Tag Archives: HEPA

Got your business insured against Aussie flu yet?

Biz team against Aussie flu
This year’s Aussie flu is everywhere – unless you’re insured against it

H3N2 it’s called. Three times more horrible and twice as nasty – shouldn’t you be insured against this potentially deadly killer?

So far it’s zapped Oz and France – and already swamped most of UK. Not good, however you skew it.

Got you, right in the balance sheet

Particularly for business. Half your team off, all at the same time. The other half hanging in, waiting for it to hit. Critical jobs stalled, errors all over from battling to cope.

So how are you doing for protection?

You have it for data, of course – insured big time, belt and braces. Encryption from hackers, surge protection on every computer, your servers backed up to the cloud.

But how about your people?

All that data means nothing without them – to shape it, plan with it and drive it forward.

And between them and disaster is a flu jab that’s only 20% effective? Come on, now!

Time to start that quarantine rule you’ve been trying to avoid. The one that sends staff home for ANY kind of ailment – cough-sniffle, tummy cramps, pounding head, the works.

Boy, you’re going to get it

Because, sure as hell, what goes around comes around. So if one of your team gets it, sooner or later they all will.

Forget discipline or calling them wimps. How good is the work quality they produce when they’re sitting there, feeling like grim death?

And how are you going to protect everyone else? Put screens round them and shut off the air-con, just to keep the sick ones up to the mark? Hardly insured at all – good luck with that.

Send them home and they can’t do any damage.

Then get some serious protection going. Antibacterial hand gel or wipes on every desk for a start. Most infections start from things we touch, so clean hands are the first defence.

Getting rid of all germs is next.

If the place is sterile, nobody can catch anything. Not unless they bring it in themselves – and you’ve already triggered the quarantine rule, the first part of being insured.

The workplace war zone

But count on it, there’s germs everywhere – unless you do something.

And good though it might be, that nightly office cleaning service is usually just to make things neat and tidy. Vacuum the floors, empty the trash, give it the once-over.

Meantime, the germs sit unchecked on the high-touch areas – fomites, the experts call them. Touch-screens, keyboards, control buttons, light switches, door handles. And personal stuff like handbags, wallets, keys, money, clothing, you name it.

Plus of course, the air itself – 80% of any room space. Stuff we breathe and move through without thinking. Full of dust, smoke, all kinds of particles – and germs, of course.

OK, so maybe you have an ioniser, or a HEPA filter like they have on jet liners. Except ionisers don’t get rid of anything – it either sticks to plates inside the machine, or to the walls. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters work better, but only down to particles of around 3 microns – horrible nasty H3N2 is smaller than that.

And anyway, both machines only process the air that sucks THROUGH them. Everywhere else is untouched. Not insured at all.

Just like the bug busters

But despair not, there’s other methods like bug exterminators use – that fumigate the whole place after everyone’s gone home. A lot gentler, but highly effective, they take out germs on all surfaces and from the air itself, making the place sterile like you need.

The alternative?

Well you COULD take out a conventional insurance policy against your staff coming down with anything. Not cheap, if you’re hoping for cover against everything. And unless you pay whopping premiums, you’d still be out of pocket for staff who DID go off sick and all the system hiccups that would cause. Not so hot for your bank balance, or productivity.

One thing’s for certain though. This Aussie flu’s not going away overnight.

Your choice then.

Is your business prepared to take a chance without being insured?

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. Achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. The only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

How purified office air could still be full of germs

Unwell at work
You’re only as safe as the air you breathe – and everybody else breathes it too

You should be OK with purified air. But every system has its drawbacks.

Which means you may not be as safe as you think you are – even with the latest triple-whammy set up.

One reason is how most purifying systems work.

Passive instead of active.

A great big fan system sits in one place, sucking air through it. Filters next to the fan sift out contaminants – and the air goes round again, circulating for reuse. Purified.

HEPA efficiency

That’s usually pretty good with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) systems, which filter out particles down to a very small 0.03 microns.  Fine for fumes and exhaust sucked from outside, as well as smoke, dust, emissions from from building materials, furnishings, cleaning products, electronic equipment, toiletries, people and pets.

Not so fine for harmful viruses, bacteria, protozoa and fungi – which are often very much smaller. A typical cough-sniffle cold bug like rhinovirus might be as small as 0.002 microns. Too small to be filtered out, too light for gravity to affect it. So it rides the air, round and round – waiting for us to breathe it in. Not purified.

An efficient alternative is to use ultraviolet light. A fan draws air in through a long exposure tube – the “killing zone”. Ultraviolet attacks the microorganism’s DNA, rendering it unable to reproduce. If contact is long enough, it becomes neutral and effectively dead.

But how long is long enough? To make sure of a kill, the air has to move fairly slowly. It can’t recirculate fast like the HEPA filter – unless it has a whacking great bulb. And if the bulb is too big, it produces too much ozone – an effective antimicrobial, yes, but hazardous to humans.

Those are the passive systems. Air goes to the germ-killer, not the other way around. It works only where there’s airflow. In quiet corners and along walls, the air is still and unmoving. Particulates and microbes are there for keeps. Not purified.

Active – go get ’em

More effective is to be active – to take the germ-killer to the air. To force it out positively, driving it to disperse in all directions pro-actively. To invade the air totally.

The vehicle is a dry ultra-fine hydrogen peroxide mist, which kills germs by oxidising them. The mist is ionised to become a plasma, forcing itself away in all directions, penetrating everywhere.

The actual solution is mild, only 6%. But ionising transforms it, producing further antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet. From eco-friendly 6%, to turbo-charged 600%.

Electrostatic attraction causes oxygen atoms to grab oppositely charged viruses and bacteria. They are physically ripped apart – and the mist safely reverts to oxygen and water, which evaporates. Sterilised, purified, safe and secure.

OK, there is a downside.

Hydrogen peroxide won’t take out non-biological contaminants with anything like the same efficiency. Pollutants like volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide, particulate matter and fibres are better removed by the regular HEPA filters.

But work the two together…

Picture Copyright: pressmaster / 123RF Stock Photo

With antibiotics failing, what’s your insurance policy for staff going ill?

Anxious exec
Without antibiotics, not tightening up on office hygiene could mean a lot of empty desks

Once upon a time, you could let staff look after themselves.

It was their life, their wellbeing.

As long as they were safe while working for you, what they got up on their own time was their own business.

Not any more.

Rapidly accelerating antibiotics failure makes it your business now.

And super-urgent too.

Invisible health issue

You’ve heard of superbugs?

They’re the rocketing number of dangerous bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. Whatever we throw at them, nothing works.

Either medics battle with second-best alternatives, or the body has to fight the illness itself.

Which means, all of a sudden, we no longer have the safety net we used to have.

If we get ill, we get ill – with no miracle drugs to pull us out of it.

Kinda vital from a business angle.

If a staff member goes down with ANYTHING it could be life-threatening.

A paper cut from a document? Blood poisoning could lead to sepsis and possibly death in a week.

So it’s not just a gap in your professional team, or under-powered service that you’re looking at.

It’s the permanent loss of a member of staff – and the whole heart-breaking rigmarole of replacing them.

Plus the threat that whatever they were suffering from could spread to everybody else.

Germs everywhere

OK, you can’t watch them 24/7.

But they’re your top-performing assets, and when the end of the day comes, they go down in the lift and home – away from your protection.

Protection?

You do so much already, probably without thinking about it – the cost of doing business.

Making the place pleasant and inspirational to work in. Good lighting, nice décor, ergonomic furniture, intuitive IT systems, sound proofing, personal spaces, central heating, HEPA-filtered air con, security at the entrance – the whole nine yards.

Ah, but without the medical failsafe of antibiotics, there’s now an element missing.

Keeping your staff healthy and safe from harm. A bigger challenge than terrorism – because now, ALL businesses face it.

And we’re all up against it because nobody’s head is geared for a major hygiene threat.

Yes, everything is OK right now – as long as nothing happens.

But if you think about it, our day-to-day focus on fighting germs by keeping clean is pretty near non-existent.

Sure, everybody showers or bathes before coming to work – all washed and polished, ready for action.

We are the unwashed

But then it disappears off the radar. The day gets started and people get involved, nobody has time for washing hands or other niceties.

Not good for two reasons.

One – very few of us know it, but we all trail around a personal cloud of invisible bacteria, fungi, dead skin cells and other body detritus  – on our skin, our clothes and in the air around us – our own individual microbiome.

Which of course includes whatever germ clouds we might be towing around as well – a streaming cold, flu, a tummy bug, or anything more serious.

Two – we know that germs are transmitted mostly via our hands, but very few of us do anything about it.

Uh, huh. But that’s personal. What business is it of yours?

Plenty.

Because it’s the things those unhygienic members of staff touch that spread things around.

One of them had norovirus over the weekend?

So now their invisible paw-prints are all over the light switches, the lift call buttons, their keyboard, whatever phone they’ve used – and the sales proposal document currently sitting on your desk.

What goes around, comes around

Touch the pages, the rub your face in thought – chances are good you’ll catch their norovirus through the soft tissue round your eyes or mouth – and that’s you out of action.

But it doesn’t have to be norovirus. There’s other bugs out there, way more potent.

You might have a client breeze in straight off the plane from Mumbai, Nairobi or any one of a dozen places with local epidemics going on – direct by business class on hands unwashed because timing is tight.

And yes, the office gets cleaned and vacuumed every night. But the germs stay there –  on the light switches and door handles – floating in the air, too small to be captured by the air-con’s HEPA filters – waiting to be swallowed or breathed in.

Health and hygiene, you’re covered

So that’s where you deploy your insurance policy. A nightly mist-up of your offices with ionised hydrogen peroxide – oxidising ALL viruses and bacteria to nothing – sterilising the whole place safe.

No germs, no chance of infection. Your duty of care is 100%.

And you make doubly sure by making hand wipes available on every desk as a reminder that hygiene is now a high priority.

Maybe you can’t protect your staff so well when they go home. But you can protect them while they’re working for you.  Fewer absences. Fewer illnesses. Fewer threats to your bottom line.

Yes, antibiotic resistance is a snowballing disaster.

But it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

Picture Copyright: Elnur / 123RF Stock Photo and i3d / 123RF Stock Photo

How to catch a plane without catching a bug

Cabin attendant
Welcome aboard our germ-free flight, no norovirus please!

Ready for take-off?

Ready for this year’s bout of norovirus, or whatever it is you’re in for?

Happens every year, right?

Bugs on a plane. Every passenger’s holiday nightmare. Cabin crew too.

And it keeps happening. However much the airlines say they decontaminate their planes.

Everybody’s sick of it

Sure, on short-hauls – from here to the Med and back – there’s not much time for more than a lick and a promise. A quick wipe-down maybe, empty the toilets, grab all the rubbish out of the gangway.

Sometimes not even that. Come and gone in under twenty minutes. So on-board germs get a return trip. Twice as many people to infect. Victims of time-table urgency.

Back at home base though, every aircraft is supposed to get a thorough deep clean. Nose to tail scrub-out “with sodium hypochlorite diluted to a strength of 100mg/l and a 5% solution of formalin, which is itself a 40% solution of formaldehyde gas in water” exactly per the official World Health Organisation cleaning of aircraft guide.

Wipe-down procedures are laid in detail in this impressive manual. Yet still people keep coming down with bugs – cabin crew particularly, exposed to it more often.

What’s wrong?

Are airlines skimping on the job, or are these procedures simply not good enough?

From the looks of it, a bit of both. So if your airline is cutting corners, good luck to you.

But what about how it’s done?

Check out this short clip of cleaning under the seats.

It might look the business, but remember, space is really tight when you’re a passenger, so a lot of stuff winds up under the seats – shoes, bags, snacks, food debris from inflight meals, magazines, nappies, inflight blanket – you name it. Not just on the floor itself, but pushed up on the underside of seats, against the wall, wherever it’s possible to squash something.

Half the job

Uh, huh. But only the floor is cleaned. Thorough enough, but missing out any smears there might be elsewhere. Go through the WHO manual and you’ll see that detailed though it is, there’s lots of other places get missed too – behind things, under things, in the cracks in between things.

Easy places for germs to lurk. Like norovirus. Or Ebola if your aircraft is flying that way.

Which means that even though your plane might be cleaned and disinfected several times over, it can still harbour germs that can get you – as this Air New Zealand case showed up in 2009.

So why aren’t these measures enough? There are measures for avoiding bugs like norovirus, why aren’t they working?

One reason is our mind-set.

If we don’t catch a bug by breathing it in, we think of it as being spread by physical contact – touching each other, or touching surfaces like grab handles, seat backs and armrests (fomites) – actually contracting it through the skin.

ALL germs are airborne

Ahem. Ever noticed what happens when you swirl around in a dusty room? Clouds of stuff everywhere, sometimes so thick you can’t see – floating around, taking an age to settle back down.

Germs are like that – floating around in the air, all the time. And they’re millions of times smaller than a dust speck – invisible, riding the air in their billions – often small enough to go right through your aircraft’s HEPA air conditioning filters without stopping.

Which means clean all the surfaces without cleaning the interior air, and the airlines are only doing half the job. In the still moments at the gate before you step aboard, these germs have time to settle – ready for your hand to make contact on the seat back, as you steady yourself to sit down.

Hello, norovirus.

Unless of course, your airline is using a Hypersteriliser – a machine that kills germs by spraying them with hydrogen peroxide. A lot safer than sodium hypochlorite or formaldehyde – a banned substance anyway in European biocides.

Vaporised hydrogen peroxide is already proven to be superior in ridding germs from aircraft. But by ionising the hydrogen peroxide into a plasma, the Hypersteriliser is even more effective.

Plus performance germ-killing

Two things happen with ionisation.

The hydrogen peroxide molecules become actively charged, like magnets with the same poles together, immediately trying to escape each other. This forces them to disperse in all directions, up through the air and hard up against all surfaces, burrowing deep into cracks to avoid each other.

The charged molecules are actively attracted to the opposite charge of viruses and bacteria, latching onto them in mid-air or wherever they happen to be – oxidising them to oblivion.

The stuff doesn’t clean the plane – that job still has to be done first. But it does get rid of the germs – all of them – to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

Your plane is now sterile. 99.9999% of viruses and bacteria – gone. No norovirus, no anything. (Tweet this)

Just the ticket, eh?

You might like to mention this to your airline next time.

It’ll keep you out of trouble – and your cabin crew would be glad to know.

Hospital: Keep Away!

Prison phone
Hospital visiting hours –
except it’s not a crime to catch a bug

It’s the double-edged sword of antibiotics. We can’t live with them – and we can’t live without them.

Because just about every surgical procedure there is relies on antibiotics to prevent infection.

And alarm bells are ringing. The number of pathogens resistant to antibiotics is growing.

20 years for a cure

Faced with a new Dark Age, medics are pushing for research into more effective drugs. But proper development and testing can take 20 years.

Humanity can’t wait that long.

We need something now – a higher level of hygiene in everything we do.

But nobody says it’s easy. Even sterile measures can introduce infection to surgical procedures. Particularly post-op – less easy without the rigorous scrub-ups, sterilised instruments and dressings,  or the HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filtered airflow.

Which brings us to the Big Q.

Quarantine

Isolation.

A UV tunnel at all entrances to kill surface germs. Continuous deep clean and scrub down with effective germ-killers like formaldehyde and bleach.

Better still, with airborne hydrogen peroxide which destroys every virus and bacteria it touches.

The downside is, it’s mostly the patient who is the source of infection – an existing condition, or brought in on their person when admitted.

So are visitors. You yourself are a source of infection too. Strip naked and power-shower, you’re still a threat to anyone with open wounds.

So are hospital staff. Germs surround us wherever we go, it’s a fact of life.

Sterile is not enough

We can sterilise the hospital environment – the air, the beds, the equipment, the wards – but we can’t sterilise the people.

Which could mean out with the hazmat suits – for visitors and hospital staff.

Or visiting granny could get more like visiting prison.

On the phone, behind plate glass. Patients in no-go areas. No physical contact.

To keep you safe. To keep them safe.

Except being sick is not a crime. Nor is catching some nasty bug.

Of course it won’t happen. We’re not that inhuman.

Don’t take chances

Unless we get an epidemic. Like in 1918, when flu took out a third of the planet and killed 50 million people – almost the population of Britain.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Forget to wash your hands five years from now – and maybe you won’t come back.

Let’s be careful out there.

Welcome aboard! Gasp, is that Ebola sitting next to you?

Plane passengers
Let’s hope Ebola hasn’t got a ticket

Er, probably not.

Unless it’s an actual person who is infected.

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.

But hydrogen peroxide will.

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.

Real quarantine.

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.

Enjoy the flight.

If you could see germs, you’d be scared too

Man surrounded by germs
Get worried – germs are all around

Harry Venables was still an intern when it happened.

They chose him because he was single, with no girlfriend or family connections. A loner working the night shift who could keep his mouth shut.

At least that’s how it occurred to Harry later, after the spooks disappeared back into the woodwork.

It was just after three, in the middle of the graveyard shift, and he was loitering in the ambulance loading bay at Coombe General. Loitering with a pack of twenty he was about to finish.

He’d just lit up when The Voice spoke to him. He thought of it as The Voice because he never saw the bloke. They only spoke at the ambulance bay and The Voice was always behind him.

Ten grand they offered him, a good step towards a deposit on a flat. He was young, he was observant, he was qualified, he had the nerve and stamina for long hours in A&E, he was a natural.

Nothing bad, they told him. Nothing to do with crime or terrorism.

Yeah, right. They “forgot” to mention terrifying.

They were sort of virtual reality goggles and he was to test them. Choose a quiet moment and walk through A&E with them on. Make a professional assessment without anyone seeing him.

Ten minutes, ten grand. A walk in the park.

They were made by the same people who invented thermal imaging surveillance for the CIA. The difference was, they were medical – to view and be aware of germs. All the pathogens and bio-crud in the environment of the hospital. Back at Vauxhall, they called them “biofecals.”

He put them on twenty minutes later, after the ruptured appendix and just before the three car pile-up on the M3.

Wow, but they shocked him. A horror movie with the aliens already infecting the planet.
The hospital had high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtering in the aircon, so he thought the place was safe. When he saw the vents stirring around this film of bluey-pink stuff, he was not so sure.

Wherever he looked there was this haze of colour, darker in some places than others. He got it after a moment, different colours for different germs, he just didn’t know which was which.

It reminded him of something – swirls of dyed coffee crystals, but not so brilliant – caught up and moving in the air all around him, like stuff suspended in water.

The red stuff worried him most, at its thickest around patients with external wounds. He hoped it wasn’t MRSA, or clostridium perfringens, one of the bacteria that caused gangrene.

There was stuff on his hands too, though he washed them after the fag – and rubbed them off with alcohol gel. It wouldn’t wipe away, though more alcohol helped.

But the worst was the whole place infested with these tinges of colour. The hospital prided itself on its hygiene, it’s A&E was one of the most impressive in the country. Light tinges coloured the beds and the worktops around them.

The killer was the darker smudges of colour around the edge of the surfaces. Where the cleaning wipes hadn’t reached because the top was priority. The underside of things was grim too. And on the cables and tubes connecting equipment, a thick coating of coloured spider webs and dust.

It made him scared and it made him sick. He ripped the goggles off and just made it back to the ambulance bay before he threw up. Damn, and now he was out of cigarettes too.

The Voice reached from behind and took the goggles. Describing his experience was worse. As a practicing doctor he knew what the colours meant. By the time he finished, he was shaking.

No wonder people got sick and died – even in hospital, where they hoped to be protected.

Out of sight, out of mind, whatever our germ protection system was amounted to virtually nothing. And how bad could it be in the outside world?

He went back in and washed his hands again. He was a doctor, he had to do something about this. There had to be a way to keep patients safe and sterilised. And the greater public too. Another story that starts here.

He found the ten grand in his bank account. It felt dirty, diseased, like the germs that had put it there. Without even thinking, he donated the lot to cancer research.

Getting sick on the plane: the good news and bad news

Travelsick woman
Up and away – and down with a bug

So you’re off somewhere nice on one of those shiny new airliners – a Boeing 787 Dreamliner or and Airbus 380. Jet-set you, all ready to enjoy yourself.

Just possibly as you board, a little thought niggles you. These are long-haul aircraft – you’re going to be sitting here for eight hours or more. Breathing the same air, sharing the same space as several hundred other people.

What if you catch a germ?

Actually, chances are pretty good that you won’t. Not from the aircraft anyway. Up in the sky you’re breathing air that’s completely refreshed 20 times an hour, purified by hospital grade high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

Those cold or flu like feelings you sometimes get are nothing to do with infection. It’s just how your body reacts after several hours in a bone-dry, oxygen thin cabin atmosphere. Sometimes they linger, sometimes they don’t.

But the filters take out 99.97% of bacteria in your immediate area. In fact every seven rows has its own independent ventilation system. So if something makes you feel queasy on a flight, it’s not from the air being pumped at you.

Fellow passengers though, are another matter. Not from how healthy they are, but from what they do. If you’re going to catch a bug from the person sitting next to you, eight hours is still a very short exposure time. Unless of course, they’re sneezing all over you.

Consider though, the environment that you’re in. Sure, you’re going somewhere nice, but for the next eight hours you’re a prisoner to your seat. You might go to the loo to stretch your legs, but most of the time you’re just sitting there, you can’t really move.

OK, so what happens with trolley service and meals? You’ve had your drink, a good holiday vodka and orange juice – now they come at you with a full tray of dinner. So where do you put your plastic glass and drink can?

Only one place, the seat-back pocket.

Don’t go there. Because that is the place everyone puts everything. And if the cabin crew aren’t actually collecting trash at the moment you need them to, that’s where it all goes. Along with your tissues, your book, the well-thumbed magazine, the flight safety guide and…

Oh, oh, there’s the seat belt sign, just as Mum is changing a nappy. Into the seat pocket it goes, along with the half-finished Mars bar from a previous flight, an apple core and a wad of well-chewed gum.

Not from your flight of course. That stuff was lifted out before you boarded. But the residue is still there, the stuff you can’t see. And because nobody can wash their hands just sitting there, it’s on the tray table as well. On the armrests and seat back. Invisible MRSA and e. Coli. Or maybe worse.

And don’t even think about the blankets and pillows.

Yet all the while the HEPA units are pumping out fresh, filtered air. You’re safe, but you’re not safe, all at the same time. Though that’s mostly on long-haul. A lot of regional jets don’t have the same filter units. That quick hop to Ibiza or Magaluf might be more iffy than you’d like.

Which makes hygiene on the ground more critical than airlines think. A quick wipe down with an antiseptic cloth will not sort germs in the seat pocket or upholstery. Because research already shows viruses and bacteria can survive in those areas for up to a week.

There is one sure way to remove them though.

Sterilise the whole aircraft pre-flight.

Mist up the entire interior with a powerful oxidising spray of hydrogen peroxide in which harmful pathogens cannot survive. Dispersed by mobile auto-robots for the main cabin interior, with a generous squirt from hand-held units into every seat pocket.

All before anybody boards.

That mist kills 99.9999% of viruses and bacteria in the air – and on every surface it makes contact with – head cushions, armrests, hand rails, window covers, overhead lockers – everything.

Electrostatically charged, it reaches into corners and crevices too – especially tray tables, even though they’re folded away. Boosted by colloidal silver to perform better.

You want to eat off that? You can.

Just make sure though, that your airline actually does all this.

Otherwise, if you’re worried – sit tight, use alcohol hand-wipes – and save your appetite for when you’re back on the ground.

The HEPA units will keep you safe until then.