Last night President Obama directed the US Center for Disease Control to send out rapid response SWAT teams to any hospital reporting patients displaying signs of the virus within 24 hours.
The entire system is clearly in a scramble as pictures emerge of an unidentified man with a clipboard fussing round Ebola victim Amber Vinson on her way to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
His only protection against Ebola? He’s out there in shirt-sleeves.
Such wheelspin and confusion quickly hit international markets, already reeling from pension fund and other losses . The Dow Jones fell 1.64% to 16047.88 – accelerated by a CDC statement that it was not clear how Miss Vinson had contracted Ebola.
Watch the panic snowball. Alongside Ebola, it’s the start of flu season. Up to 20% of Americans are likely to be affected, with as many as 200,000 needing hospital treatment.
And here’s the scary bit. In the first week, flu symptoms are similar to Ebola’s – fever and fatigue. Already monitored at major airports, if too many sneezes happen on transcontinental flights over the next few months, the health system could go into meltdown.
But that’s just part of it. Already the World Health Organisation put the possible death toll from Ebola at 10,000 by December. Over-reacting politicians are contributing to international dread.
Lost in today’s Ebola-surge is a side report from Ghana, neighbour to the Ivory Coast which suffered an Ebola outbreak in 1994. Eight students at the Atebubu Teachers College of Education in the Brong Ahafo have died of cholera.
And cholera is way more scary.
First, it kills within hours, not weeks. Second, it’s highly contagious. According to the World Health Organisation, there are up to 5 million cases and 120,000 deaths every year.
The difference is that it’s treatable.
But so is Ebola BEFORE it infects anyone.
Like most viruses and bacteria – cholera too – Ebola is defenceless against being oxidised. Health authorities may be swamped handling existing cases – but they can prevent more by sterilising treatment areas with hydrogen peroxide or other oxidisers before patients are admitted.
It won’t cure the patients. But it will raise the resistance threshold for medics, care workers and support staff already risking their lives.
Safer at home
It will do the same thing too at your local supermarket, eliminating germs and odours.
Except that according to President Obama, the likelihood of a widespread Ebola outbreak is “very, very low.” So don’t expect your local Tesco to go spraying the place just yet.
Better go with the paracetamol then. And hope that an effective wide-scale treatment for Ebola can be found soon.
It’s an old Lebanese proverb, that hygiene is two thirds of health. More accurately, hygiene is the one thing we can all practice that keeps us from death.
The truth of this is everywhere. Look no further than the Great Plague or Black Death – in Fourteenth Century Europe, the greatest health catastrophe ever.
Poor hygiene, certain death
Bubonic plague, yersinia pestis, was thought to be spread by rats and the fleas that infested them. More recent studies suspect humans themselves, through “ectoparasites”, such as body lice and human fleas. Exposure to any of them – together with the low levels of hygiene that prevailed at that time – and you were lucky not to be a goner.
Because rats were common in Fourteenth Century Europe. So were all manner of diseases and illnesses. Poor hygiene guaranteed it. People crammed in cities on top of each other. Few sewers. Pretty well zero sanitation. Human excrement dumped straight into the streets, then into the rivers that provided drinking water.
Not at all a healthy place to be.
Which is how the Black Death killed 50 million people, 60% of Europe’s population. Three to five days to react to a flea bite. Three to five days breaking out in suppurating buboes – and an 80% chance you would die within hours.
Goodbye cruel world. The end of everything through poor hygiene. Halted only by three days of germ-killing, purifying flames in the Great Fire of London, September 1666.
Halted, but without any advance in hygiene. Still the same lack of sewerage, no access to running water, wearing the same clothes for the whole winter, not even a bath once a year. And all the while, everybody’s body waste and faecal matter was discharged into the Thames.
The Great Stink
So that inevitably, nearly two hundred years after the Great Fire, came the Great Stink.
By that time, London had doubled and quadrupled, then quadrupled again. Newly-laid drains took away the never-ending effluent – increasingly from flushing toilets, the new invention of the age. Flush it away, get rid of the smell, out of sight, out of mind.
Except of course, it still wound up in the Thames. And surprise, surprise, Londoners still weren’t very healthy – the river was still the major source of drinking water.
Exactly how it was before the rats arrived, with cholera from drinking contaminated water back in top spot as the Number One killer. 40,000 died from cholera between 1831 and 1866 – most lethal killer since the Black Death itself – with infant mortality hovering at 50% and children under five not much better.
The summer of 1858 made it even worse. With a once-in-a-century drought and corresponding heatwave –temperatures climbed day after day to 48°C, as hot as North Africa. The Thames shrank to a trickle – and as water levels dropped, exposed more and more layers of faecal matter on the riverbed, baking and fermenting in the summer sun.
The smell, accumulated from hundreds of years of raw sewage, was unbearable.
People avoided the river, now a disgusting brown slurry of poo. The posh and aristocracy moved out of town. MPs abandoned the Houses of Parliament, newly rebuilt after a fire in 1834. But not before passing long-overdue laws for a massive new sewer scheme.
Down the drain
It took twenty years, but thanks to the brilliant engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette – the unique and awe-inspiring Victoria, Albert and Lambeth Embankments were the result, with yawning great sewerage tunnels concealed underneath. All supported by 82 miles of main intercepting sewers, 1,100 miles of street sewers, four pumping stations and two treatment works.
Slowly, the Thames revived, to become one of the cleanest cityscapes in Europe.
The water became safer too – with the discovery by physician Sir John Snow that cholera was spread by polluted water, not airborne. Famously, he persuaded the local authority in Soho, St James Vestry, to remove the handle of the public water pump in Broad Street, identified as the source of the most recent cholera outbreak.
Today London’s drinking water still comes mostly from the Thames, but only after screening, clarification, filtration, aeration, removal of pesticides and organic compounds by Granular Activated Carbon (GAC), ozone dosing, disinfection and ammoniation to ensure its purity.
And in case of another hundred-year drought like the one that brought the Great Stink, London’s water is further supplemented by the reverse osmosis treatment of sea water in a massive new processing plant at Beckton.
All of which keeps us a lot safer than the way we were in Victorian times. So safe that we seldom bother about it. We live in a clean, well-kept environment where the thought of germs is far away, unaware of our lucky escape from the clutches of bubonic plague and cholera.
Both are still around of course. Cholera ready to break out wherever flooding contaminates drinking water. And the plague still lurking in Madagascar, where 2,348 case were confirmed just last November – a mere 13½-hour hop away by Boeing.
Out of sight, out of mind
Our thoughts might be far away, but germs aren’t. Viruses, bacteria and fungi are part of our daily life and all around us. We’re even half bacteria ourselves, microorganisms in our gut helping us digest food, create proteins and even manage our immune systems.
So we take chances. Every day dicing with death without even knowing we’re doing it.
We KNOW about germs and how dangerous they are. But because we feel safe, we don’t think about them. So every day we put our lives at risk, as surely as back in Victorian times.
At work we’re careless, heads full of business, too busy to worry about hygiene. Which is why we take no notice that our workplace is teeming with health hazards.
Bubonic plague and cholera haven’t gone away, they’re just held back by massive hygiene defence systems.
Even so, from our own behaviour, there’s nothing to stop us from coming down with tummy bugs like norovirus, salmonella, campylobacter and e.coli. Or respiratory illnesses like Aussie flu, MERS, SARS, TB or pneumonia. Any one of which could be the death of us, if modern medicine wasn’t there to catch when we fall.
Makes you think twice about keeping ourselves clean, doesn’t it?
Two thirds of health?
It never feels like it, but forgetting to wash our hands is just as deadly as playing Russian roulette.
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.
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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?
Hygiene negligence is not a crime. But not washing your hands can get you in a lot of trouble – even outside the medical sector.
A shocking number us are guilty of forgetting to do it, or not even thinking about it. And then we wonder why wildfire illnesses like norovirus can suddenly come out of nowhere and turn our world upside down.
Fact is, we touch so many things in an ordinary day, our hands are inevitably contaminated.
But because they don’t look dirty – most germs are too small to see, even with a powerful microscope – cleaning them off is not on our radar.
We’re pretty sloppy if we ever do remember too. Because incredibly:
If your hands didn’t get washed, how about the things you touch after you’ve been to the loo? Don’t they become contaminated? There’s poo on there – minute traces of faecal matter – inevitably transferred to documents you handle, and so to the hands of your colleagues.
As a result, among all the other things you have on there, your hands have small traces of cocaine on them. You’re tainted, even though you never use the stuff – and never go anywhere near a dealer.
Worse, any test would prove positive – and you could be fired. Just like the poor bus driver in Bristol – sacked after handling several hundred pounds in cash and then not washing his hands.
But it doesn’t have to be drugs that get you busted. Straight poo will do. Not washing your hands is not choosy.
Like, how about your whole office goes down at a critical stage – everybody working on a big make-or-break business pitch – specially-hired consultants, a whole team of experts, plus visiting firemen from overseas… then norovirus puts them out of action?
Cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea – nobody can work with those. Four critical days off the grid, everything dead in the water. So what happens when the job goes pear-shaped and the contract falls through?
Cutbacks, staff layoffs – the brass will want to know why.
So suppose they investigate and trace the source of the outbreak to you? And suppose because of TV security surveillance, they can prove not washing your hands after being in the loo?
Yeah OK, you’re a workaholic and you were actually sitting on the bog, thrashing out vital details on your phone. Sure, nobody is more committed than you. But now straight carelessness has brought the whole company down.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, right? And so unnecessary. Simply from not washing your hands.
How many millions is it? And they can tie the negligence directly to you? The deal of the century, down the tubes – just because you didn’t wash your hands?
Price of forgetfulness
You could be looking at dismissal, maybe even a ban on working in the same industry for months or years. It happens to careless professionals in the medical sector, so why not to you?
Never knew not washing your hands could be so important?
So what if it wasn’t norovirus, but something more lethal? Cholera, say, from your holiday in South Africa. Those contaminated guavas you bought in Kwa-Zulu Natal – only you didn’t know they were contaminated.
And you’re OK, by lucky chance you’re a carrier – it doesn’t affect you – but two of those experts have underlying heart conditions and one of them dies. What then?
Some nasty bug – a killer variant of cholera – spread by contaminated food.
Not from your five-star beach hotel of course.
But from your fingers.
Hidden dangers – unaware
Because of the crack-of-dawn start to your sight-seeing tour. A mad dash to the loo before you held the coach up. The market, the temple, the boat-trip, the beach barbie. An amazing day – but without one chance to wash your hands. Or even think about it.
A sizzling plate of food and you’re about to dive in – until you check the grubby fingerprints on your water glass.
Ew, that was you! A whole day’s yuck on your hands – which you don’t even see because germs are too small.
But you excuse yourself anyway and head for the bathroom – all glitter and glass and wafting incense. And luckily for you, a good sensible soap and running hot water.
Grubby fingerprints gone. Gunge from the handrails, manky stuff in the street, don’t-ask from the funny place – and yes, you’re not even aware of it, but faecal residue as well – poo from the loo.
Back home of course, you might get away with it. At worst a touch of norovirus and gone. Not nice while it happens, but you’ll survive. A reminder to ALWAYS wash your hands.
Not quite the same on holiday, especially in hot countries. Germs breed easier, transfer easier – and are very often more deadly. Not worth the risk. And totally avoidable if you wash your hands.
Of course that’s our problem isn’t it?
Our hands don’t LOOK dirty, so we think they’re clean. We’re just not dirt-aware enough to keep remembering. But who wants norovirus – or worse, to come home from their holiday in a box?
Keeping them clean is a schlep too, because germs are everywhere – billions and billions of viruses and bacteria – on every surface, in the air, on our own skin except where we’ve washed our hands. Everything might look harmless, but in reality is a potential nightmare, especially at the office.
OK, we can’t do much about germs surrounding us outside in the open, but we can do something about them in our living space. And the way we are with out modern lifestyles, we spend 90% of our time indoors anyway.
Uh huh. Not exactly the healthiest. WE might be harmless to ourselves, but indoors is a space we share with lots of others – school, work, eating out, entertainment.
Personal germ clouds
And every single one of us carries around our own swirling cloud of hidden bacteria – so uniquely distinct to each of us that cops in the near future will be able to ID we were there – just by reading our lingering germ-sign.
Which adds up to germs on everything around us – and clouds of germs towed around by others surrounding us. So easy to pick up – by breathing or touching something – and then absently touching our mouth or eyes.
What could it be? Norovirus, salmonella, campylobacter, or escherichia coli? Enough to hospitalise us if they’re bad, or finish us off if we’re unlucky. Or sometimes even worse. How about that cholera variant you had that close call with – from other colleagues back from holiday?
But like soap and water takes germs off your hands, you can take away the germs surrounding you too. Kinda important if you have an underlying medical condition that maybe even you don’t know about. Or one of your colleagues does – and a simple infection triggers a whole life-threatening experience.
Safe and sterile
Which is why all kinds of places are using ionised hydrogen peroxide – misting up their rooms to take down all viruses and bacteria. Safe and sterile every morning, in addition to clean floors and empty waste bins. No smells, no germs, no health problems.
Lucky escapes every day. And you never have to worry about them.
We’re joking, right? They get flu, that’s their problem.
Except maybe you want to revise that. Because wasn’t it your idea that everyone had the flu jab in the first place? So you already had concerns about keeping them healthy.
Yeah but, if they’ve had the flu jab, you’ve done your bit. It’s not your fault this year’s vaccine doesn’t work so well. Too many different strains – the medics can’t always get it right.
Sure, but it’s still a worry. You can’t run a business with loads of empty desks. Which is what you get when flu strikes. Never a single hit, eh? Always a whole squad of people down at once – usually at the most critical moment. An evil kink in Sod’s Law.
It’s your duty of care too. So that working conditions are safe and secure. Which often means issues you never thought of five years ago now have to be addressed.
They sure cost a bob or two. HVAC systems don’t come cheap, but they keep staff motivated and comfortable, working in their shirtsleeves. Or how about anti-terrorism? Coded pass cards, keypad entry, bullet-proof glass, ex-SAS guards – it takes a lot to protect people.
You bend over backwards for them, how could they possibly sue you for flu?
Protection from themselves
Yeah well, increasingly people need protecting from themselves. More specifically, from each other.
Like flu. One of them catches a bug, they give it to each other. It happens, they’ve all had the jab, a few days and it’s over, so what? Another inconvenience on top of all the others.
But what if it was more serious? Like one of them does a sales trip to Africa and comes back with cholera? Or typhoid? Or worst case scenario, Ebola? Round the office with any of those would land you in big trouble, possibly even criminal negligence, so where do you draw the line?
An iffy question. And these days, getting iffier.
You may have read somewhere that office desks are a breeding place for anything up to 10 million germs. Sure, you have the regular cleaning services, but most of these breeding places never get touched by typical valeting, so the germs continue unchecked. Noxious germs in the workplace, you could be liable.
It gets worse when you consider staff hygiene – no, not anything you’ve done – their normal day-to-day behaviour. A quick look at the figures is shocking:
OK, so dirty desks, unwashed hands, somebody comes in with Ebola (which they’ve no idea they’ve got ‘cos it can take weeks to show) – big trouble, right? Law suits almost certainly, failure to protect, not a headache anyone wants.
So what makes flu so different? Can you prove due diligence that staff were not exposed to contagious pathogens? More to the point, can you prove that you did everything you could to prevent possible infection? Especially the air space, which is 80% of any room – remember germs are microscopic so they’re up there anyway, brought in by the personal cloud of them we all walk around with.
Which means a nightly wipe-down with a damp cloth is not enough is it? Or vacuuming the floors and emptying the waste paper baskets. Like it or not, your workplace is probably teeming with germs just waiting to cause an illness.
The only reason they don’t is that most of the time staff are healthy enough for their immune systems to prevent it. But that doesn’t include tiredness, stress, or any of the other everyday challenges of working life. It’s only a matter of time – and yes, you could be liable.
Because it IS possible to neutralise all germs in your workplace inexpensively. Certainly for less than the cost of an HVAC system or putting in full security.
Wheel in a Hypersteriliser at the end of the day when staff have gone home, and germs can be eliminated altogether. It generates an ultra-fine dry mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide that reaches everywhere, destroying viruses and bacteria on contact, sterilising the entire room. Forty minutes or so and all germs are gone – flu, common illnesses, tummy bugs, even Ebola.
Staff of course you can issue with antibacterial wipes or gel – put a pack daily on each desk and you’re in the clear. So is the air and every surface in your workplace, a fresh page to start the day, free of any health hazards.
Because our own human body cells are outnumbered by bacteria more than 100 to 1. Every one of them living inside us and actually helping us live. If they weren’t there, we wouldn’t survive.
Not who we think we are
Yeah well, the entire world’s like that. Every living thing is home to whole hosts of bacteria essential to existence. Which makes bacteria way more important than most of us ever think. We’re not infected with them, we’re colonised by them.
So our paranoia about destroying them is most unwise.
So how come this blog is called Back Off, Bacteria? Isn’t that about getting rid of microorganisms?
Far from it.
Reality Number One. Bacteria are vitally necessary for every living function.
But not ALL bacteria are appropriate in every situation.
Campylobacter for instance, occurs naturally in poultry – 75% of chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and wild birds have it in their gut. Somehow it helps in the digestion of whatever they eat – processing the grit perhaps, or balancing natural sugars.
OK, you can see the connection. Chicken is a highly popular source of cheap protein – so the whole food industry is up in arms about the contamination of our top of the pops menu choice.
It occurs naturally in birds, right? It’s SUPPOSED to be there.
So what’s the problem?
Everybody, the Food Safety Agency, producers, supermarkets, chefs, restaurants – all know that if you cook chicken properly, all campylobacter is destroyed. Those wings, drumsticks and nuggets are totally safe to eat.
So, Reality Number Two. Bacteria are only beneficial when they’re in the right place.
Which is why this blog is called Back Off, Bacteria!
Back Off, Bacteria! Get back to where you belong.
There are over 500 microbe types that colonise our gut – bacteriods, peptococci, staphylococci, streptococci, bacilli, clostridia, yeasts, enterobacteria, fuzobacteria, eubacteria, catenobacteria, etc – we don’t need a rogue outsider coming in and upsetting the apple cart.
As long as a bacterium is in the right place, that’s OK.
But the wrong place needs action if you don’t want to sicken and die.
Which is why – first line of defence – you should wash your hands so you don’t ingest some harmful killer bug you can’t see.
Researchers have also found that the electrical charge in bacteria like e. coli can actually generate light – creating flashes like Christmas tree lights.
Put that together with the fact that we’re always surrounded by a “bio-cloud” of billions and billions of bacteria all the time – and it’s possible that under the right conditions we really do generate a visible aura.
Better still, as bacteria respond to our changing body conditions, the electrical charge they put out could vary, changing the actual colour of this aura. Maybe not a myth any more, but genuine reality. All those child prodigies, swamis and spiritual mediums might have been right all along.
So yeah – germs, we need ’em.
Let’s just make sure we keep them in a safe place.
It’s truer than you know, that your life is in your hands.
Because your hands are your life.
Without them, you could do very little.
All those everyday things would be impossible – eating, drinking, touching, feeling, holding, carrying, lifting, taking, giving.
Not much of a life when they’re gone, hey?
Which practically means that you rely on your hands for everything about living. Your physical involvement to the whole world around you.
You touch everything. And everything touches you.
Which gets a bit awkward sometimes. Yucky stuff sticks to your fingers and won’t come off. Or mud and dirt. Or noxious poo.
And because you can SEE the crud on your hands, you wash them off. Good, Jim.
Microscopic life threats
But how about when you can’t see stuff?
Because that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Yes, viruses and bacteria – that kind of junk. So small, you can’t see them without a microscope – and even then you need the high-powered kind.
So what? you say. You’ve read somewhere we’re all surrounded with germs – billions and billions of them all the time. You’re still perfectly fine and healthy, what difference does one more make?
Ah, that depends on the germ. The wrong one in the wrong place, and you look pretty stupid.
For instance, you wouldn’t want to get typhoid or cholera on you, right? Or those ones you keep reading about like HIV or Ebola?
Uh huh. So how do you know you’re NOT getting one, right now?
So that when you touch your face – which all of us do 2,000 to 3,000 times a day – an infection can’t get in through the soft tissue of your eyes, nose and mouth, turning you into a basket case, or vegetable, or worse?
The wrong kind of bacteria
Sure, you’re surrounded by bacteria, your body’s even colonised with them – 10 times more of them than there are of you, 100 trillion cells. But they’re all in harmony, all in balance. Without them, you’d soon be in trouble – they’re SUPPOSED to be there.
But it only takes one of the bad guys to put you in hospital. Oxygen, blood transfusions, antibiotics.
And then they find out, like Ebola, that the damn stuff is resistant to everything. None of the medicines work. Whoops, sorry!
Yeah, like you weren’t wearing a seat belt. Or you went to sleep on the dotted line in the middle of the road. Exactly the same chance you take when you don’t wash your hands.
Most of the time you get away with it.
Crash, bang, wallop
Then one day out of the blue, somebody rear-ends you in a multiple shunt because of motorway fog. Straight through the windscreen – and your head and five ribs suddenly discover why they call it the “hard shoulder”.
Sure, the guy you hit was in the wrong place at wrong time.
So was the methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus in the web between your finger and thumb. You aren’t coming back from a dose of that stuff unless you’re very, very lucky and have very, very good doctors.
Because no medicine works on it – you and your immune system are on your own.
Not so smart-ass now that you’re always surrounded by bacteria, hey? It only takes one.
The same in your car. One little thing out of place.
You don’t know that a stone’s cut your brake lines and you’ve no way of stopping. Or the driver of that HGV is about to have a heart attack, and smash through the central Armco, head-on into you.
No soap and water. No clunk-click. Same difference.
Waiting to happen
It can happen any time – and it will.
The same with the germs around you, in your working and living space. Some on your hands, some you breathe in.
So you can’t always assume all germs are taken out and you’re safe.
Which means do it, every time you think of it. Wash your hands – especially after the loo and before food.
Your life depends on it, better believe it.
Because when it finally does happen, the cramps, upchucks and diarrhoea you go through from even something “harmless” like norovirus, is a million times worse than the £100 fixed penalty fine for forgetting your seat belt.
Take your eye off the ball and things go pear-shaped, right?
A momentary lapse of concentration.
Kinda how it works in your body too.
Oh oh, glitch
A momentary hiccup in your immune system and oops! That’s a nasty infection you’ve got there, better take something for it.
Momentary because your body is surrounded by teeming microbes all the time. Billions and billions of them in the air, on the ground, and on all the things you touch. So many, it’s impossible not to be in contact with them every second of your existence.
Constantly immersed – and constantly under siege.
Mostly by neutral stuff, but by good and bad too – viruses, bacteria, moulds, dust mites, fungi, spores, pollen – all successfully deflected away by the body’s fantastic immune system.
Be glad. Because inside our bodies there’s a bunch of bacteria too. Whole specialised colonies dedicated uniquely to every one of us. Outnumbering our own human body cells by 10 to 1 – or according to some scientists, even 100 to 1.
Most of these are the good guys, the gofers that do our body’s grunt work for us – processing food, digesting it, manufacturing the natural chemicals we need to do stuff – like even dopamine and serotonin, to keep the brain firing on all four.
OK so far, everything’s going fine.
The whoops moment
But life goes on – and a lot of things happen in every day. We grow up, get educated, find a job, get married or involved, go on holiday, have kids, buy a house, become famous – and life around us is usually pretty harmless.
Except now and then comes the hiccup – the glitch that triggers an immune system alert. Germs like MRSA, transferred from someone else – by touch, or through a cut, or from something we carelessly pick up with unwashed hands.
Even then, we usually pretty safe. Immune systems can cope with MRSA and most other pathogens that life throws at us – sometimes unaware that anything’s happened.
As long as we’re OK, of course. Not vulnerable from some underlying medical condition, impairment of our immune capabilities, or reduction of the bacteria we would normally use to inhibit the bad guys having a go at our bodies.
You see our soft spot, don’t you? Our Achilles’ heel, the one everyday drawback in our defences?
Right, first time. Just about everything in our existence we touch with our hands. Things around us, things we use, things we eat – our hands handle the whole lot. And whatever’s on our hands touches our face – 2,000 to 3,000 times a day.
Which means germs through our eyes, in our nose, or down our mouths – unless we’ve washed our hands. The good guys, yes – the harmless guys too.
And the bad guys who want to take us out – typhoid, cholera, Ebola, e.coli, norovirus – there’s a billion billion pathogens out there only too happy to make us dead.
Forget to wash your hands and the germs will go at you for sure. Not just something you picked up, but infection by negligence. You caused it, not accident. You didn’t look after your body – and falling ill is how you pay for it.
Yes, that’s harsh – but unfortunately true. People who keep their hands clean don’t get sick. Not usually.
But being unlucky happens too – particularly since we all live together most of the time – sharing the same space, working, relaxing, eating and drinking.
And while WE might be OK, others might not be. Their germ-clouds are not all safe, there’s bad guys in there. We could breathe them in, absorb them by touch, or swallow them without knowing.
Which is why “wash your hands” applies to the environment we live in too – the indoor lifestyle we’ve always stuck to, ever since caveman days.
To some people that means go at everything with bleach. Scrub down every surface, kill the germs with stuff so potent it takes the roof of your head off. Not good if you’re asthmatic, or even just sensitive. And who can live with the howling headache?
It’s not good enough either. Because though it gets rid of germs on tables and things, it does nothing to the rest – so tiny and light, they’re suspended in the air. Untouched and hovering in 80% of the room space, no wonder coughs and sneezes go round a place so quickly – schoolrooms, offices, restaurants, cinemas, hospitals – wherever there’s people gathered together.
The safe way
Only one sure way to get rid of them – use a Hypersteriliser. Like washing hands for the total room space, only a lot more effective. Eliminating ALL viruses and bacteria by oxidising them in an ionised mist of hydrogen peroxide.
Germ neutral, totally sterile. You and your body’s own bacteria cloud are totally safe.
Until of course, somebody walks in trailing something else to have a go at you.