorizo baguette is irresistible.
But stress is not always one-off. And you mess with it at your peril.
A run of misfortune brought down normally fit Dave Dowdeswell with Type 2 diabetes. Grief, bad luck and business failure all at once – something had to give, and it was his body.
It could just as easily have been an ulcer, or cancer.
Imbalance in the body looks for whatever weakness it can find. Stress yourself out about something and there is always a price.
If you’re lucky, it’s momentary, like the nerves before an interview.
If it stays around long-term, you’re going to feel it more. Like there’s a car crash and somebody dear to you dies.
And there’s not a lot of defence against it, except attitude.
Part of the price we pay for the cocooned and sheltered lives we lead.
Oh yes, we’re softies. That’s why stress screws us up so much.
Back in Victorian times, a death in the family was not unusual. Weaker diets, lower hygiene, illness was more inevitable – especially among children. Living with grief was more familiar. So was knowing how to handle it.
Most of us have never known anybody die. We’ve never seen a dead body, particularly of someone we love. Which is why we go to pieces when we do.
But life goes on.
And it will do so whether we stress or not.
So we have to teach ourselves to handle it.
Not to be heartless or uncaring. But to see reality for what it is, and come to terms with it.
Victorians went through denial, anger and acceptance, just like we do.
But they could live with it.
And so must we.
Diabetes, cancer, nervous breakdown – stress doesn’t care which it is. If we don’t get ourselves under control, it will choose for us anyway.
The mind has it
Which is where attitude comes in.
We think things change, and so do circumstances. They’re big, they’re small, dramatic, life-threatening.
Well actually no, they’re just things. Our perspective of them changes according to our attitude.
If you’re upbeat and positive, you can handle them. Beat your chest and throw your toys out of the cot, they will overwhelm and destroy you.
Stress can be a killer, but only if we let it. And we can all change it, just by attitude. (Tweet this)
Sure, there’s Xanax, Valium, Prozac – all mamma’s little helpers when stress hits.
But think about it, why are you stressed?
If you’re honest, most of the time it’s all in the mind, right?
So the only way to rescue yourself is think yourself out of it.
Worth remembering, that. Remembering well.
When the end of the world happens, at least you have a lifeline.