Don’t kid yourself, they’re both just as deadly – dirty hands AND antibiotics.
Except we trust both, don’t we?
Dirty hands because they don’t LOOK dirty. Antibiotics because – wow! they’re miracle drugs that cure everything.
Yeah, right. Suicide either way.
Which is why you’re lying on the floor, looking very dead.
And at the rate we’re going, you’ll soon have lots of company. With many more sick and dying, because of antibiotics.
Dirty hands we can understand, right?
We get germs on them, we swallow the germs – next stop A&E, clamouring for antibiotics.
But antibiotics, what do we know about them?
Pretty well zip – except what our expectations tell us.
Yeah, and just maybe we remember that antibiotics work by killing bacteria.
We’ve got bad bacteria in our bodies, we take antibiotics, the bad bacteria die, job done.
Our real life force
Truth is that we are all MADE OF bacteria – they outnumber our human body cells 10 to 1. And down in our gut, where most of them live, there’s over 100 trillion of them.
Don’t worry, they’re supposed to be there. They’re like the software that drives our bodies. The OS that digests food for us, produces proteins and regulates our immune system. Supported by millions and millions of apps – this one to control hunger, this one to generate fear, this one to make us bold and brave, this one to help us heal from burns.
Lots and lots of different types, plenty of some, scarce with others – but all living and working in harmony, a natural balance that keeps us active, healthy and thriving.
So now we chuck an antibiotic in there – broad-base amoxicillin or something, to be sure of clobbering the bad guys.
Spot the mistake. A widely targeting bacteria killer – in a densely packed community of bacteria. A bit like letting loose with a hydrogen bomb. Sure, it takes down the bad guys – and whole families of good guys too, collateral damage.
Too bad a few minority clans were wiped out altogether. No more protection from asthma or oesophageal reflux.
Yeah, the other guys will grow back, maybe with a few scars. Maybe with an arm or leg missing, but they’ll be OK. Not the minorities though, they’ve gone for good. Which means the body is not as strong as it was. Part of its defences are missing.
And this happens EVERY TIME we swallow an antibiotic.
Bully for us, we got rid of the sinusitis – we carry on, less able than we were. And because we strong-arm the Doc for antibiotics every time we feel sick, we’re probably doing this once a year or more.
Taking antibiotics for a cure, but making us MORE likely to get sick, both at the same time.
Like we said, we know zip.
Because one thing antibiotics do to surviving bacteria is make them produce more ghrelin.
Never heard of it?
You will. It’s a hormone that says EAT MORE.
More accurately, eat more compulsively.
Eat more, extract more nutrients, you’re not finished, go for the fattening stuff – fast foods, sweets, cakes, sugary drinks, more, more, more!
Oops again. Your switch off eating control is broken. You’re going to get fat and you can’t stop yourself. Size 16, size 18, who cares?
My body, my choice, you say to yourself – not recognising it’s a sickness. Thank you, antibiotics – except none of us make the connection. So next time around, we ask for antibiotics again.
Recognise it now? The obesity trigger. Passport to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, cancer, infertility, back pain, skin infections, ulcers and gallstones.
It gets worse.
Fatter every day
Because we don’t just get antibiotics whenever we’re sick. We chow them down every day. They’re in everything we eat. Because for more than half a century – when antibiotics were first discovered – they’ve been used to bulk up animals for food – growth promoters that fatten them up in half the time. Plant crops too – more productive in half the time.
Feed the world – Bob Geldof is turning cartwheels.
Yup, everything we eat. Little by little, more antibiotics every day – exactly the way that farm animals get them. Bigger, better, fatter – and nobody’s twigged it yet, though every farmer knows it. It’s why we’ve all got heavier in the last twenty years, why two-thirds of us will be overweight or obese by 2025.
Which brings us back to dirty hands. Why most of the time we probably got sick in the first place. We don’t see the germs, so we don’t know we’re at risk. For instance, thanks to mobile phones, around 28% of us even have poo on our hands.
Wash hands and the problem goes away.
Except we’re more vulnerable than we were before, remember?
Every time an antibiotic bomb hits, we lose a few more billion gut bacteria. At least one prescription, maybe three times a year. And every meal too – breakfast, lunch, supper.
EVERY DAY FOR HALF A CENTURY.
Time to tighten our defences
So we’re way weaker than we ever were. More likely to get sick, less likely to recover. More under threat than ever. Bigger targets – literally – for germs.
Which means clean hands are good – but rapidly becoming not enough.
Time to sterilise our surroundings as well. Eliminate germs from our workplace – wipe them out with hydrogen peroxide mist. Safe, secure – at last.
Of course it’s your fault, you’re not doing anything.
Nothing for your customers, nothing for your staff.
They’re getting themselves infected and you’re just letting them.
Get ready to be the victim
Which means any minute now, they’re going to clobber you.
Duty of care or some such… you didn’t stop them.
So now they’ve got sick in your place, so of course it must be your fault. Give them a chance and they’ll sue you down to the ground for generations to come.
After all, you let them walk in with unwashed hands and didn’t make a fuss. You didn’t nanny them into using soap and water, giving themselves a good scrub. You just let them sit there at your restaurant table or office desk and carry on regardless.
And how do you know where they might have been?
Clutching handrails on the bus or supermarket trolley. Those grubby railings out in the street. Not forgetting the escalator, or the touchscreen on their phones – all kinds of germs out there, heaving on everything.
Who knows what they might have picked up? E.coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, the superbug MRSA, flu viruses and norovirus are usual suspects. Any one of which could give them collywobbles, or something more serious.
Don’t believe it?
Just ask yourself – out and about, doing things in the city, when was the last time you washed your own hands?
Can’t remember? Neither can most of us – because we don’t think of it. Which means most of the time, our personal hand hygiene is non-existent. Most of us don’t wash our hands at all, so there’s all kinds of bugs crawling on there – including poo from the loo for at least 28% of us.
So check out these people – what are they doing? Tucking into your menu specials? Using a knife and fork, or their fingers?
Oops, there you go, a piece of bread roll straight out of their hand. Bread, butter – and norovirus – down the hatch. It only takes 10 norovirus particles to be infected – and there’s probably several thousand in each mouthful.
Give it 24 hours and the phone’s going to go. Cramps, vomiting and the world’s worst diarrhoea – after eating at your place and they’re calling their lawyers.
And you did nothing.
Nothing to cause them being ill – but nothing to stop them either. So now you’re going to get it.
Guilty because you’re innocent
Same thing if they’re working in your office. Unwashed fingers on the keyboard, then touching themselves round the eyes and mouth. Or eating a sarnie at their desk, just to make sure.
Not at work tomorrow. Sick as a dog and unable to move. But they’re onto the union rep about work-place germs – how dare you run an unhealthy environment!
Your fault again for doing nothing. Not rescuing them from themselves.
So what to do?
You can’t force people to wash their hands. They’ll get offended and give you more grief than you already have. And their sloppy hygiene could cost you plenty.
Not fair, is it? You already provide washrooms and loos – your place is always spic and span. Yet it’s you that gets hit for THEIR negligence.
Time to do something to protect yourself – duty of care – duty of bottom line.
By making hygiene much more assertive.
Because at the moment, it’s just passive, isn’t it? If they don’t wash their hands after the loo, that’s their indaba – but it’s you that gets it in the neck.
So put a bottle of hand sanitising gel on their desks – or offer them each individually packaged antiseptic wipes.
It’s a courtesy, right? How are they going to refuse you?
And how many are likely to think about suing you if they STILL come down with some bug? You’ve visibly demonstrated you care for their well-being. Yeah they’re still suffering, but more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.
OK – and you can take it a stage further too. Not just sanitise their hands, but sterilise the whole place – get rid of the residual germs in the air or on surfaces, some of which can survive for up to two weeks or more.
Duty of care – duty of bottom line. Because what is the cost if they sue? Or the down time if they’re not working? The loss of trade? The loss of goodwill? The loss of reputation?
Norovirus alone costs the NHS £100 million a year. Get unlucky and it could put you out of business.
Yeah, look after your people – and protect yourself too – belt and braces.
All it takes is a Hypersteriliser – and around 40 minutes every night, part of your normal cleaning operations.
Press a button and it mists up deserted rooms with ionised hydrogen peroxide – which spreads everywhere through the air and into cracks and crevices, oxidising germs to nothing on the fly.
The result? A Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6 – in non-medic speak, that’s 99.9999% of all viruses and bacteria gone.
Second-best at best. Not even close to antibiotics.
Yeah, but antibiotics are busy going phut.
Too much use, too many expectations, too many chances at getting away with things.
Superbugs are winning
Ask your Doc – AMR – antimicrobial resistance – is the big headache right now. You get injured or seriously ill, what the hell do medics do now?
Because the cupboard is bare – not from running out – from over-use, serious over-use – crikey Moses, agriculture alone round the world uses 65,000 tonnes of the stuff every year.
Mind you, the medical sector is not much better – around a quarter of all antibiotic prescriptions are placebo-type overkill or just plain unnecessary.
No, no, the big problem is that these one-time miracle drugs are beginning not to work any more. The superbugs they’re meant to kill refuse to roll over, dead.
Too smart, see? Immune. Mutated and adapted every generation – which can happen every few minutes – able to resist whatever we throw at them.
Ho, hum, did you feel a breeze just then?
End of the line?
Yeah, an empty cupboard. And no new antibiotics discovered since 1987. No profit in it with a one-off course of three tablets a day for a week. How about one a day, every day for life? THAT’S more like it!
OK, but we’re not dead yet. Antibiotics are still saving lives, still enabling medical experts to do amazing things – brain surgery, organ transplants, joint replacements – right down to C-sections births which are now 1 in 4.
The writing is on the wall though. And the day is fast arriving when our mind-blowing silver bullets run out of fizz. In fact the all-resistant bug – protected by the gene mcr-1 – is already here.
Time to call for back-up. Second best maybe, but better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick.
Say hello to silver, an old friend from way back. 400 BC to be exact – and even then it was old hat – when Hippocrates (he of the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath) taught how to use it for healing wounds and controlling disease.
You’re right, silver is not in the same class as modern antibiotics. But it does have antibiotic qualities of its own.
Prolonged exposure to silver seems to clobber most pathogens eventually – slow perhaps, but effective. Which is why the rich would drink from silver cups and eat with silver cutlery. And why wounded soldiers 100 years ago had their sutures sewn with silver thread to reduce infection.
Their dressings were silver too – local application seemed to work better than internal dosing. And still today, you can get waterproof Elastoplast with antiseptic silver in the would pad.
There is even the possibility that silver could boost the performance of our sagging antibiotics – helping to overcome AMR and get some of their mojo back. Tests already show improvements up to 1,000 times better germ-killing power.
Better still, silver is not just antibacterial, it’s antifungal and antiviral as well. And winners though they still are, antibiotics have never been able to take down viruses.
Thank you, No 2
Second best, yes. But definitely better than nothing.
Put that together with a new awareness of hygiene – necessity will force us to keep ourselves cleaner as the superbugs take over – and our medical future is not so desperate after all.
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.
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.
On top of which, 95% of us don’t even wash our hands properly.
Uh huh. And if you think about it, when was the last time ANY of your customers might have washed their hands before they came to you? Five minutes ago? Before lunch? If at all?
Now the common sense bit.
So someone’s moaning norovirus. Is it one person or a handful?
If it’s just one person, you can suspicion a mouse.
Like how come, if you serve several chicken liver pâtés over a day, that only one was off? You’re a business, right? So most of your stuff to some degree or other is all made in batches – it saves time and stops the customer waiting.
So if one of your pâtés was off, they all should have been, right? You should have a dozen complaints about tummy cramps and upchucking, not just one.
And if all the others were OK – batch-made, remember? – why was that one portion different? They were all the same when they went to table, the only difference was the customer they went to. You can’t prove it, but that one customer’s norovirus misery was probably self-inflicted.
Same thing if it starts with just one customer – and then a handful more, hours or days later. Norovirus spreads by transfer. So your customer had his mitts all over the butter knife or salad servers and the rest of his table picked up the bug.
Bad this, because the ripple effect can spread wider. A few hours more and a whole stack of customers are moaning and clutching their tummies. Either by touch, or through the air, the norovirus has got to them and is giving them hell.
A whole lot of people out of action, but all triggered by Customer Zero – the common denominator.
When you know it’s you
Because if everybody all comes down with it at once, you know it’s YOUR fault. Something or someone engaging with your customers is contaminated – they’re all exposed at the same time, they all come down together.
OK, you know what to do – or do you?
Maybe you’ve read about those hospitals and cruise ships where norovirus keeps coming back. The same will happen to you if you’re not careful.
This stuff is highly contagious and VERY efficient at spreading. With violent vomiting particularly, norovirus gets everywhere. It’s a virus too, don’t forget. Which means every cell is tiny. Small, as in, it can fall THROUGH a roofing tile without stopping.
Which means among all the other things it is, it’s airborne. It rides the air – swirling, twisting, spreading, turning – so light that it may never reach the floor. So it’s on the walls, on the ceiling, on the light fittings, and under the tables all at once. In the air throughout your whole place too. Blown around by the air conditioning, the rush of air as people come in the door.
And it can survive in all of these places for up to ten days or more.
So you scrub the place down with carbolic and everything – and next day one of your waiters walks into a floating cell that takes him in the eye. Four hours later, he’s vomiting too – and you’ve only just re-opened after clearing up the last lot.
Or it could be somewhere else. On the maître d’s lectern, all over the PDQ machines. First person who keys in a total – boom, they’ve got the runs within hours.
And if not there, there’s plenty of other places. All unreachable or just never thought of. Brushing against people as they walk through the curtains. Among the cushions on the banquette. Or the one everybody forgets, all over your stack of menus.
How long is it going to take to clean all those places? Can your cleaning cloths reach into those cracks where a virus only 2 microns across might lurk? There’s millions and millions of places, can you be sure to catch them all?
Press the button and it mists up your place with an ionised cloud of hydrogen peroxide – electrostatically charged to spread everywhere, actively reaching out and oxidising viruses and bacteria as it does.
Forty minutes, an hour, and the place is sterile. No more norovirus. No more repeat infections either.
Until the next customer breezes in straight off the street and climbs straight into the stuffed olives while the table’s main course is processing.
There’s a cure for that too. Don’t put anything on the table until every customer is handed an antiseptic hand wipe, courtesy of the house.
OK, now let them blame all they like.
Ooh my tummy, I’m going to hurl, blame, blame, blame.
The deeply crimped pastry edge down the side of the pasty allows you to snatch it up with poisoned fingers without touching the meaty middle.
High-tech Cornish cooking – Thirteenth Century style.
You eat your fill of the middle and throw the pastry crust away. It’s your gift to the Knockers – the little folk who live in the mine and make mischief if they’re forgotten – like a rock-fall on a man’s leg.
You get the message.
Eight hundred years ago we already knew that eating with dirty hands could be fatal. And our thanks to the Cornish pasty experts at Ginsters for bringing this to our attention.
Doesn’t look like we’ve learned though. Just about everything we count as a favourite is finger-food today – burgers, pizzas, pies, rolls, wraps, sandwiches, fish and chips.
And believe it or not, 95% of us don’t even wash our hands properly.
Try that in old Cornwall and you’d be dead.
Because how many other fast foods are smart enough to have grab handles, so you can eat them with polluted paws and not come unstuck? Or are you going to tell us you sit at your iPad and actually eat with a knife and fork?
Yeah, pull the other one. We’re quick enough to point the finger and say “food poisoning” – when all the time we’re probably the victims of our own carelessness.
OK, norovirus is not arsenic – but it CAN kill. And there’s plenty of other nasties out there that can do the same.
Campylobacter for instance, next stop irritable bowel syndrome – and a life-time of embarrassing discomfort. Or salmonella, with high expectations of diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure and high blood pressure.
Yeah, enjoy your meal!
But if you’re not going to poison yourself, you might want scrub up first.
It raises an uncomfortable question – not for you, for your customers.
Because right up front, how many of them wash their hands before they eat?
“Ew Factor” could cost you thousands
But you already know the answer – can probably say exactly how many guests get up from their table before food is served and go to the restroom.
Yeah, right. A handful maybe, depending on the size of your place. Certainly not everybody, your restroom’s not that big. And all those people moving around at once would upset the other diners – never mind your staff twisting through with hot plates.
Which means everybody else is straight in off the street and you don’t know where they’ve been. Or more to the point, where their hands have been.
OK, so put yourself in their shoes, what do you reckon?
Did they wash before leaving work? After their ride in the taxi/Underground? And if not, what were they doing before that? What did they touch?
Or to stop the pussy-footing, what’s on their fingers RIGHT NOW that could give them collywobbles if they swallowed it?
Collywobbles meaning norovirus, or some equally unpleasant bug spread by direct contact.
Poo on their fingers
Yeah, they call it the “winter vomiting bug” and other round-the-houses names – but the elephant in the room is that it spreads from unwashed hands. And unwashed hands in a food business like yours is an unspeakable but major problem.
Not staff hands, CUSTOMER hands – because they’re the ones touching everything and actually going into mouths.
Sure, your own staff need to be careful too – but they know the odds. Poor hygiene, bad rep, nasty lawsuits, shut the business, no more job. Not worth the risk.
Not like your customers.
Yeah, sure – loyal to you, enthusiastic about the experience you offer, nice enough on the surface.
Except like most of us, they don’t take criticism – and certainly would never accept it’s THEIR dirty hands that made them ill, not something wrong with your food.
They’re customers, see? Never wrong. And probably in denial that their personal hygiene is ever less than perfect. Like, their hands don’t LOOK dirty, do they?
Push comes to shove, it’s likely they’ll win any court case, even though it’s probably their own fault.
How can we dare to say this?
Because when you look at the facts, our day-to-day hygiene is so bad, it’s a wonder we’re not ALL of us in hospital with dysentery or something worse.
So there you are, busting a gut, doing everything to make your food safe and your place spotless. And there’s Mr Money-Bags, all too ready to squawk at the slightest hiccup, let alone tummy-ache – sitting posh as you like, quite probably with poo on his hands.
Or just as likely, on the cash or credit card he’s going to shove at you at the end of the meal.
Food poisoning? Yeah, pull the other one.
Except there’s not a lot you can do is there? Certainly not diss your customers or lay blame on them. And there’s no way you can FORCE them to the restroom.
How to start winning
But you can get ahead of the game. Turn it round and make it work for you.
Remember the last time YOU went on a splurge? Hit some swanky restaurant or flew first class – swanning around like you owned the place, at least for one night?
OK, remember the hot towels? All terribly la-di-da, offered to you with white gloves and a pair of tongs – a courtesy to wipe your hands and face.
Right, so you pull the same stunt.
Only instead of hot towels, YOU offer YOUR guests individual sachets of antiseptic hand wipes. Mr Money-Bags is not going to refuse is he? Mrs Money-Bags will probably even open it for him. And your staff look like paragons of virtue – especially with a silver tray to collect the used wipes afterwards
Which means if either of them has poo on their hands, the problem has gone away. Food poisoning isn’t going to happen because you’ve removed the cause. And your customers think you’re a million dollars for being so thoughtful.
To ram it home, you pull the stunt even further. Sterilise the whole place so guests know you’re serious about offering a good experience and caring for their welfare.
After trade every night or before you open next morning, you mist the place up for an hour or so with ionised hydrogen peroxide. One button on the Hypersteriliser machine does the trick.
No more viruses or bacteria anywhere in the treated areas. Not on tables, chairs, glasses, cutlery, light fittings, anything – not even in the air around them. Safe, secure, sterilised for your protection.
Customers still trying it on?
We don’t think so. Not unless there really IS something off with your food.
But somehow, you’re not likely to let that happen.
But there IS an obesity epidemic, yes. And SOMETHING must have caused it.
Everyone getting bigger
Every day, we’re visibly getting fatter, bulging like we never have before. Right now one third of the world’s adult population is overweight – TWO-THIRDS in the UK. Even a third of our PRIMARY SCHOOL children are overweight. We seem to have no control over eating ourselves bigger – and doctors are seriously worried.
Yes sure, lifestyle, fast foods and sugary drinks are certainly contributors. Lack of exercise too.
But why now? What’s the trigger?
How come we’re all fat now and fifty years ago we weren’t?
They had fast food back then. And Coke by the tanker-load.
Grandpa’s recurring childhood memory includes his first-ever McDonald’s hamburger and fries – twenty-five cents at a drive-up in Dixwell Avenue, Hamden, Connecticut, back in 1958. None of the family were fat then, or for the next forty years. But everybody chubbed out in the last fifteen, since coming back to UK – and UK food.
Yeah, so, a bunch of fatsos. Because like it or not, bulked up like that we’re inevitably at higher risk of cancer, heart disease, strokes, osteoarthritis, asthma and a slew of other serious illnesses – all the legacy of type 2 diabetes, the price most of us pay for obesity.
Eating ourselves bigger – eating ourselves sick – and wondering how the hell it’s happening.
And every day overlooking the one cause repeatedly proven to make it happen.
The antibiotics villain
Only available on prescription – only available from doctors.
Wha…? Antibiotics made us fat?
Better believe it – and lucked a whole load of other illnesses on us too. All without our knowing it.
Even our hard-pressed and over-worked doctors seldom seem to make the connection. They might hear nagging voices about superbugs becoming resistant to antibiotics, but GPs are still doling them out as fast as patients come in through the door.
Part of that is our own fault of course. We all know the hype that antibiotics are miracle drugs for fighting disease and infection. So every visit to the Doc, we demand our miracle muti. We have a mind-set that they’re the only REAL medicine. A bit like our other hype, about antiseptics – if they don’t sting like crazy, they’re not working.
Yeah, so the Doc gets bulldozed into prescribing them – who’s going to argue with a size 18 mother with two kids in a double baby-carrier when she gets aggro? Which is why around 1 in 4 prescriptions for antibiotics written today is completely unnecessary.
Little Joey has a sniffle, so ten million needless medications are supplied for the most powerful drugs of all time. The same miracle-workers without which most of modern medicine wouldn’t be possible – triple bypasses, brain surgery – or routine procedures like hip replacement and C-sections.
Nothing can ever be allowed to go wrong with little Joey – who will grow up like the average teenager and probably go through ten courses of antibiotics by the time she’s 16.
Your Doc might not be aware of this – too busy trying to keep people well. But the proof stares all of us in the face every time we go shopping at Tesco.
Check out the chicken in the chiller aisle. Large 2 kg roaster for only £4.50. Five weeks ago, that was an egg – OK, probably longer, it takes around 10 days for the supply chain to reach the shops.
It’s still a miracle. Five weeks from hatching to a full-grown bird. And all done with antibiotics. Take your pick from chlortetracycline, procaine penicillin, oxytetracycline, tylosin, bacitracin, neomycin sulfate, streptomycin, erythromycin, linomycin, oleandomycin, virginamycin, or bambermycin – just a short list of the antibiotics used in livestock production.
Not exactly chicken feed are they?
Except they are. Because farmers have known for yonks that antibiotics bulk up livestock faster for less. Just like humans, small doses in early life stimulate development. Bigger, better – and they can be kept indoors – not so sanitary, but way more intense – thousands and thousands of them all under one roof. Behold the factory farm.
Which is why antibiotics are used around the world way more than in any doctor’s surgery.
Which is how it’s possible to go from an egg to a 2 kg roasting chicken in just five weeks. Spectacular? You bet. And the whole world has known about it for at least half a century.
“In 1955, a crowd gathered in a hotel ballroom to watch as feed salesmen climbed onto a scale; the men were competing to see who could gain the most weight in four months, in imitation of the cattle and hogs that ate their antibiotic-laced food. Pfizer sponsored the competition.” New York Times Sunday Review “The Fat Drug”
Not all bad… we hope
OK, to be fair, farmers do try to reduce our exposure to animal-fed antibiotics before they’re sold to us. By law all animals for market have to go through a withdrawal period of two weeks or more – no antibiotics in their feed to be sure they metabolise out of their systems.
But they’re in there anyway. And in us too – bulking us up, just like them.
Because while the farmer might stop ADDING doses in their food, those same animals are gobbling up grass and grain feeds already fertilised by their own antibiotics-laden manure. Plus, since plants are not regulated the same way as animals, there’s heavy antibiotics use in vegetable and grain crops too.
It doesn’t stop there. Because the antibiotics leach into the soil and so into our river systems, so that our very water supply is laced with them as well.
No wonder we’re fat!
We’re not as healthy was we used to be either. Because making us fat isn’t all that antibiotics do.
At the brutal business end, they work by killing bacteria, mostly in our digestive tract. And just like insecticides working against different bugs, some antibiotics work better at killing particular bacteria types more than others.
But they all work by destruction.
That’s kind of disastrous for our bodies. Because scientists are now discovering that our internal bacteria are vital to our existence. In fact our microbiota – the 100 trillion plus bacteria colonising our gut – seems to regulate and control our bodies’ life balance far more than we realised.
It’s like our bodies are the hardware – and our gut bacteria are the software that enable us to operate – our internal OS and a whole load of supporting apps that regulate hunger, help us digest, produce proteins, even control our immune systems.
The whole shebang is inherited from our Mums and installed as a new iteration on our own systems in the womb and through the act of birth. If we have a C-section delivery, some of that info is glitched or not properly installed, so our strength and resilience against hostile outside bacteria might not be as powerful as it should.
The same with antibiotics – which explode in our gut like a hydrogen bomb, killing bad bacteria along with the good ones – screwing up our delicate settings and throwing everything out of balance. Yup, you got it – that’s why antibiotics themselves sometimes make us sick while we’re taking them – we’re all out of whack.
Never the same again
Yeah, the system recovers – our bacteria have learned to survive over millions of years, far longer than we’ve ever existed. We DO get better.
The downside is that we never get back to where we were, we don’t reset to 100%. Exactly like running a fix program which corrects problems – but strips out a load of operating apps while it does so, leaving half of our stuff inaccessible or unusable. Like the switches that tell us when we’ve had enough to eat are graunched, we gobble compulsively. Or we develop a load of allergies we never had before.
On top of that, this thing snowballs the longer it goes on.
We’re getting antibiotics from two sources – the stuff our Doc prescribes because we’re sick – and the steady drip, drip background dose coming through in everything we eat – fast food or health stuff, meat or vegetarian – every mouthful we bite or sip.
Say that knocks you back 20% by the time you’re 25 – the time to start a family. 20% less resilient, not all you could be. Tough on your kids, but you’ll make it.
OK, so we’re nearly three generations down since the 1950s – when all this antibiotics hoo-ha began. 20% for you, 20% for your Mum, 20% for her Mum before her.
Whoh, 60%! – an exaggeration of course, but it underlines the point – we’re not as healthy as we were, we get sick more easily, being overweight is just part of it.
Hoo boy! What a Pandora’s box!
But back in the 1950s, medical science had no idea antibiotics could do such damage. All they saw was people getting better and animals getting bigger – without connecting the two.
Yeah, they DID foresee the possibility of antibiotic resistance and the rise of superbugs. But now superbugs are everywhere and antibiotics as germ-fighters are rapidly becoming useless. Will that be enough reason to stop using them?
Because the disaster keeps getting bigger – not knowing what’s coming, more and more out of control – like that other tragedy also from the 1950s, childhood deformities from thalidomide.
So what can we do?
Our own Chief Medical Officer, Dr Dame Sally Davies* has already spelled it out – rediscover hygiene. Make being clean and staying clean a Number One Priority, because if our resistance is really 60% down, we need all the help we can get.
Which means washing hands – before and after everything. Keeping our living space safe from germs too – sterilising the air and everything around us once a day, once a week or whatever with a Hypersteriliser. We might be health wimps, but we’re not going to go easily.
Should we blame the doctors? Hey, all they’re trying to do is save lives.
Besides, remember that one accusing finger means there’s three pointing back at ourselves. It’s all of us who should take the heat – particularly for our greed. We wanted bigger, better fatter – well now we’ve got it – in spades. Super-obesity here we come.
Unless of course you grow your own, drink bottled water, and live in a bath tub.
Good health to you all!
* Note: Professor Dame Sally Davies was England’s Chief Medical Officer from June 2010 to September 2019. As of October 2019, the current Chief Medical Officer is Professor Chris Whitty.
Back Off, Bacteria!is the blog of Hyper Hygiene Ltd, supplier of what we’re convinced is the most effective health protection system in the world. A fully mobile, all-automatic Hypersteriliser machine mists up workplaces with ionised hydrogen peroxide, spreading everywhere and eliminating all bacteria, viruses and fungi. 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.
Goodbye Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva and Frank.
You weren’t nice and we never liked you – good riddance.
Likewise storms yet to come – Gertrude, Henry, Imogen, Jake and Katie.
We know you’re coming, but don’t expect us to roll out the welcome mat. You and the rest of your Named Storms mob have done enough damage already.
The long road back
So now it’s the heartache and the clear up. Putting your life back together.
But be careful.
There’s sickness in that water – and sickness where it’s been.
Up to your ankles in the kitchen, even more in the street. With the over-run sewer system four feet below that. Which means there’s poo in that water, nothing about it is safe. And as the level goes down, that yuck is going to be everywhere.
Be safe, don’t touch it, or risk getting it on your skin. Norovirus could be lurking there – or even worse, cholera. For sure, there’s nothing healthy.
So whatever you do, wash your hands if it gets on them – or if you’ve touched anything lying in it. Norovirus spreads on contact – and it only takes a dab. You don’t want that misery on top of everything else. Cramps, runs, upchucks – no thank you.
Wash your hands properly too, this stuff is pernicious. Find yourself some hot water – as hot as you can stand – and give yourself a good going over. Soap and scrubbing brush. Under your nails and between your fingers. Like you’ve got plague on them and you can’t take chances – which if you think about it, is true.
Proper hygiene is everything
And which of course means your place will need the same treatment.
After days of immersion in poo, sweeping out the mud and hosing everything down is not going to be good enough – not even with a turbo-wash. It’ll be in the wallpaper and the plaster – in the concrete and even the bricks. Going to have to be brutal.
It’ll be UNDER the floorboards too – in the crawl space around the foundations. By the time you get to it, a kind of sludgy, gooey gunge. Norovirus in there – and all other kinds of nasties. Squirt it out if you can, possibly forcing it out through the air bricks. You don’t want the drama of ripping everything up to get rid of it.
Yes, it’s a health hazard, but if you can get rid of most of it, it’s possible to neutralise the rest with hydrogen peroxide or some other oxidising steriliser.
Misting up the under-floor gap with a Hypersteriliser is a good choice – any airborne germs will be clobbered immediately and the stuff is good at forcing itself into difficult nooks and crannies. Any viruses or bacteria it comes in contact with will be dead in around 40 minutes.
Likewise any mould. The hydrogen peroxide won’t physically get rid of it, but it will kill it dead – you can tell in two ways. It won’t be that horrible black any more, but a pale grey. And whatever smell there might be – if it’s anything organic – will have disappeared.
That hydrogen peroxide mist will work well in the rest of the house too – especially at getting rid of the smell. But remember it’s only a vapour – actually a super-vapour called a plasma, which is why it’s so effective. But it won’t physically clean or scrub, so any smells could come back when the stuff wears off after a week or so.
It pays to be thorough
To do the job properly, you’ve got to chuck away all the carpets, lino, wallpaper and plaster so you can scrub down with disinfectant right to the bare walls and floor. Your place won’t look pretty, but at least it will be safe. Mist it up again with hydrogen peroxide and chances are good any smell is gone permanently.
The no-smell thing is important, because that means any microbial action has been stopped – there are no more germs breeding in there to come and get you. If the smells come back it either means you missed a bit and the germs break through when the hydrogen peroxide wears off – or the place isn’t fully dry and mould is reforming. Another mist-up will give you a quick fix, but the real answer is to get down and dirty all over again – this time, with a more eagle eye.
Look after yourself while you do all this, because don’t forget you ARE exposing yourself to germs – and nasties like norovirus are airborne as well coating everything, so you could by mischance breathe some in. To be really safe, Public Health England have this excellent guide – useful and easy step-by-step stuff anyone can follow.
There, all done – and well done you. A real schlep, but you don’t want anyone coming down with anything serious on top of all the other setbacks.
It’s not exactly your fault if you can’t shift those inches. That bulge is not good.
Because you’re not normally a greedy-guts, are you?
Sure, lots of good food all at once is a temptation. Bulge-aceous bounty!
You’re not to blame for that either. We’re hard-wired to like certain tastes. And when they all arrive together we go into overload. It looks good, it smells good, it tastes good. Oops!
We don’t need all that food, but the mind is playing tricks. Without even realising it, a sensory tsunami takes us over.
Yeah we’ve eaten too much and we can feel it. Our gut feels uncomfortable.
More accurately, our friendly gut bacteria – the ones who do all the heavy lifting of digestion – send signals to the brain that we’ve had enough. They start processing like crazy – all 100 trillion of them.
But the brain’s not receiving – tripping out on ANOTHER plate of profiteroles and sherry trifle, with custard and extra cherries.
All that food on hold, waiting for digestion – nothing else for it, push it out to fat. Bulge, bulge.
Except that more and more of us are finding, we can no longer gym it off. Our bacteria aren’t able to bring our systems back to where they were before.
“It must be something we ate!”
You betcha, it is. Only we don’t know we’ve eaten it – or that we’ve been eating it steadily since knee high to a grasshopper.
No, it’s not a friendly something. But these days, it’s in pretty well everything we eat. Vegetarians might get away with lesser exposure, but ALL of us are ingesting this stuff with just about every meal we have – and most things we drink.
The bad good guys
It’s a something called antibiotics.
Yeah, the same stuff the Doc gives us when we’re ill or down with an infection.
Heavy stuff – which is why antibiotics are only ever on prescription. You see, they work by killing bacteria – the bad ones that are giving us grief. At least that’s the intention.
Trouble is, they kill a lot of good bacteria too. Down there in our gut, where our 100 trillion friends are hard at it – digesting our food, producing protein, regulating our immune systems. Kinda like an atom bomb going off in a busy shopping mall. Lots of dead, even more injured – collateral damage.
Which means all of a sudden, our systems stop work properly. Digestion goes loopy, protein production goes iffy – and our immune systems are out on the fritz.
Except this is not a one-off prescription job. This has been happening all our lives. Little bit, by little bit – drip, drip, drip. Even back in the womb, before we were born.
Nightmare, huh? How can this be happening?
Because back half a century ago when antibiotics were first discovered, a bunch of farmers found out it could make things grow bigger and faster too – plants, animals. Ready for market in half the time – and at half the cost.
Right now, today, 65,000 tonnes of the stuff is shovelled into agriculture around the world – set to skyrocket to 108,000 tonnes by 2030.
Sure the medics are worried about it – Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer in particular. Over-use of antibiotics is as big a threat as terrorism, she says. A new Dark Age will soon be upon us.
Except that Dame Sally is alarmed at the medical issue, not the bigger time bomb. About how antibiotics are starting to fail because bacteria are becoming immune to them. Frightening, yes – but somehow like rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic.
Because so far there’s not a word about the effect continuous ingestion of antibiotics has on our bodies. About what happens as damaged bacteria mutate and mutate – doing less of the jobs they were created for and veering off in unthinkable directions.
The medical meltdown – bacteria failure
People getting fatter and fatter?
Predictable, yes – that’s what farmers feed antibiotics to cattle for, to fatten them up for market. Which is how come obesity rates are 20% higher than they were 50 years ago.
Animals eat the antibiotics, we eat the animals, the antibiotics fatten us too.
All the time remembering, of course, that nobody WANTS to be fat. It’s neither normal nor natural for the body to gorge itself.
That two-ton Tessie you see chugging Coke and a pile of chips has no idea it’s her bacteria on the fritz that are driving her to do that. She’s forced to believe those cruel barbs that she has no control, she’s doing it to herself.
Dame Sally thinks the same – she even wants a tax on fat passengers in aircraft. Bacteria failure has never occurred to her.
Meanwhile forget antibiotics resistance, we’re looking at a real medical meltdown.
Fatness, obesity, diabetes, heart failure, cancer – and all the other defects that happen as our systems chase phantoms. There’s no typhoid or cholera to fight any more, no Black Death or TB – so the body invents false alarms – dreaming up allergies to milk, nuts, proteins, coeliac disease. We just don’t know what’s hit us.
We have reduced resistance too, just as the bad bacteria are strengthening theirs. We’re becoming weaklings without even knowing it. £50 a month at the gym might slow it down, but we’re all of us on the slippery slope.
Fight back, keep clean
Only one thing for it. Be prepared. Wash your hands every chance you get, so no germs can get into your system, you never get sick.
If you’re worried about keeping your living area safe as well, eliminate germs with a Hypersteriliser. Stay out of trouble and nothing can touch you.
So yes, good luck if you shake off that “temporary” bulge, New Year’s Resolution or not.
Will power is all very well, but it won’t be your fault if it’s weak.