No good hiding under the bed. The germs will get you there too.
Because washing hands is only the start. If we’re all going to survive, our whole hygiene habit needs a big re-think.
Like, what have you got in the house that kills germs?
Bleach? Disinfectant? Puh-leeze!
Against the kind of viruses and bacteria we have lurking around these days, they don’t even feel it.
And yes, you’re scared about Ebola. But you should be just as worried at catching the flu.
What does that poster in your doctor’s surgery say? “Unfortunately, no amount of antibiotics will get rid of your cold.”
They won’t work on a lot of other things either. Ebola is one. MRSA is another – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – a 9-to-5 germ that lives here in good old UK.
And if you’re not worried, your doctor is.
Because now there’s a whole stack of illnesses he can’t treat you for because the drugs don’t work any more. The whole medical profession is faced with going back to the Nineteenth Century. Maybe not leeches and blood-letting, but still pretty clunky.
But don’t just worry, do something.
Think twice about everything you do, and don’t take chances. That Spanish nurse in Madrid? All she did was wipe her face with her surgical glove. Ebola misses nothing.
Better yet, hike up your bio-resistance threshold.
Your bio-resistance threshold – your germ defence, the force field around you that protects you, your anti-germ shield.
OK, there’s not much you can do about that in the open – though with winds and breezes around blowing everything away, most of the time we’re safe enough.
Indoors though, is where we are most of the time. And with winter coming, we’re all set to pass on infections one to another. Kids in school. Colleagues at the office. If there’s a bug going around, we’re all going to get it.
But not if we’re smart.
Because right now it’s possible to sterilise the entire room you’re in in around ten minutes flat – the walls, the furniture, the floor, the space you move around in. No viruses, no bacteria, no anything. Every trace of a germ, gone.
It won’t get rid of the cold you’ve got. But it will lower the chances of anyone else getting it. Or you going down with the tummy twinges THEY had, lingering in the air from yesterday.
The quick way to do it, is with an aerosol can of ammonium chloride. Hit the button, mist the place up, germs gone in ten. Any viruses or bacteria are destroyed by being oxidised. You’re safe.
Thing is though, it’s like brushing your teeth. You have to do it regularly. Miss a day and the germs pile up. Because don’t forget, each of us is walking around in a cloud of maybe 3.5 million microorganisms – germs – every moment of every day.
But like we said, don’t worry, there’s also a cheaper, better way – almost two thirds cheaper – and 100,000 times better.
Trundle in that wheelie-bin-sized auto-robot and press the button. It releases a super-fine mist of hydrogen peroxide, oxidising germs just like ammonium chloride. But way more efficiently – 99.9999% – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.
And sterile means sterile. It knocks out germs by shoving oxygen atoms at them. Out in the open instead of munching away inside your nice warm body, they cannot survive. They are dead, killed, annihilated, destroyed, eliminated, sent to oblivion. All viruses and bacteria.
And because Ebola is a virus, it will be gone too – if it was ever there in the first place. Along with all this winter’s crop of the usual bio-villains – MRSA, E. coli, norovirus and Clostridium difficile.
You can. But you’d better keep watching for those paper cuts. You may not get an infection – but they still hurt like hell.
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.
Scary pictures of medics like spacemen. Panic headlines about killer diseases – Ebola, MERS and Lassa fever.
How safe are we? Are we all going to die?
Scrub, swab, rinse
Out with the bucket and sponge, heavy on the bleach. Don’t let those killers get to us.
They can’t can they?
Except, all those masks and overalls…
Maybe our wipe-clean disinfecting doesn’t go far enough. Shouldn’t we do more? We’re safe enough here in the UK, but what about flu and norovirus – aren’t they contagious and airborne too?
Which brings us to how to protect ourselves.
Fumigation. Like they do for rats and cockroaches. The whole house shrouded in plastic, everybody out for a week. A bit radical though, isn’t it? Like we can’t do it every week.
So how about the alternatives?
There are a lot of good ones.
Cheapest and quickest is a disinfecting aerosol “bomb”. Disinfecting, not sterilising, but it does clobber most of any germs present – airborne and surface.
Shut the windows and doors, put the aerosol in the middle of the room, hit the button – and leave. An aerosol fog of ammonium chloride is released, filling the room like bathroom steam. Any viruses or bacteria are oxidised to nothing. Twenty minutes and you’re done.
Sort of. Because – heavier than air – the fog can’t get everywhere. Nor can it reach into crevices and corners. It does a “general ” disinfect but that’s it.
There could still be germs lurking in the shadows – and probably are. There’s nothing to get the stuff under things or behind them. But hey, it leaves a nice fresh smell – so at least you’re safer than you were.
Ultra violet, ultra effective
More serious are the “zappers”. Impressive pieces of kit that generate ultraviolet light. UV is deadly to viruses and bacteria, destroying their DNA. Just a few seconds of exposure and boom – they’re gone.
These sterilisers are not small – about the size of an office photocopier – and just as unwieldy. OK to move around in the same room, but a bit of a mission to trundle round a whole building.
Satisfyingly high-tech though.
Programmable to select room size, radiation dose and duration – with remote control so they can be operated from outside. You don’t want to be present when those UV rays start bombarding – not good for the body, or soul.
Very effective though. Done in five minutes. All surfaces, and the air too.
Which means for a room with high turnover, a dental surgery say, it’s a quick way to blitz an operating room between patients straight in off the street. Familiar territory for dentists too, they’re already used to vacating the place while they take X-rays.
There is a downside though.
Like all light, UV rays only work on line of sight. Anything the light generator cannot “see” is not exposed. Germs breeding in that location are not destroyed.
Which means the back side of objects, the sides that face away from the machine. Behind the beds, the desks, the cupboards, the chairs. Half the job.
In bigger rooms there’s a fall-off effect too. The further away from the light, the weaker the exposure. Germs can survive to infect another day.
Both problems can be reduced by re-siting the machine, and blitzing the room again. A bit of a schlep, but it gets the job done. And way more pleasant than slopping around with bleach.
Google it every which way, you’ll find it by far the most effective at destroying germs by oxidising them. Which is why so many hospitals have these sterilisers in operation – misting the place up with hydrogen peroxide vapour is a sure way to preserve patient safety.
By any standards, hydrogen peroxide is THE BUSINESS in nailing viruses and bacteria. Contact with germs kills 99.9999% of them – down to one germ in a million, hardly measurable below that – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.
But, like the zappers, there’s a downside.
To be effective – that means its kill strength – the hydrogen peroxide has to be a 12% solution, pretty potent and not exactly friendly to human metabolisms. The stuff is hazardous to handle.
Everything wet, wet, wet
It’s also wet, wet, wet – basically a dosed water vapour sprayed into the air, very much like low temperature steam. It spreads, does its job, and slowly sinks back down, leaving a layer of condensation all over everything.
For this reason there’s not just one machine but two – both about the size of an office photocopier. One to spread the stuff, the other to dry the place out afterwards. So everything is not just wet, it gets heated up too. A bit hairy on sensitive equipment, particularly anything electrical.
Nor does the heavier-than-air hydrogen peroxide spread everywhere, either. Like ammonium chloride, it can’t reach all the nooks and crannies. It doesn’t behind or under everything either. Like the steam in your bathroom, it just swirls around.
You might have a Log 6 kill rate, but the job’s not all done. Not in the darkened corners – risky with MRSA and other resistant microorganisms floating around.
And float they do. Most germs are so tiny, they could fall right through a piece of blotting paper. Except they’re lighter than air and too small to see, so they could float around for ever, maybe NEVER falling all the way to the floor.
So it’s swings and roundabouts. Plus you need a hefty bloke to manhandle these HP sterilisers around.
Which is where the super-whammies come in – machines that generate ionised hydrogen peroxide. (iHP).
Super technology too. Developed from the military, the first of these uses multiple spray heads mounted on tripods. Flexible tubes feed the hydrogen peroxide solution from a central spray reservoir, carefully metered by a control unit.
In the actual spray head, a whopping great arc of high voltage electricity ionises the hydrogen peroxide molecules, giving them each the same negative charge.
OK, remember your school physics? Like charges repel, right? And unlike charges attract.
So these ionised hydrogen peroxide molecules exit the spray nozzle at speed, vigorously and actively trying to get away from each other – going seriously crazy.
Result, the hydrogen peroxide disperses faster, further, wider, longer. It gets into things, behind them, under and over. And it presses deep into cracks and crevices, still trying to get away from its brothers. Ain’t no germs going to get away from that.
There’s another dimension too, quite literally.
Ionising the hydrogen peroxide changes its state from a vapour or gas – to a dynamically different plasma – the fourth state of matter.
Whammo! It’s not like vapour any more – and a whole load of other germ killers get released too. Reactive oxygen species from the hydrogen peroxide itself of course – plus hydroxyl radicals, ozone – itself a super-powerful oxidiser, and ultraviolet – the same stuff used in the zappers.
It gets better. Because all these negatively charged particles actively hunt – and actually reach out and grab – positively charged viruses and bacteria.
World War Three in microcosm – no more nasties of any kind. They are the departed.
And there’s an even better super-whammy machine too.
Because it’s a whole mission setting up all those spray-heads on tripods and a bit clunky, this jobbie is an all-in-one mobile unit. And yes, we do have a vested interest in it because it’s simply the best there is – the Hypersteriliser.
Straight off, you can see some thought’s gone into it.
No fiddly castors you can never steer, like a supermarket trolley – this thing’s got big wheels like a wheelie-bin but bigger, so you can get it up and down steps without giving yourself a hernia.
It’s all integrated too. You just dial up the dosage according to room-size and the machine calculates the rest. Press one button, leave the room and 60 seconds later the fine-mist spray begins, ionised just as it leaves the nozzle.
Which highlights another plus. Ionising makes the hydrogen peroxide more effective – as we’ve seen with the other machine, releasing other high-powered germ killers. This action allows a weaker solution – 6% instead of 12% – safer to use, and able to dissipate smaller and finer.
The silver edge
This plus performance plasma also packs another punch. It includes colloidal silver, a centuries-old germ-fighter first used by the ancient Greeks.
OK, give it twenty minutes.
As the plasma destroys germs, it loses its charge and reverts to harmless water and oxygen. It also evaporates, drying before it touches anything.
That makes it safe for computer keyboards and sensitive connections – and leaves a microscopically thin veneer of silver as an antimicrobial protection barrier on every surface. Lasting protection for up to weeks.
Is there a downside?
There always is, isn’t there?
As yet, they don’t make a rechargeable battery-powered model, so you can’t take it out into a busy transport yard to do trucks, containers, or buses and trains, without trailing a long mains lead.
The same with aircraft of course – though it’s way more effective than systems requiring several truckloads of kit for the same job.
Hiking up our hygiene
Whew! It’s been quite a haul getting here – and there’s no doubt which of these options we favour. But just remember, they’re all good – and anything that reduces the germ threshold is a step in the right direction.
The more protection we can give each other – particularly in the dense and vulnerable groups modern living seems to need – schools, hotels, offices, restaurants, cruise liners, you name it, the safer everyone can be.
Just think of it – no more norovirus, no more flu.
It won’t happen of course, because to do that, we’ve ALL got to remember to wash our hands all the time.
Yeah, yeah, it’s the daily grind we’re all sick off.
Forward ten yards and wait twenty minutes. Forward another five and another half hour.
Been there, done that, got the parking ticket.
Where’s the freedom?
None of which is why you bought the car in the first place.
You got it for vooma! Because it feels sexy. Because you can go places, do things. Because you rule your own life, baby!
And yes, the open road still exists – it’s still possible to jump in, turn the key and take off.
Yeah, go, go, go.
And are you having chips with that? A whole new world of doing things as they happen – because it’s not just McDonalds who do drive-through. There’s Krispy Kreme Doughnuts as well. Starbucks too.
Plus all those fast-food pit-stop places on the motorways – with everything from pizza to fish & chips to scones and tea. Food on the go is big business and getting bigger.
You have to watch it of course. You don’t want the law eyeballing you while you’re noshing your burger with the engine running. Three points on your licence and a fine is not worth it.
Fast car, fast food, mmm
It’s still great though. Park up somewhere and watch the world go by. Fix your hunger without losing a second of the day. It’s your leisure time and you need to make the most of it.
There is a downside of course. Crumbs, isn’t there always!
And not just crumbs. Bits of garnish, drops of dip, rogue onion rings, greasy wrappers, Coke spills – it can get quite yucky in there. Multiplied by ten if you have kids.
Which means it’s not the motion of the car that’s giving you that queasy feeling. It’s our old friend e.coli – or c.difficile, or norovirus – or any one of a hundred gastrointestinal disorders picked up from the germs lurking where the food spills have gathered.
And for afters
Serious uphill that – cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea. Or even worse if it gets out of hand – dehydration, organ failure – enough to put you in hospital for a couple of weeks.
So two things.
One, you’ve got to clean your car INTERIOR a lot more regularly – especially busy Mums who live in the thing.
And two, there’s always going to be germs, because you can’t clean every second – so you need to follow-up with a good disinfect/sterilise session whenever you can.
Best if you can get it is one of those disinfecting room foggers like Saniguard – an ammonium chloride mist that spreads throughout your whole car (it looks like a sauna in there), not just reaching the cracks and crevices, but destroying any germs in the air as well.
You close all the windows, put the can in the middle of the car, press the button and get the heck out of there. Twenty minutes later, it’s all done. Just let all the fog out and you’re good to go.
It won’t kill the airborne germs, the spray is too direct and not made for air dispersal.
But what it will do is a darn good disinfecting job of all surfaces and tricky corners. It’s kind to plastics and leather, needs no wiping, and dries without a trace afterwards. Easy peasy.
Drive safe, drive healthy
You can tell both of these have worked because any smells that might have been present are now gone. And even if you didn’t notice a pong because you were used to being in the car, there will be a pleasant freshness that wasn’t there before.
Yes, it’s a schlep, but it’s got to be done. Like washing your hands and cleaning your teeth every day. Your car is the same. In the war against germs, there’s never any let up.
Anyway, who wants to wind up in ICU just for a quick trip down the B1040?
It was brand-new, out the box. A glittering German 4×4, perfect for climbing up kerbs to park on pavements.
A Chelsea tractor, yes, they knew that. So Arthur named it Fergus – they had an old Ferguson tractor rusting by the gate at the farm next door when he was growing up.
Bundle of trouble
The baby was new too. A thumping giant at eight pounds and seven ounces, definitely a rugby player – lock forward at least, maybe even a scrum half.
Gwen chose the name Lance – as it had to be with a Dad called Arthur and living in a house called “Camelot”.
Wow, but the car was amazing to drive. Top of the range, four-and-a-half litres – pure indulgence and why not?
Both of them were at the top of their game, Arthur in the City, Gwen with her own PR outfit. High-earning DINKS (Double Income No Kids) they could afford the odd reward – like the skiing holiday they took in Austria six months before Lance arrived.
Lance was amazing, of course. So intelligent – definitely a transplant surgeon or nuclear physicist.
Reality and babies
Messy though. Every lunch bowl upside down on the floor. Every sterilised bottle dribbling on its side. And the nappies – better not to go there.
It got better when Lance graduated to a drinking mug. Two handles to hold and he liked using it. Best of all, it calmed him down. So Gwen let him have it, strapped in the back seat on the way to the office.
Sign a few cheques, crack a few heads, a quick trip to the park to feed the ducks, and home.
They were on the M25 going great and Lance had his special – a weird mix of formula and blackcurrant, but what the heck, he liked it.
Not all the time though.
Somewhere on the long Surrey stretch between Leatherhead and Chertsey, the mug went upside down on the brushed cloth seat. Gwen knew nothing because Lance was quiet and the whole lot had leaked out when they got to Shepherd’s Bush.
It didn’t mop up and it left a mark.
Worse, on the return trip Lance did a repeat performance with a full load of OJ.
Sponge and detergent when she finally got Lance down. Then the miracle gop when Ocado delivered. It got the stain out. But when she parked in the sun two days later, the residue made the inside as high as a kite.
Germs, germs everywhere
A full-on cyberchondriac Mum, Gwen knew the score. Salmonella, listeria, campylobacter, and e. coli at least. Probably a whole bunch more.
Fergus was an infected death trap on wheels and Lance was in danger.
Fergus went to the dealership to have the seat replaced and Gwen started using taxis. Until some driver gave her lip about kids upchucking in his cab.
More germs, more danger – Arthur had to drive them everywhere strapped in in the Lexus, with Gwen riding shotgun, holding Lance’s bottle while he drank. Less than ideal and a real pain until Fergus came back.
Gwen promised herself, no more drinking mug in the car – the very same afternoon that Lance screamed his lungs out through every inch of a four-and-a-half mile tailback. Another idea that never flew.
The next OJ hit was a day later.
Gwen screamed and climbed on the laptop. Somewhere out in Cyberdom there had to be an answer. Come on Google, make your magic.
The stuff arrived two days later – £8 extra for express delivery.
No smells, no germs
More formula by that stage. And a split milk carton in the luggage space, thrown there in a strop after a barney with some woman in the checkout queue.
She got to it late one afternoon when Lance was down. Shut all the windows, put the can in the car, pressed the button and got out of there. Mist was right, more like fog – the kind that shuts airports down for three days.
Arthur came home in the middle of it. Leapt out of the Lexus scrabbling for the fire extinguisher. “For Pete’s sake, Gwen – your car’s on fire.”
She stopped him just in time. Arm wrestled the extinguisher away from him. Opened the door and let the mist escape out. Strong lemony smell, no trace of sour milk.
She gave it another bash the next day, Supermum on overkill. Again, no trace of sour milk – and the miracle gop took care of the stains. She loaded up Lance, suspicious as hell.
Except the smells were gone and Lance was happy as Larry. No sniffles, no dodgy tummy, full of the joys of spring. Still lethal with the drinking mug of course – Sir Spillalot. They averaged a new hit every one-and-a-half journeys.
But the actual virus, lurking in the cabin from an earlier flight? Hopefully not, though it’s getting to be a headache for the airlines.
You see, when you’re up there at 36,000 feet, you really are pretty safe. That air you’re breathing is totally refreshed 20 times an hour. Better still, it’s filtered and purified.
Running continuously under the floor is a set of hospital grade high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters – very effective at trapping microscopic particles like viruses and bacteria.
Because don’t believe that myth about aeroplane flu. If you get the sniffles, it’s more likely that the air is cold and dry – so that’s your mucous membranes compensating.
So it’s not around while you’re flying.
Different on the ground though, when the aircraft powers down and the aircon goes off. That air is from exiting passengers. As your nose can sometimes tell you – if the turnaround’s a quick one and somebody forgets the air freshener.
And yes, you’re quite right – an air freshener won’t stop Ebola.
Misted up so it fills the cabin, it takes out bacteria and viruses by oxidising them. They can’t survive the extra oxygen atoms, so their cell structure disintegrates. Bye, bye bad guys like Ebola.
Because it’s not just in the air that the hydrogen peroxide works. It settles on the seat backs, cushions, grab handles and tray tables. Zaps any germs that might be sitting there too.
Right now though, there aren’t too many airlines using the stuff. They’ve never needed to – and any vapour generating systems they might know about are big and clunky – massive trucks, manoeuvring on the ground. Not cheap or quick, either.
That may change real soon. Especially if health authorities start putting aircraft in quarantine. And not just parking in a remote part of the airport either – a complete lockdown for however long it takes.
Forty days that used to mean, when the word was first used back in the Fourteenth Century. From the Italian quaranta giorni – the time a ship would be isolated to prevent the spread of Black Death – a nightmare twice as deadly as Ebola will ever be.
But what airline can afford a fleet of multi-million pound Boeings, sitting going nowhere?
Especially when a couple of cans of aerosol ammonium chloride can do an emergency mist up in around half an hour?
Or a hospital-type auto-robot can be hauled aboard to do the same thing with IONISED hydrogen peroxide? Ten times more efficient than the vapour job – and done in half an hour at a cost of around a tenner.
A couple more scares and what’s not to like?
99.9999% germ reduction. No more Ebola. Gone.
So no, that’s not Ebola sitting next to you. Or MRSA, c. difficile, HIV, bird flu, norovirus – or any one of possibly thousands of bio-nasties.
More likely it’s the start of an on-board romance. Or a business deal. Or that well-deserved holiday that you owe yourself.
You can’t see it, you can’t smell it, but you don’t take chances. So like a lot of careful people, you fit a carbon monoxide alarm.
But you don’t have a GERM ALARM do you?
Same thing, you can’t see them, you can’t taste them, but they’re there in their billions – all the time, every day – and every bit as deadly as carbon monoxide.
But what do they say?
Ignorance is bliss, right?
Because any room is full of germs and we’re quite happy to walk in without checking.
Or worse, let our kids do it. Thirty children in one classroom – with goodness knows what kind of bugs they’re exposed to.
Of course, we don’t really need an alarm.
Viruses and bacteria are ALWAYS there. It’s their natural environment. Just as it’s their natural behaviour to try to invade our bodies and do us down.
So what do we do about it?
A spray of room freshener perhaps? A quick wipe-down with Dettol?
Not exactly the best defence against norovirus, or e. coli – or whatever bug some other kids might have brought back from holiday. Malaria, yellow fever – in some parts of the world they’ve even got polio.
And you can die from pretty well any of them. Or more accurately, your kids can.
But there is a defence against a room full of germs. A totally effective one too.
You see, one thing that no virus or bacteria can survive is being oxidised. Having extra oxygen atoms shoved at them so their cell structure is ripped apart.
And here’s the clever bit. Spray a room with hydrogen peroxide that’s been ionised, and it naturally reaches up and out, dispersing everywhere – through the air, into cracks and crevices – drawn there electrostatically in a mist that’s lighter than water.
It’s naturally drawn to germs too. Latching onto them the same way a magnet grabs iron filings.
Which means they’re gone – over skedover.
The room is sterilised and your children are safe. All for about the same cost as a cup of coffee and a sticky bun. Rescued from germs every day – by a machine about the size of a wheelie bin, that does the job in twenty minutes.
If you get stuck or have an emergency, there’s a handbag-size ammonium chloride aerosol that does the same job in about the same time.
A bit under-powered alongside hydrogen peroxide, but it clobbers the germs and very effectively. All you do is press the button and leave the room.
Slightly more effective than a carbon monoxide alarm.
It gets rid of the hazard instead of squawking without doing anything.
The Health & Safety people would be proud of you.
But not as much as you are of course, with your kids running round, glowing with health.
Still scared of germs? A very wise attitude.
It’s a big world out there, full of germs, pathogens, microorganisms – whatever you want to call them. And there’s a squeezillion, susquetrillion, megamillion more where those came from
But at least you know it’s safe where your kids are.
It started out as Coronation Chicken on a crispy baguette – big enough to stop the most ravenous appetite with some left over.
It was the left-over that was the problem.
When the builders finished at the school, the summer holidays had three-and-a-half weeks left to run.
Three-and-a-half weeks with no air conditioning and ventilation. By which time the classroom for 4CH was decidedly ripe.
Opening the windows sort of fixed it. But of course the school had to be locked up at night. Air fresheners didn’t crack it either. A few seconds of lavender, then back to the yuck.
Allan Armstrong was the caretaker. He’d been there for yonks and knew just what was needed. A good swab out with a hefty dose of bleach would sort it, no problem.
Unfortunately, it made it worse. The smell was so strong it made the kids’ eyes run. Christa Holmfirth, their teacher, went further and burst into tears.
The classroom had to be abandoned, displacing them all to the assembly hall – unwanted, unloved and shoved to one side.
But tears or not, Christa was no helpless female.
Determined, she braved the classroom during her lunch break and tracked the smell down to the new panelling under the windows.
The heck with asking for permission, she kicked it in with her shoe, snapping the heel in the process – and there was this crinkled packet, half-covered with green gunge.
Smell was one thing, but what kind of GERMS were her children going to come down with? The thing must be crawling with bacteria.
She took it out at arm’s length and marched it to the wheelie-bin behind the school kitchen.
Her colleagues complained that she was stinking the place out.
Then they looked at her face. Whatever they said, Christa was taking no prisoners. And they shrank visibly when she pulled the aerosol out of her handbag.
She showed them the label. Total release fogger – kills germs in seconds. Clobbering the smell did nothing, so she was going to sterilise the whole room.
Fighting her nausea, she went back to the classroom and shut all the windows. She put the aerosol on a desk in the middle, pressed the button and actually ran for the door as if the smell we attacking her.
It took five minutes for the sick feeling to die down. By that time, as she saw through the glass panel, the room looked like a sauna gone wrong, everything ghostly in a cloud of mist.
Her big mistake was telling the kids about it, they wanted to see too. Well, you try telling thirty excited kids with no home that their classroom is full of fog. They were kids and curious.
Curious, but not brave enough to go in. Which was probably just as well.
Christa’s aerosol was based on ammonium chloride, a lighter than air mist which killed germs by oxidising them – ripping them apart by shoving oxygen atoms at them. Lower powered than the super-oxidiser, hydrogen peroxide, but it did the business.Handy in an aerosol too.
Not harmful, but not a good idea to breathe in either.
Twenty minutes later, the room was clear – and the other teachers were complaining about the noise in the passage. Christa went first and opened all the windows wide.
“Oooh!” They all stood there sniffing.
Christa was in tears again. Because the smell was gone. No stink, no germs, her kids were safe.
Which made the waterworks start Big Time. Difficult to resist when a bunch of eight-year-olds suddenly burst out clapping.
Miss Holmfirth, their heroine. The most popular Year Four teacher in UK.
She took ill on the way back from the matinée at the Royal Theatre. A one-man presentation of Gogol’s Diary of a Madman with James Tibbott – a bit high-brow for her companions but perfect for Molly B. She had quite a career in the West End until Russell swept her off her feet to Kenya.
Billy Young was the coach driver, standing in for Erin because he had the Transit licence and Erin only drove the Scanias – too big deal to handle a load of OAPs.
So it was up to him to do something when Mrs B had her attack.
He didn’t know what it was, but it looked bad, shivering and shaking like she was having a fit. And the moans. It was because she made so much noise that Billy stopped in the first place. Poor old dear looked like she might not make it.
So Billy took no chances. Drove straight to A&E, fighting panic all the way that the others would come down with it too. Some kind of bug, you never knew what it was – and suddenly you’re disabled in a wheelchair with half your gut removed.
Unbelievable, but having a busload of OAPs on their doorstep worked for Mrs B. The triage nurse had her put straight through for treatment without even waiting. Which was how come Billy knew what it was before they left. Malaria apparently – once you had it, attacks kept recurring.
Billy shivered. Not for him. So when he dropped the lot of them at the Civic Centre, he got the bus back to the yard and scrubbed it down with the first things he could find – washing up liquid and bleach from under the sink.
It got to him at home too. Poor Mrs Bremridge, shaking so violently. It spooked him bad and that was no lie. It set him thinking too. Maybe bleach wasn’t enough. What if he caught it, exposed to it all the time because it kept lurking in his bus?
Panic sent him to the Internet – where he found it. An aerosol bomb that misted up enclosed spaces with ammonium chloride. Killed all germs by oxidising them, it said on the label, knocked them down in mid-air. Shut the windows, put the thing in the middle of the floor, hit the button.
It sure misted up the place, a white haze that ghosted the whole of the inside. Trouble was, his Dad caught him at it – it was his company after all. Gave him an earful about filling a perfectly good bus with white smoke.
He calmed down when Billy explained though. Two pints of Best Bitter it took before the Old Man got it. Another two and he reckoned Billy was a genius. Sterilise the vehicle was what the stuff did, made it safe from germs for everyone who stepped aboard. A business advantage, they’d be rich.
And how many times had Billy himself had to hop over to Germany or the Czech Republic because one of their other drivers had caught a bug from one of the passengers? A whole coach-load marooned in a hotel that they had to pay for, and then argue about with the insurance company.
They bought a job lot of aerosols after that. Enough for their whole fleet to carry every day they were away from home – Billy’s Dad, Len, Erin, Billy himself and Fagin – thirty-five bombs a week minimum.
Their accountant complained of course, but it was worth every penny being able to guarantee that every trip was sterilised. And business went boom, boom!
Then the Old Man got smart. Found a machine that worked cheaper and did the job automatically. Misted up all their buses every night in the yard – with hydrogen peroxide mist which was way more potent. And what the heck, they had to clean the buses anyway, so pushing a button was no effort.
Stopped a lot of people getting ill Billy reckoned. Him and the other drivers for a start. They didn’t seem to come down with the sniffles any more, at least not as much. Of course they still had people throw up on the road, school-kids with motion sickness or whatever.
But thanks to Mrs Bremridge, it was never anything serious. They had sterilised coaches now, the best service on the road. Let those posh London companies chew on that.