Tag Archives: airborne

There’s something in the air – and it could kill you

Man staring at bulletIt’s deadlier than a bullet too. Because it hits even when it misses.

Click on your TV and everybody’s in a panic about the ebola virus possibly becoming airborne.

Reality check, right there.

If you cast your mind back to the last time you saw pictures of a hurricane, you’ll quickly realise that ANYTHING can be airborne – buildings, people, sixteen-wheelers, livestock.

So how exactly can a microbe that is just a millionth of the size of the head of a pin be anything but?

One little waft of air will do it. Not even a puff. Get the right wind and it can blow right round the world. That’s how birds wind up on deserted islands. Or spiders from Argentina get to Antarctica every year.

“Possibly airborne?”

Don’t hold your breath. Because if the ebola cells that land on your clothing are concentrated enough, you’re already at risk. If they get inside you, you’re in trouble.

OK, pretend they’re mosquitoes. They’re buzzing around almost invisible, trying to bite you, right?

Buzzing around IN THE AIR. Just like ebola – only you can’t see ebola without a microscope.

Mosquitoes are easy. You grab a can of bug-spray and zap them. Fffffff-ttt! in the air.

Take them down before they take you. No bites, no itching. No worst-case scenario – malaria.

Same thing with ebola. Take down those microbes in the air – before they can get to you. Zap them out of existence.

How? By oxidising them, of course.

Because – surprise, surprise – we’ve known since the Nineteenth Century that no germ can survive having oxygen atoms shoved at it.

Since 1818, when French chemist Louis-Jacques Thenard discovered hydrogen peroxide.

That’s right. Spray the air and everything around with hydrogen peroxide and that ebola  virus is gone. Oblivionsville.

And so is every other bug in the air with it – MRSA, e. coli, c.difficile,  HIV, the whole stinking lot of them.

Which is another clue right there. When a germ infects you, it stinks. That’s your body rotting – turning into some disgusting goo so the germs can eat you.

But when you kill germs, the smells are gone. They can’t eat you, ‘cos they’re dead.

So yes, there’s something in the air.

Remember that next time a load of dust blows into your face.

That there’s billions and billions of nasty microbe thingies in there too. Ebola’s not the only one that’s deadly.

But as long as your body’s defence threshold is good – you’ve slept, you’ve eaten, you’re not drunk, you haven’t taken drugs – you should hold up OK.

Because now you can strike back, with something in the air of your own.

“Possibly airborne?”

It doesn’t have to be a problem.

Originally posted 2014-10-03 12:27:24.

Until we start cleaning the air, we’re always going to catch germs

Girl swamped in germs
You can’t see germs, but they’re always there – waiting to get you and make you ill

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?

Same way the body does, with hydrogen peroxide.

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.

Boom, boom. It’s backatcha with oxygen atoms that rip the germ cells to pieces. Bye-bye bio-thugs, they’re dead and gone.

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.

Atishoo!

And bless you. Have a nice day.

Originally posted 2014-09-02 13:08:13.

Why most sterilising procedures are only 20% effective

Girl covered in germs
You can’t see them, but germs are everywhere

Think about it.

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.

Relax, if the room has been misted, you’re safe.

Originally posted 2014-08-27 11:07:34.

It’s not the size of bacteria that matters. It’s the size of the challenge.

Cleaning team
Yes, but will this clobber the germs?

Just to turn your mind upside down, in the microworld of bacteria and viruses, size is irrelevant.

The staggering thing is the numbers.

Billions and billions of these things are all over us, all the time, so when are we going to take them seriously?

For a truly mind-numbing perspective, take a look at the animation at Cells Alive. It’s a simple depiction of how many microorganisms can fit on the head of a pin – a space that they calculate as being just 2mm in diameter.

Get right down to ten thousand times magnification and the place is teeming with E. coli, Staphyococcus, Ebola virus and the diminutive Rhinovirus – as an image enlarged a million times, not much more than the ball of your thumb, just 0.02 microns.

All of them deadly, and all of them so small that they’re easily missed – even by the strictest disinfecting procedure. If your cleaning cloth was just another 5mm to the left…

For an even more sobering comparison, take a look at Engineering Toolbox’s table of particle sizes, and the summary of how they behave.

Now imagine, at that size, how sensitive they are to air movement, like the almost nothing whisper of your hand dropping by your side.

Yes, you’re right. It means that basically they’re ALL airborne and move around with ease, taking maybe years to settle – and sometimes never settling at all.

THEY’RE IN THE AIR!

Yet just about every cleaning procedure we follow is cleaning hands, clothing, surfaces, floors… What about the space around us that doesn’t get touched? The moving space? The headroom? The air?

No wonder those nasties like MRSA and Legionnaire’s disease spread so easily. Even with meticulous hygiene, there’s nothing to stop them.

Nothing conventional, that is.

Which is why we keep banging the drum for total room sterilising with hydrogen peroxide. You can’t scrub air – and even if you could, a sponge and water wouldn’t crack it. You’ve got to kill the germs, not give them a bath.

A mega-challenge, yes. But one you can meet in just 45 minutes at a cost of around 80p for an average-sized room. And at that rate, less than you might spend on mop and bucket doing a supermarket or commercial kitchen.

And if it’s that easy, why do we ever allow ourselves to fall sick again?

Originally posted 2014-08-05 17:46:17.

Norovirus: how to stop repeat outbreaks before they start

Norovirus misery
Being sick is bad enough, even worse with a norovirus repeat, over and over again. Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

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.

Or Holland America Line’s Caribbean cruise liner Amsterdam – having to cancel four trips in succession because of repeat outbreaks in 1982.   It got so bad, the ship had to be taken out of service to ensure thorough decontamination – and new passengers were even warned before embarking that the ship had previously had problems it couldn’t get rid of.

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.

About this blog

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.

Reference links checked and working at time of posting.  However, some URLs may be taken down or re-sited later. If your link goes nowhere or you get an Error 404 message, please accept our apologies.

Breathe easy, Japanese fungus – candida auris – can be beaten

Yoga breathing
Relax, no fungus here – the air is germ-free and safe to breathe

That’s right, breathe.

Easy lungfuls, nice and deep.

That Japanese fungus can’t get you. Nor can any other viruses, bacteria or fungi.

Because there aren’t any.

They’ve all been oxidised by hydrogen peroxide mist. Ripped to shreds and annihilated. Not ever coming back.

Which is good news for all those hospitals having a problem with it.

No more new cases of candida auris, they can go back to normal.

Except of course for those patients already under treatment. A continuing problem with a fungus so persistently drug-resistant. Not so easy to fix once infection has taken hold.

But easy enough to PREVENT in the first place – just by pushing a button.

Deep cleans that don’t

Oh sure, there have been plenty deep cleans – they just seldom seem to be effective. Bleach, steam, ammonium quats – nothing wants to work.

That’s because 80% of affected areas haven’t been touched.

No, we’re not being critical, just addressing the reality.

All that rub and scrub – often with quite toxic chemicals. Phew the smell!

But that’s only applied to surfaces – floors, walls, furniture, drapery. The air itself is untouched – and that’s 80% of the room space. Waiting for someone to breathe.

And we’re talking fungus here, which means lots of spores.

AIRBORNE spores, floating around all over the place. Because that’s what spores do. It’s how fungi reproduce and spread – riding every little waft and draught, looking for new homes.

Like the skin of a hospital patient, or their bedclothes. Or getting breathed in, along with oxygen, dust  particles and other microbes. Or swallowed with food.

It’s what they do – small enough and light enough to dissipate everywhere. Yes, some of it settles and the deep clean gets it – but what about the stuff that doesn’t?

Down and dirty

And what about the fungus itself? Where it gathers and likes to breed?

Warmth and damp are what it likes – which immediately raises difficulties.

Cleaning down surfaces is easy enough, but what about those un-get-at-able places? Behind the drippy pipes and in the damp around sinks and basins? Or in the cracks between tiles, where even a good go with a toothbrush won’t reach?

Impossible to get to when your target is less than 2 microns across.

So that’s the air space – and all the cracks – that those totally thorough deep cleans have missed. No wonder so many hospitals are having a problem. And all of us at home too, a fungus isn’t picky.

Sayonara candida

OK, so press the button. Make the problem go away.

The one that says “Start” on the front panel of a Hypersteriliser machine.

After a delay to give yourself time to get clear, a super-fine mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide takes to the air, spreading in all directions.

Mist, right? So it fills the air, super-small particles of hydrogen peroxide lighter than any microbe. And ionised too. Made more potent by changing into a plasma – thousands of times more powerful with the release of other antimicrobials.

So it does two things.

Rush and grab

One, its electrostatically-charged particles actively seek to escape from each other, forcibly dispersing themselves away as far as they can get. Through the air and deep into cracks – less than 2 microns in width.

Two, that same electrostatic charge actively reaches out and grabs oppositely-charged microbes. Bacteria, viruses, fungi – they all get clamped in a death-grip and ripped apart by oxygen atoms.

Two seconds contact time is all it needs – but 40 minutes is the time usually set on the machine. More than enough to generate, disperse, locate and terminate everything in an average-sized room.

Safe, sterile and secure

Result, the place is sterile. Through the air, on every surface – under, behind and on top of every object.

No germs anywhere – INCLUDING candida auris.

Which is how come you can breathe easy.

No chance of any infection – not even coughs and sniffles.

That Japanese fungus is gone with our best ninja yell.

Hiya!

Picture Copyright: ammentorp / 123RF Stock Photo

Luxury right now – but one day soon, ALL hotel rooms will be germ-free

Relaxed exec
Luxury, but you’ve earned it – the right to be germ-free for a good night’s sleep

Imagine. Open the door – and your room not only welcomes you, it’s completely germ-free.

You’re flaked out, ready to crash – so you know your system is weakened.

But no, you’re not going to come down with anything – your room is safe enough to relax properly AND let your guard down.

Forget the paracetamol for a start. Your body doesn’t need it, there’s no need to take precautions. If the symptoms start showing, you’ve picked something up BEFORE walking in here. Because right now, you should be absolutely safe.

Germ-free – a new level of luxury

So. No viruses, no bacteria – as you can tell from the smells.

That’s right, there aren’t any. Except maybe from the flowers to welcome you. The chocolate on your pillow. And the exotic soap, still under cellophane in the bathroom. Nothing else though – like the tell-tale pong of bacteria at work.

Luxury? Or the way things should be?

Hotel rooms are cleaned every day, so they SHOULD be germ-free. But as any experienced traveller will tell you, they very seldom are.

Inevitable really.

All the right things are done – the vacuuming, the wipe-downs, the clean towels and linen. With disinfectant and air freshener too.

But hotel rooms are high use and high turnover. There’s no time and it isn’t practical to do a deep clean for every guest. Not even 5-star VIPs.

Ouch! Bleach

Bleach does the job, but needs exposure time to be effective. At least 30 minutes at fair concentration – except it leaves a stink and makes your head woozy.

And whoever’s going to use liquid bleach on light switches, bedside phone  or TV remotes? The things will short circuit and never work again. That’s IF cleaning staff don’t electrocute themselves in the process.

Or how about the other high touch areas?

Door handles, the dressing table, bedside units, bathroom vanity slab, or the floor in the shower cubicle?

To do all those in the turnaround time between room check-out and the next guest arriving just isn’t possible.

Or getting to any of the other fixtures and fittings that SHOULD receive attention. The bedspread, the curtains and the carpet, for instance. Nine times out of ten, they get left till the end of the month.

Pretty well all germs are airborne and contaminate new areas that way. The physical dust might be vacuumed out of the carpet pile. But there’s the collective germ-load of every single guest since the last steam clean still lurking there. Exactly why experienced guests never take their shoes off.

And anyhow – how do you clean the air itself, spray bleach around? Half the fittings will shrivel up or corrode – and your head will feel like a brain transplant without anaesthetic.

Twenty-First Century easy

Old technology. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Remember life before smart phones? Unthinkably primitive now, how did we ever survive?

Same thing with getting rid of germs. The new push-button technology does the job in a jiffy. Well, in the 20 minute jiffy it takes to spread out through the air, find all the germs, and send them to oblivion.

Get used to seeing a new house-keeping addition in the corridor as you head for late breakfast . After a fabulous night’s sleep with no travel gremlins – not even air conditioning sniffles.

There’s the linen trolley and the cleaning cart and the vacuum cleaner. And a nifty mobile console alongside about the size of a small wheelie-bin – the Hypersteriliser.

There’s your luxury revolution right there – the high-tech way to make hotel rooms germ-free.

Once all the cleaning is finished, that thing mists up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide and takes out all the germs. ALL of them.

Tiger, tiger

Bit of a sleeping tiger, that whole procedure.

Because by itself the hydrogen peroxide is a pussycat – the same eco-friendly 6% solution you can buy in the chemist. As an antiseptic or for bleaching your hair. The same stuff our own bodies produce for fighting infections.

Ionising catapults it into a whole new dimension. Sprayed out in a dry superfine mist, it transforms from gas vapour into a plasma. A complete change of state that releases  even more germicidal high performers – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet.

That pussycat is now a giant-size and riled-up, super efficient predator – all claws and fangs.

Ionising also triggers its hunting instincts – aggressively dispersing away from itself in all directions, driven by electrostatic charge. That same charge seeks out and pounces on oppositely-charged viruses and bacteria. Oxygen atoms claw them to pieces.

Game over.

99.9999% safe

And that’s ALL germs in the air, on ALL surfaces, behind ALL objects, underneath ALL objects – and burying deep into ALL cracks and crevices – ALL hunted down and annihilated. 99.9999% of ALL germs gone – to a 6-log Sterility Assurance Level.

Total effort involved, pressing a button. Time taken, 20 minutes or so, depending on room size. And all that’s left, oxygen and water – in such small quantities it evaporates immediately.

Oh, and a microscopically thin layer of colloidal silver on everything. A further and lasting barrier protection against germs. So that room is sterile immediately, or stays that way as long as it’s closed – for up to a week or more.

Sterile room – yes, luxury.

But fast becoming a necessity in this jet-age world of ours – where virulent infections from the other side of the world are suddenly on our doorstep, courtesy of direct flight Boeing 787 or Airbus A380.

So it’s not just colds and flu that hotels are fighting against. It’s the whole alphabet soup of MERS, SARS, HIV/AIDS, MRSA and all the other nasties. So easily caught by touching a cushion or a room service menu. So easily neutralised by daily letting the big cat loose.

No viruses, no bacteria, no parasites, no fungi – that tiger really earns his stripes.

Picture Copyright: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo

It’s the law: protect staff from workplace germs – or go to jail

Bizgirl in jail
Not protecting staff from germs is criminal – you could get up to two years for it

A harsh law but necessary. Because it’s about putting people at risk.

At risk from harmful, but all too common legionella germs. Deadly – and naturally occurring just about anywhere.

Do not be ignorant, forgetful or negligent of this law – the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Fail to comply and you face unlimited fines, court costs, compensation claims, disqualification and up to two years’ in prison.

Because legionnaire’s disease – the most virulent form of legionella bacteria – IS a killer.

Between 2011 and 2013, 84 people died from it in England and Wales. Hundreds more were affected but lucky enough to recover.

A kind of super pneumonia, it’s an airborne infection that lurks in air conditioning and water systems – both essential to modern workplaces.

Not on your everyday radar

OK, so how many managers are ventilation experts or plumbers?

That’s the kind of expertise needed to guard against legionnaire’s disease. To set up the necessary maintenance and keep it running safely. The kind of thing you need a professional consultant to advise.

Plus legionnaire’s disease is a notifiable disease.

If a doctor diagnoses it, it must be reported urgently to the local authority under The Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010. Right up alongside encephalitis, infectious hepatitis, cholera, malaria, smallpox, typhoid and all the other heavyweight nasties.

You don’t want you or any of your staff coming down with any of these.

Which means getting your facilities management people or building supervisor on the case right away. If your water systems are the wrong temperature or spend many hours dormant, you are all at risk. This bacteria is comfortable between 10 – 60⁰C and feeds off rust, sludge and limescale.

Catching it is as simple as breathing it in. Which means that until your systems are checked, your staff could be vulnerable right now.

Need a panic button?

There’s no need to panic though. You can take emergency action just by picking up the phone.

You won’t fix the CAUSE of the problem. But you can eliminate any airborne germs just by sterilising the place – legionella included. Along with all the other afflictions that threaten health and productivity – colds and flu, norovirus, e.coli, ALL of them.

At the end of the day when staff go home, have your cleaning service mist up the place with hydrogen peroxide. If they can’t do it, call a specialist.

The dry mist penetrates everywhere, including through the air. It oxidises germs by ripping them apart – bacteria, viruses, fungi, you name it. You and your staff are safe – walking in to a zero germ threshold next morning.

Leave the air con off if you can stand it. Avoid using showers or anything that sprays water droplets into the air. That will reduce fresh exposure to any legionella still in the tanks or pipework.

Then listen very carefully to what your consultant says. The law is very specific – and you want to make sure you comply.

On-going all-round protection

Of course it might take a while for the necessary work to be done. Relax, the nightly mist-up of hydrogen peroxide should keep everyone protected – from legionella and everything else.

In fact you might want to keep up with this treatment once your system checks out as legionella-free. It’s not the law to protect against salmonella, c.difficile or MERS, but should give your bottom line a boost if you do.

Fewer absentees. Fewer glitches from hero staff soldiering on unwell at work. More feel-good motivation. Better productivity.  Big savings to your bottom line.

Plus of course, you’re legal.

You’re taking immediate steps, as the law requires – and you’ve actioned an on-going fix.

It’s your GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card.

If germs are invisible, how safe is clean really?

Waitress checks glass
Polished to perfection and still deadly dangerous – the invisible threat of germs

Invisible? Too small to see?

So how safe is clean? The short answer is, not very.

Even when spotless , that wine glass could be crawling.

And what are you going to do, polish it? Buff it up, so it gleams?

Uh huh.

Well the average cell size for escherichia coli O157 – a very common killer superbug – is just 2 microns. And all it needs to infect you is 40 of them clumped together – still 1/250th the thickness of a human hair.

Plus this particular strain of e. coli can cause severe stomach pain and bloody diarrhoea – a seriously nasty case of gastroenteritis.

In severe cases it triggers kidney failure, haemolytic uraemic syndrome, and death.

Trouble ahead – even though you can’t see it

So first swig anyone takes out of that glass could land them in big trouble. You too, if it’s your glass in your restaurant and your customer decides to sue.

But check the glass and there’s not a mark on it.

Or on the cloth used to polish it either. Which more than likely has transferred invisible gobs of e.coli O157 to a whole stack of other glasses too – so it could be a slew of law suits.

How did it happen?

That glass, like all the others went through a machine at over 60⁰C – enough to kill most germs.  Ah, but the trouble started when it came out.

First off, it air dried – standing in a rack with all the others.

Remember we said that germs are invisible?

So just like you can’t see them on the surface of anything, you can’t see them in the air either.

Ramp up the hygiene – or else

Oh sure, sure – e. coli is usually transmitted by contaminated food, physical contact, or untreated drinking water. Reality is that ALL germs are also airborne – at just 2 microns across it’s impossible not to be.

So it’s floating around through the air-con, or swirling in through the door – or maybe hitching a ride on somebody’s overcoat as they come in.

And guess what?

Like most of us, pretty well all clientele arrive and start partying WITHOUT WASHING THEIR HANDS. So whether that e. coli is outside the glass or in it, this is a bad situation waiting to happen.

But of course, who says that e.coli is only on the glass?

Yeah right, the whole place gets cleaned before every lunch or dinner session – but how does anyone know that’s any safer either?

OK, food prep areas probably get scrubbed and wiped down with bleach – diluted of course because it’s toxic otherwise. Not too strong either because the smell lingers and puts the customers off.

Looks clean because of the scrubbing. But hang on – to be effective, that bleach has to be in contact with germs for at least 30 minutes. Maybe more, depending on dilution. Except what probably happens is a quick wipe down – 10 seconds at most, because everything LOOKS clean.

AND that same wipe down cloth – damp from a weakened solution – gets used t wipe the rest of the place down too. Transferring any germs it picks up from one surface to another – none of them dead because the contact time is too short.

Looks aren’t everything

Right, so – open for business and everything’s sparkling. Looks pretty to the customers, they’re all convinced.

You wish.

Reality is, despite all the scrubbing and polishing, the place could be as germ-laden as it was before any cleaning got started.

And it’s the same with everywhere, not just a restaurant.

Because of all the people who touch it, we’re 10,000 times more likely to pick up a bug from an escalator handrail as from a toilet seat.

Which means touchscreens, keyboards, lift buttons and light switches – our workplace is just as dangerous and germ-riddled. Al of us working together in the same space, breathing the same air, touching the same things – what can you expect?

And we’re none the wiser because everything LOOKS clean.

Better to trust our noses, they can sense bacteria better. We might not be able to see it, but we can SMELL when something is off – some of the time.

Playing safe

Better not to take chances at all and sterilise the whole place as a regular routine. Scrubbing is no guarantee of safety, so you might as well spend a little more and do it properly.

And the easiest, most painless way is to mist it up with hydrogen peroxide at the end of the day.

All surface, the air, all objects – are sterilised within 40 minutes or so, depending on room size. All viruses, bacteria and fungi dead – including e.coli O157.

So, invisible dirty, invisible clean – can you tell the difference?

If e.coli O157 is the price you have to pay to find out, why take chances?

Picture Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

Urgent update to medics: ALL germs are airborne

Woman fighting wind
Reality check – germs, viruses, everything up to a full-blown house can fly

It comes at you as a blast.

A dry, dusty gust in the Underground.

Grit stings your face and flies into your eye.

Your blink – a grain of dust at least as big as an elephant.

You blink again, realisation this time. Airborne dirt maybe 50 microns across. Feels like 50 miles, scratching across your eye.

Riding the wind

The train arrives and you step in.

You do the math – 0.05 of a millimetre. Ten thousand times bigger than a typical germ cell.  Eighty thousand times bigger than the cell of Ebola they discovered in that doctor’s eye two months after he was declared clear.

The train moves off and you pull out a tissue. Your eye is watering like crazy. The train lurches and a corner of the tissue stabs your cornea. Hurts like hell, but you’ve got the dust particle out. A boulder, the size of a small car.

You blink again, feeling better – turning your head from the constant draft through the open window between the cars.

You think hurricane, you think tornado. You’ve seen clips of storms picking up cars. You suddenly remember about jet streams – powerful winds six miles up, blowing a 350-ton Boeing 777 200 mph faster than its normal cruising speed.

And the penny drops.

Everything flies

Just yesterday you read that the MERS outbreak in South Korea could be going airborne.

For sure it could. You’ve just had a boulder several thousand times larger than any MERS cell slam into your eye. One grain of grit out of many. A whole cloud of them blown down the tube tunnel. You even coughed last time, remember? How many grains was that?

And how many cells of MERS could that be, clustered together?

50? 500? 5,000? And still way smaller than your grain of dirt.

A single cell wouldn’t do it of course, the body’s immune system is too good..

But 5,000 cells in a clump? All gulped in with a gasp of air, straight to your lungs – exactly as suspected in the spread of South Korean hospital cases – breathing through ventilator apparatus before diagnosis pointed to contaminated air.

Now your mind is in gear.

Effortless anywhere

If air can move cars, shifting bacteria is nothing.

Literally nothing.

At 20 nanometres, a single cell of rhinovirus is so small it has no gravity. It can ride the air indefinitely – just like billions and billions of other living microbes. Viruses or bacteria, no matter which – even the largest of them is barely a micrometre.

If there’s a fan going in the special care wing of a hospital in super-hot Saudi Arabia (where the virus was first reported), you wouldn’t want to be sitting downwind from a MERS patient.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Germs can transport pretty well anywhere without effort – both “airborne” ones and the types you can only catch on contact. They weigh nothing, so they can linger too.

Wheel the patient out of the room and the germs are still there.

Lingering threats

OK, so a hit team moves in and deep cleans the place – really thorough, complete wipedown of everything with sodium hypochlorite.

But your mind still tells you – germs in the air, germs in the air.

Not good enough – 80% of that room space is air.

They could be lurking at head height. Clustered behind the vital signs monitor. Down the back of the bedside cabinet. Jeepers, everywhere – and the room’s just been cleaned!

Which is when you know you need a Hypersteriliser. Ionised hydrogen peroxide that actively disperses everywhere – right through the air, deep into cracks and crevices. Oxidising germs on contact, ripping apart their cell structure. 40 minutes, and the place is sterile. No viruses, no bacteria anywhere.

So yeah, MERS might be a problem. That whole host of others too – especially those rogues resistant to antibiotics.

They might be airborne, they might be clinging on tight. But we have a defence.

And in this particular room – whenever you want – all germs are dead.