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.
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.
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.
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.
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