Tag Archives: antibiotic-resistant

How germs at the office just got more dangerous

Germs in the office
Yes it all LOOKS reassuring – but we’re not as safe as we think we are

Dangerous? Germs at the office?  Poppycock!

A dose of flu maybe – kid’s stuff.

You’re more likely to have an accident with the photocopier.

Except there ARE germs in the office.

And if you read your papers, you’ll understand why doing something about them suddenly got a lot more serious.

First off is the report about superbugs in our travel network.

Nasties in the Underground

Research by taxi insurers Staveley Head recently turned up 121 different types of bacteria and mould in buses, taxis and in the tube – 9 of them antibiotic resistant.

As Staveley Head’s spectacular website demonstrates, pick one of those up on the way to work, and the Doc’s miracle medicine cure suddenly doesn’t work any more, them bugs have mutated to have immunity.

And pick them up you certainly can – nasties like e.coli, MRSA and klebsiella pneumoniae. Swab tests found them lurking on hand rails, seats, doors and walls – fomites waiting for contact with human hands.

To be carried along to work with all the other hazards we’re exposed to – in the air and on the things we touch. Dust, exhaust fumes, chemicals like acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, toluene and ethyl alcohol, or substances like lead, cadmium and methylene chloride.

We can’t see them of course, they’re microscopically small. But they’re on our clothes and skin and hair. We breathe them in. Ready to transfer to all the things we touch when we get to work. And for when we breathe out. Dangerous germs, unwittingly brought in for our colleagues to catch and succumb to.

And they’re not the only ones. Things are happening in other parts of this sad old world of ours that are equally dangerous to our health.

At war with disease

Like second, war in the Middle East.

Decades of conflict that have devastated whole countries and health systems. And in their wake, epidemics of diseases not seen by doctors for more than half a century. Polio in Syria and cholera in Yemen.

Not our problem, we say to ourselves. Syria is 2,000 miles away, Yemen 3,600.

Except sadly, in this age of direct jet travel, local problems are world problems. Already, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, pouring into Europe or wherever they can get to. And like us tube travellers or the bloke on the No 9 bus, bringing their germs with them.

For every polio victim, how many are carriers? How many are there with the disease incubating inside them as they thankfully emerge on our streets, looking to start a new life?

Meanwhile, in Yemen, cases of cholera have already topped 167,000 and the disease is currently killing one person an hour. How many Yemenis are in Britain, heaving a heavy sigh of relief?

And how many of either have – without meaning to, or even know they’re doing it – transferred their germs to you?

Not directly, but via the grab handle in the back of a taxi, or a rush-hour strap on the Victoria Line – swabbed the worst for germs in the whole London system. Well of course, the Victoria Line runs right through incoming refugee central – King’s Cross & St Pancras AND Victoria.

Unseen, unheard, unrecognised

Worries, yes, And bigger than we think too.

Because third, American reports indicate that antibiotic-resistant superbugs are not as closely tracked in hospitals as they should be. Infection-related deaths are uncounted, greatly hindering the fight against an increasingly global health challenge.

Hopefully, protocols are more strictly adhered to here. But with the NHS in a a state of permanent overload from challenges in all directions, it is likely the same dangers exist in UK too. You peg off with a superbug that your Doc couldn’t treat when you were admitted for something else, who’s going to know?

Which comes back to how safe are you at the office?

And the unpleasant truth, not very. A fact that stems largely from our own hype about standards of hygiene. We think we’re cool.

Reality is way different from what we imagine. For instance:

All of which puts terrific dependence on how well the office itself is cleaned if we want to stay safe.

And the answer is, not very. Not when office cleaning is usually a grudge purchase at the lowest rate. A quick vacuum and wipe-down is min protection against the 10 million germs to be found on the average office desk.

Which, together with the germs we brought in off the street, make the place a lot more dangerous than we confidently kid ourselves it is.

The cost of doing nothing

Once a luxury, it is fast becoming a necessity to do something specifically about office germs. And if bosses won’t do it for staff health, maybe they’ll do it for the sheer economics.

Or “germonomics” if they choose to get serious. The thousands and thousands of pounds that can be saved – just by removing germs that threaten productivity. Push-button technology already in place to make offices sterile, safe and secure.

So how dangerous is YOUR office – because, since it affects us all, this is one of those where you CAN believe all the things you read in the newspaper?

And the answer is very easy.

Does the button get pressed every night, or not?

Major infection threat from hospital visitors

Worried visitors
More harm than good –
unless you use the gel

Unbelievable.

You’d think we’d know better.

All of us concerned friends and family, visiting sick relatives – and we’re helping to make them sicker.

We know they’re ill, right? That’s why they’re in hospital.

Where we know they’re vulnerable too.

It’s gonna be our fault

All those accident wounds and surgical cuts increase the risk of infection. Especially with so many antibiotic-resistant superbugs like MRSA on the rampage.

Right now ordinary operations like caesareans, chemotherapy, C-sections or biopsies are becoming impossible simply because the drugs don’t work any more.

On top of that there’s a whole witch-hunt going on that NHS hospitals are failing patients through an inadequate care.

And then we show up. Ordinary Tom, Dick and Harriet people – and probably the worst threat yet to catching germs in hospitals.

It’s easy to see why.

What sanitising station?

When we get to hospital, we go blundering in – hey, ho, here we go – what do you mean germs?

Yeah, well. If any doctors or nurses did that, they would get the chop. Busy like you can’t believe, but not one of them goes on duty without a good scrub-up.

They do it again between patients too – proper hot water, soap and brush, the full five-minute job. And with responsibilities pulling them every which way, they’re horrified if they ever get stampeded past it in the heat of the moment – but at least there’s sanitising gel stations everywhere.

Not like us.

There’s in-your-face sanitising stations everywhere you look in hospitals these days – but none of us seems to use them. Blind as a bat and full of ourselves, we never even know they’re there. With one or two exceptions of course – like grandma and grandad, worried about doing the right thing.

No, in we go – each trailing our bio-aura cloud of accompanying bacteria. Hands unwashed, untreated or anything. Straight off the street from whatever we were doing. Anything up to 10 million germs on each hand – dirt, food and faecal matter. Not a care in the world.

Contamination plus

Then it’s hugs, kisses, holding hands, refilling the water glass. If we knew any nurses did that without washing their hands, we’d kick up stink all the way to Westminster.

But not us, we’re a law unto ourselves – and most of us never wash our hands anyway.

So is it any wonder that patients stay in longer and get complications – that Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) are on the up?

There’s the professional medics taking flak for lapses in procedure and hygiene – when all the time we’re this bunch of uncaring bozos, infecting the place left, right and centre and not even knowing that we’re doing it.

Check it out, it’s a hospital. Most of the time always meticulous about hygiene, guarding against germs and keeping things clean. Yes, there are lapses – as always when people are rushed off their feet, doing multiple jobs at once. Too many patients, too many complications, most of them from germs which WE put there.

And then there’s us.

Careless too

Coats and scarves spread over the bed. Coughing and sneezing because it’s winter out there. Hands unwashed since breakfast or before – not even after the loo.

Filthy mitts (yes filthy because you can’t see germs, they’re too small) all over the high-touch areas that patients touch too – bedside cupboard, bed table, grab rails. Re-adjusting pillows that they’ll breathe into later, pulling up the blanket that their hands rest on, reading.

If matron had the slightest idea how we’re contaminating her patients, she sling us out on our ear.

She does of course, but she’s not allowed to. Misplaced courtesy and tolerance. Ideally, she would lock her patients away – restricted visitors – like in ICU. Not to penalise patients, but protect them from us – walking germ factories with our sloppy hygiene.

Think we’re kidding? Hospitals are where people are already down, resistance low from whatever their condition. Any hole, any incision, the slightest break in the skin and they’re vulnerable to infection.

And have they got holes. Wounds from surgery, tubes, pipes, wires into the body – even a simple drip puts a cannula on their wrist.

You can see it happening, can’t you. Tolerant Mum with her newborn second, letting her first-born explore all the tubes. Germs straight in, intravenously. Whoops – staphylococcus aureus, or a urinary infection. Another week in hospital. More headlines about inadequacy.

Unclean like the plague

Yeah, we’re bad. So bad we shouldn’t be allowed in.

Not without a facemask and hands gelled so they show up under UV light – just like getting into nightclubs. No stamp on your wrist, you can’t come in. No glow on your hands, stay out of the ward.

But it won’t happen, will it? We already don’t wash our hands and then wonder why we get gastro after eating a burger. The penny never drops.

And so we go on. Visitor monsters.

Do we have to become patients ourselves to learn about proper hygiene?

Ebola, pshaw! With all these antibiotic-resistant bio-nasties around, you could die from a paper cut

Woman in gasmask
You can run – and you can hide –
but you can’t stop taking precautions

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-wha…?

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.

Breathe easy?

You can. But you’d better keep watching for those paper cuts. You may not get an infection – but they still hurt like hell.