Not nice, either of them – referendum or norovirus.
Making them go away is not easy either. Though norovirus DOES do that by itself after a few days.
As long as it’s prevented from coming back again.
A pernicious one, norovirus. Unless we’re careful, it keeps coming back and back and back.
Except luckily, we know why – and we CAN stop it.
Yes, it does mean lots of cleaning. Thoroughly disinfecting everywhere in sight.
OK is not OK, it has to be perfect
Everywhere that’s not in sight too. This is a bug that spreads everywhere and it doesn’t pay to take chances. Explosive vomiting and diarrhoea are its two nasty ways of getting itself everywhere – fiendishly persistent, just like the referendum.
So it gets in every corner and crevice, seeps through drapes and underlay – and worst of all, takes to the air. Don’t forget that smell too, is airborne, so there’s no mistaking its presence.
But norovirus doesn’t stop there.
In the air and everywhere
As other tiny particles that have no smell, no more than 2 microns across – it rides, microscopically tiny – on the smallest of wafts and breezes to spread even further.
Which means, like a referendum canvasser, that it’s not got rid of so easily. Ordinary wipe-clean methods just aren’t good enough – and even strong bleach is not effective unless it’s in constant contact for ten minutes or more.
Any effective clean-up therefore has to include the air – as well as getting into every remote seam and crack – and reaching every surface, underneath as well as on top, behind too. Not something that’s possible with a mop and bucket.
Forty minutes later, the room is sterilised – while any referendum canvasser is still banging away on the doorstep. No more norovirus, no more anything, the place is safe from all germs – and so is everybody who ventures in there.
Not a sexy subject, but who wants to feel ill and throw up all the time?
Dump? As in “get rid of?” We can’t be serious, antibiotics save lives. We’d literally be dead without them!
We’ll be dead with them too – after long, slow, lingering illnesses.
Just like the EU – all milk and honey right now, but a disastrous train smash down the line.
Nobody wants to accept it, even our health gurus look like they’re in denial. But the evidence is shoved in our faces every day – antibiotics are a Jekyll and Hyde monster.
Because, yes, antibiotics do save lives. Modern medicine would be impossible without them. Miracles like heart transplants, hip replacements and caesarean births – sorry, can’t be done any more.
It’s a hell of a lot to lose.
But a hell of a lot worse if we don’t dump antibiotics right now – and start actively hunting alternatives.
You see, while all the miracle-making has been grabbing headlines and saving thousands from certain fatality, the dark side of antibiotics has been creeping up, and is already threatening millions.
We need to dump them like the plague.
Which is exactly the kind of damage that antibiotics are doing. And it takes guts to realise it – because that’s where it’s happening – in your gut and ours, in everyone’s on the planet.
Down there, in our tummies, where digestion takes place. Low-profile background antibiotics at work. Not like the triple-whammy intravenous super heroes. Or the local dab-on-skin trouble-shooters.
Killers at work
Out of sight, out of mind, these guys are killers too – because that’s what antibiotics do, they kill bacteria. And by being in our tummies, they kill some of our own gut bacteria, the vital friendly kind that handle digestion, produce proteins, manage our immune systems and a thousand other chores.
They don’t just kill, they maim. Cause our bacteria to malfunction.
One thing they do is switch off our appetite control – we never know when we’ve had enough, so we overeat a lot of the time.
The other thing is to bump up food absorption – we extract more nutrients than our systems are meant to, making us fatter and fatter.
It’s not our food that does this – the burgers, pizza and chicken so many of us like so much. It’s the antibiotics IN our food – so we eat two helpings instead of one, with double ice cream afterwards, and a mega-Coke, just to be sure.
The proof is in our bulging waistlines – two-thirds of us are bigger than at any time in our history, already overweight or clinically obese – unwanted extra pounds that we’ve never had before.
Demonised junk food maybe, but even our esteemed Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, has not totally rejected pizza. Just a nibble from a smaller portion perhaps – as recommended by the Department of Health.
A miniscule taste of spinach and mushroom on a whole-wheat base – no challenge at all to a slim and trim athletic figure. No, not pizza, not junk food, not couch potato lifestyle, none of the current bogeys.
It’s over-eating and over-absorption that’s the problem. With over-absorption sneaking up on an increasing number of us unawares. Which means Dame Sally is right when she identifies obesity as a threat on par with terrorism.
Actually, it’s worse. Several million times worse.
It might be hard to believe judging from headlines around the world, but UK deaths from terrorism currently average the same as from bees, just 5 a year. Yes, shockingly, world-wide terrorist casualties for 2014 reached a grisly 32,658 – about the same as Europe-wide road accidents.
Against that, obesity-linked diseases are projected at 38,500 new cases of cancer a year by 2035 – plus 4.62 million new cases of type 2 diabetes, and 1.63 million cases of coronary heart disease. That’s a staggering 7.6 million of us – roughly 10% of the nation – way worse than terrorism.
So how do we know it’s antibiotics that fatten us? And how do they get into our food?
Quite simply, from the 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics the world uses every year – around 70-80% of them shovelled into commercial farming livestock, to stabilise intensive factory-farm production AND perform as growth boosters.
For the last 50 years farming has been revolutionised by the phenomenal effect antibiotics have in accelerating growth in farm animals. Added to livestock feed in small doses every day, their performance is astounding. From egg to full-grown roasting chicken in 6 weeks. From calf to Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak in 16 months instead of four years.
All in the poo
But animals are only the beginning. Though they fatten up amazingly, they still dump around 80% of the nutrients they eat as dung. Cow pats rich in nutrients, supplements, vaccines and antibiotics – which are all collected and used as manure – prized “all-natural” fertiliser for all kinds of plant crops – grains, vegetables, fruit, and of course feedstuffs.
So whatever it is we’re eating, “re-cycled” antibiotics are already in our food chain. Chomped down unwittingly in small doses with every meal, just like the animals. Proven growth boosters administered in exactly the same way – yet health authorities are either in denial, or don’t want to know, that they are the trigger for our obesity.
Obesity that becomes our death sentence – more and more of us crowding in on the NHS – fading from the scene, losing our grip, heading for a feet-first exit.
Like the plague
Yeah, dump antibiotics. Dump them like the plague.
Dump them before there aren’t many of us left.
Sure it takes guts, knowing that they can’t save us after an accident, or keep us alive in major surgery. We’ll just have to bump our hygiene to compensate. Give those germs less and less of a chance to get at us.
Even sterilise our environment to reduce illnesses picked up from each other – the flu that goes around the office, or something more serious – easy enough with a hydrogen peroxide mister.
Any job carries stress which can impact your health – you know your worries better than anyone.
But what about the physical place? Where you’re hard at it eight hours and more every day?
Environment can make a big difference way beyond pleasant surroundings and snappy décor.
Everything around you
For instance, your workplace building itself exerts a major influence. Some are prone to vibrations from passing traffic, or the Underground running below the basement. Some are always cold and damp, however high the heating is set – a source of mould and coughs and colds, without you even knowing.
And how about the heating? The HVAC system might be a wonderful thing – but could also cause you grief. Big office systems need big tanks of water – massive things, probably on the roof or somewhere out of the way, quiet and undisturbed.
Sometimes too quiet. Warm, stationary water is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria – most of the time harmless. But there’s nothing harmless about legionella pneumophila – a bacterium that spreads through fine water droplets in the ventilation ducting – another outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease, a kind of pneumonia-like infection you really don’t want in your workplace – it could put you out of action for days or even weeks.
In the air
And how about your workplace air? The quality of it can have a huge effect on your wellbeing. Does it smell fresh? Or tired and dank, like clanking machinery? Plus of course, the old warm/cold issue – the girls want it warm, the boys want it super-cold. (Just get them to take their tie off, it’s acceptable these days – that’ll drop their body temperature 10 degrees in minutes.)
Yes, the air. We never think about that, do we? Empty space, not on the radar. Not like desks and chairs and phones and computers and things.
It’s there, just the same – probably even 80% of your workplace space.
And it’s not empty.
Nor is it just your subtle Thierry Mugler Angel and the wafting fish and chips of that nerdy guy on the far side where all the filing cabinets are.
For a start, there’s the oxygen we breathe – and the nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and other stuff that makes up the natural air around us.
And the imperfections, of course. The tiny motes of dust and other microscopic nothings.
Not to mention the germs.
Which means if you’re unlucky enough to come down with anything, the most likely is colleague-itis. A bug you catch from your pals.
You’d better believe it. Aside from the continual germs lurking on your desk and other surfaces throughout the office – 10 million on average, so don’t feel so alarmed – every single one of us pulls around our own aura of personal bacteria, body detritus and skin particles – a constant microbial interchange of billions and billions we’re never even aware of.
All of which we breathe, swallow, get on our skin – most of the time held in check by our immune systems. But sometimes when we’re down – not enough sleep, over-exertion or simply depressed – the bugs see a chance and take it.
And so it begins, another malicious bug in the air-con that will try to attack everyone. Will probably succeed too – because very few people are 100% medically fit. Most of us have an underlying condition of some kind – prone to headaches, a chest complaint, IBS, low blood pressure – all weaknesses for a bug to explore and suddenly you’re down with flu, or norovirus, or salmonella, or any one of a hundred nasties.
Safe, sterile and fresh
But you don’t have to be.
Overnight, the whole office – air included – can be made safe, sterile and completely free from germs at the touch of a button.
A machine called a Hypersteriliser mists the place up with an ultra-fine spray of Ionised hydrogen peroxide – the very same stuff your own body produces to fight germs . A potent antimicrobial, it spreads everywhere, across surfaces and through the air, oxidising viruses and bacteria as it does so, until 99.9999% of them are gone.
How can you tell?
No smells (a sign of active bacteria), your workplace feels fresh. And if there is any mould anywhere – round the window frame where the rain always leaks, for instance – it’s no longer black and horrible, but greyed out and harmless, easy to brush away. Your workplace is safe.
OK, it doesn’t sort out all your workplace problems, but it does sort out germs.
Which makes handling issues after you’ve got rid of them much more of a doddle.
Dodgy place the office can be. Your squeaky-wheel chair. Paper cuts. Stabbing yourself with the stapler.
Plenty of misadventure and only yourself to blame.
But how about if the ceiling falls in? You get trapped in the lift? Or your office chair breaks?
How about if it’s major and you get hurt? Have to go to hospital? Or even take time off?
Most employers are pretty sympathetic.
It wasn’t your fault. They’ve got insurance. The landlord has pots of money and it’s all fixed PDQ – no questions, no worries. Everything turns out hunky.
Duty of care
OK, none of these things happen very often – but most bosses accept that if they do, then it’s their responsibility. Part of their duty of care.
Your workplace welfare is their concern, it’s their job to look after you. And Numero Uno on their list of obligations is ensuring a safe work environment.
Some of them take it further and invest in a workplace wellness programme – actively looking to support and promote employee health, safety and wellbeing.
Hold that thought, health.
When you’re out of action, you’re off the grid. Your job doesn’t get done, there is a hole in the fabric at work. It can lose money, it can lose customers. It can lose goodwill and momentum.
Not so bad if you’re off for a few days from the wrench to your ankle when your chair gave way. Your boss is embarrassed and hoping you won’t sue.
Not your fault
But how about being off with the flu?
Not quite the same, is it? Not exactly your fault, but not quite so sympathetic about it either. Silly you, taking chances out in the rain. Yes, so you caught it from somebody on the tube – but you should be more careful.
And then the flu turns out to be MERS – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. More like pneumonia than flu and people can die from it. And your colleague on the desk next to you just came back from Bahrain.
Company trip or personal, it doesn’t matter. Nobody knew she had it – still in incubation or possibly she is a carrier, catches a mild version and is none the worse for wear.
But not you, you’ve got the lot – fever, coughing AND the diarrhoea. Just from sitting there, doing your job.
Not fair and not right.
Though not even knowing about it, your employer has failed to protect you. Maybe others in your team will also come down with it. Your workplace welfare is compromised and your employer is derelict in duty of care
Care and protection
Oh yes. There’s a whole team of you working together in the same space, normal office bullpen. None of you is the same and probably most of you have some kind of underlying condition – weak chest, heart murmur, IBS, or prone to migraines.
These weaknesses make you vulnerable. If some bug goes around – flu, norovirus, whatever – you’re more likely to get hit. And more likely to get complications.
You need protection FROM EACH OTHER – and as a regular workplace hazard encountered in every business, your employer should provide it.
It’s already necessary too.
One of the highest health hazards of all, ordinary office desks are regularly infested with 10 million of more germs. Escapees from the nightly cleaning crew wipe-down, or long-term lurkers on keyboards, phones, documents, etc – or in the dusty bunnies and detritus behind display screens and control consoles, inaccessible in coils of cabling.
Uh huh. But not the employer’s nightmare it might seem to be.
The premises get cleaned out nightly, right? Vacuumed, wiped down, trash emptied. It might LOOK clean, but the germs are still there – along with others swirling in the air, brought in on the personal auras of you and your colleagues.
Believe it or not, each of us trails a cloud of microscopic bacteria, viruses and body debris – as personal to each of us as a fingerprint or retina scan.
Easy peasy answer
OK, so get rid of the germs too. No germs, no illnesses, no infections. Nobody off work, everybody happy. That massive chunk of absenteeism expense is deleted from the balance sheet.
Unbelievably easy too – with almost no effort.
After everyone’s gone home, a Hypersteriliser gets wheeled in – a kind of dinky, wheelie-bin-sized anti-germ console. Hit the button and the place gets misted up with an ultra-fine super-dry mist of non-toxic, ionised hydrogen peroxide – the same natural germ-killer our own bodies make for ourselves.
The mist is electrostatically charged, which does two things.
First, every single particle tries to get away from itself, like magnets with the same polarity, pushing each other away. This forces the mist to power-disperse in all directions – hard up against all surfaces, walls and ceilings, deep into cracks and crevices, and clutching hard at every single coil of wire.
Second, the negative charge of the peroxide is actively attracted to the positive charge of bacteria and viruses. It vigorously reaches out and grabs at them as it spreads – again like a magnet, snatching at them like iron filings – out of nowhere, out of everywhere – clinging to them and oxidising them to nothing.
Forty minutes later, they’re all gone – the whole place is completely sterile. No MERS, no nothing to threaten anybody. Everybody safe.
Now go tell your boss.
If she knew it was that easy, she’d fall off HER chair.
Not nice, norovirus. It stops you doing nice things too.
Holidays, celebrations, momentous occasions – the ultimate party pooper.
So here’s a guide to help you avoid it. To side-step catching it in the first place, and protect yourself when other people around you come down with it.
You can be unlucky, of course. But nine times out of ten, these simple tips should help you stay out of trouble.
First off, know that norovirus is very, very virulent – an unpleasant illness on a hair trigger that is easily touched off. Other viruses and most bacteria need at least 20 or 30 cells to attack you with if they’re going to infect you.
Norovirus only needs half that, which makes it twice as dodgy. A nasty, horrible illness that’s super-contagious – spread mostly by touch, but also in the air. Get it on your fingers, your clothing or your skin and you have to be really careful.
It’s also pernicious, at home anywhere and able to survive on most surfaces for over a month. And since it spreads so easily, anything touched by other people is a possible contact point – especially high-touch objects like door handles, grab rails, light switches, phones, keypads and cutlery you eat with.
How does it get into your body?
Usually through your mouth. You can breathe it in or swallow it, either on contaminated food or anything eaten with your fingers.
Which means everybody’s favourite fast foods – hot dogs, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, fish and chips, chicken drumsticks, wraps, crisps, biscuits, cake – all the easy fast foods.
Or if you’re on holiday – olives, pitta, humous, shawarmas, kebabs, falafel, Tex-Mex favourites like tacos, fajitas, tamales, burritos and tortillas – not to mention churros, pancakes, baklava or a good dripping cone of ice cream.
Yup, all the nice stuff when you’re having a nice time. Indulgent, spur-of-the-moment, soul-boosting street-food. Tasty, tactile, goodness oozing from your fingers – you know the score.
But note the common denominator – all finger food. Stuff you can scoff with your hands, right in the middle of doing something else. Or anything with a lot of handling by others around you – tear-and-share, buffets, smorgasbords, group curries.
All easily contaminated by just one person’s unclean fingers –including yours.
Finger-lickin’ good, maybe – fingers pointing at trouble more like.
Big tummy trouble.
And that’s the bummer.
Because most of the time we eat without thinking because our hands LOOK clean. Yet realistically our fingers could be loaded with all kinds of yuk too small to see – a single norovirus cell is just 2 microns across, about a 10,000th the width of a human hair.
It floats around easily in the air, lighter than cigarette smoke. And settles invisibly on your skin, scraping together easily with its brothers and sisters as you wipe your hand across – groups of 20, 500, 1,000 cells, all ready to go.
Which brings us to Reality Check One – most norovirus attacks are self-inflicted. The stuff is already on our skin and we don’t even know it. We let our hygiene lapse at the wrong moment – and four hours later it’s cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea like we don’t ever want to believe.
Like the nagging granny in our heads keeps reminding us – WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS.
If only it was that easy.
Because when does anyone get the chance, on the go most of the time – especially on holiday?
But unfortunately, that’s not good enough if you want to skip the spoil-sport tummy-torture. All it needs is ONE slip up, one forgetful moment with unwashed paws, and you’ll be chundering through the next few days.
One in the eye
Uh huh. So here’s a memory jogger.
You’re on the beach, yeah? Slapping on the suntan lotion. You wipe your hands down, but somehow, you touch your face – and the stuff gets in your eye.
Yeow, itch, instant anguish. Your whole day scuppered till you get back to the hotel, rinse your eye out and sit there with a damp cloth to your face for an hour. But let that tell you something.
That’s how norovirus works.
It’s a fact of life that we touch our faces all the time – 2,000-3,000 times a day for some of us. And that’s norovirus’s easiest way into our bodies – through the soft tissue of our eyes and mouth.
Suntan lotion on your fingers just loses you a day. Norovirus on your fingers can screw your whole holiday – or your wedding, or your graduation, or anything else it’s the pits to lose out on.
Yeah, so you know the drill.
WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS. Particularly after going to the loo – and always before food.
From lo-giene to hygiene
Shocking revelation isn’t it, to sit down to this slap-up dinner after a wonderful day – and suddenly realise that with all the places you’ve been and things you’ve done, you haven’t washed your hands since breakfast?
So Reality Check Two – handling norovirus means hiking our personal hygiene to a whole different level. Day-to-day, what we’re living with most of the time is “low-giene”.
Yeah, yeah, dirty hands. But you see these reports all the time, lots of people all getting sick at the same – what about food poisoning? Don’t vendors and restaurants serve food that’s contaminated?
For sure. And we all know the cause. Either the food itself is off, or is touched in preparation by someone with dirty hands.
Not as common as you might think, because anywhere that sells food wants to be in business today AND tomorrow. They also have laws to follow, standards to observe, codes of practice. So most of the time, they DO take care. A law suit could cost big money – and easily be the end of them.
So how can you tell if it’s self-inflicted or food poisoning?
Your fault or theirs?
Reality Check Three – the vomiting, the diarrhoea, they’re earth-shatteringly violent because that’s how norovirus spreads itself – as far and wide as possible, very quickly.
Even so, it takes time to assert itself – and from that, you can often tell how it started.
If an outbreak happens in ones and twos, it’s probably triggered by an individual – either from unwashed hands or by suspect food from an external source – something eaten before they arrived where you are. Unwashed hands most likely – suspect self-inflicted
If a whole crowd of people comes down together, that suggests they were exposed simultaneously – some kind of shared experience. That could be either from something they’ve eaten – they were all served the same dish at the same time. Unwashed hands most likely again – though this time in preparing a popular food dish – suspect staff hygiene lapse, or dodgy food source.
Norovirus also triggers by mishap, as happened in a Swiss hotel – bad luck for everyone in the place, who all came down with it at once. Flash flooding from a cloudburst overwhelmed the drains, forcing guests and staff to wade through water backed up from the toilets.
An outbreak was inevitable, however much everyone washed themselves and their clothes – furniture, fittings and all facilities were all heavily contaminated – instant infection until they were destroyed and the whole building sanitised.
Bad, bad boomerang
Which leads to Realty Check Four – the norovirus boomerang effect. The virus returns very easily to cause repeat outbreaks if it is not completely and utterly removed after the hit in the first place.
Cruise liners are really prone to this for two reasons. Lots of people close together in shared eating and living space, handling the same objects. Plus millions of nooks and crannies where the virus can hide during even the most rigorous scrub-downs.
The handling thing is a nightmare, as there are endless things that everybody touches that can pass on by contact. Called fomites, these germ-transfer items include glasses, knives and forks, deck chairs, gym equipment, poker chips, playing cards, courtesy bibles, whatever – all of which have to be individually sanitised to avoid repeats.
Repeat outbreaks happened recently with Fred Olsen Line’s Balmoral – struck down 6 times since 2009 – and a latest misfortune just last month that ruined an Old England to New England cruise for hundreds of passengers.
Holland America Line’s Caribbean cruise liner Amsterdam was also unlucky – having to cancel four trips in succession because of repeat outbreaks in 1982. It got so bad, the ship had to be taken out of service to ensure thorough decontamination – and new passengers were even warned before embarking that the ship had previously had problems it couldn’t get rid of.
Get out of jail, free
Doom and gloom? Avoid holidays like the plague?
You can just as easily catch norovirus at home, just by forgetting to wash your hands.
And that’s the key to a perfect holiday, even the stay-at-home kind. Always wash your hands before putting anything in your mouth. And keep your hands clean too. Your fingers might be safe, but the things you touch with them are almost certainly not – indoors or outdoors, germs are a reality we have to live with.
Recognising that, plan for when you can’t wash your hands too.
Always carry hand-wipes, even if they’re not antibacterial. Easy enough to use, right at the dinner table – and doing it properly will get rid norovirus and 99.9% of all other germs.
Handbag size antibacterial gel is good too – the alcohol base kills germs, though is not as effective as physically wiping them away.
Beyond that, be careful.
If somebody close to you comes down with norovirus, you don’t need to get it too. Obviously avoid accident areas of vomit or diarrhoea. Keep well clear, the yuk can spread several feet in all directions.
If you’re involved in a clean-up, wear gloves, cover your nose and mouth too. Wash all over thoroughly afterwards and discard your clothes for thorough washing too.
Clean beyond normal
Be aware though that normal disinfecting is unlikely to go far enough. The whole place needs a good going-over, especially every last nook and cranny if the virus is not to come back again.
Almost impossible with scrubbing and bleach, the easy way is with ionised hydrogen peroxide – misted up into the air by a Hypersteriliser and electrostatically charged so it disperses actively in all directions, killing airborne and surface germs deep into every crack and crevice.
All viruses and bacteria dead, no boomerang, no nothing.
Wait up, hold it! An itty-bitty dirt is not manslaughter.
The place is cleaned daily. Professional hit teams. Vacuumed, dusted, wiped clean – all waste removed, toilets thoroughly disinfected.
Clean, but not always safe
Yeah good, but not you’re off the hook by any means.
OK, so you apply precautions where they’re needed. Hard hat on the shop floor – goggles, gloves, protective boots – full hazmat if necessary.
Health & Safety, right? Nothing gets past you.
That’s why the cleaning teams, naturally. Duty of care and all that jazz.
Until Freddie in Exports has a seizure at his desk and is DOA at the hospital.
Ignorance is no excuse
OK, so you weren’t to know. An underlying condition he never spoke about. It was there in his records, but he always looked chipper. Worked harder than anyone else, always in the middle of things. Triggered by an everyday bug doing the rounds – flu probably, it felled several others on the Third Floor.
It happens. Changeable weather, hot and cold in the same day – rain one minute, heatwave the next. Everybody is exposed.
Hold that thought, exposed.
Like to asbestos, or carbon monoxide? Don’t both of those carry criminal penalties? That’s not you, surely?
Ah, but it is. Even if it happens unknowingly.
But hang on – gross negligence? Manslaughter? That’s a bit heavy, isn’t it?
Stick to the facts, Freddie DIED, didn’t he?
Duty of care
Because you’re supposed to know – to ensure that your workplace is safe for employees. It’s the due diligence edge of duty of care – the bit with teeth.
Alright, so ask yourself, IS your workplace safe for employees?
Ordinary office space, with the usual bullpen arrangement. The cleaning team do a good job, nothing to worry about, right?
Depends how well they clean, how thorough they are at both removing the dirt AND removing any germs. Dirt equals germs, that’s THEIR mission.
Uh huh. And it’s YOURS to make sure it’s done right.
Like wiping down the desks – routine stuff, a piece of cake.
Make that a maybe.
Good old bleach
Usual procedure involves a damp cloth, it takes away the fine grit that gets everywhere – and removes the dust bunnies. With luck, it’s soaked in sodium hypochlorite – otherwise known as bleach – to disinfect as it cleans, oxidising germs away.
At least, that’s the theory.
But germs don’t just roll over and die, that depends on contact time. And contact time for bleach is ten to fifteen minutes to be effective, depending on concentration. Strong enough to start a nasty headache if you’re working with it, and likely to take the skin of your hands off. Diluted, it just does nothing. Which begins to make manslaughter a possibility.
Because don’t say you’re not aware of the health hazards on the average office desk. Daily media brings that up several times a year – scare tactics to sell more newspapers. Typically, any desk in your office is likely to harbour at least 10 million germs, before or after cleaning. Remember now?
And it’s true, absolutely gospel.
Check out your workstations after they’ve been processed – a Heineken inspection of the parts that ordinary cleaning rag can’t reach. Lift the keyboards, look behind the display screens – and how about round the coils of wire connecting all those CPUs?
One word for it, gruesome.
10 million germs? Quite possibly more.
And you’re exposing your staff to those germs, just by doing nothing. Coughs, colds, flu virus, food poisoning, norovirus – it was only a matter of time before poor Freddie copped it.
And money talks
Anyway, if nowhere else, you’ve got to see it show up on your P&L. Staff absenteeism from sickness regularly costs the country – and businesses like yours – a whopping £29 billion a year. How can anyone afford that?
All of which means that – good though they are – your cleaning service are not up to the job. At least not from the disinfecting angle. AND you’re losing a bomb each year from staff sickies.
It also means, if you stop and think about it, that you ARE culpable for poor Freddie’s death. Not intentionally, mind – but responsible none the less. Just as you would be for the rest of your staff – because these days, who DOESN’T have an underlying condition?
Everybody’s got something
Go round the office – how many of your staff are 100% fit? How many wear glasses – does your lighting minimise eye strain? How many smoke – does your aircon handle it, and how many are already candidates for COPD? How many stuff themselves on fast food and have IBS?
And how many don’t wash their hands when they go to the loo – then touch everything else in the office: files, memos, keypads, phones, photocopiers, light switches – and perpetually call in sick?
And don’t get us started on the office air.
Breathe deep, if you dare
Most germs are so small at 2 microns or less, they’re probably airborne more than they infest surfaces anyway. On top of which, every single one of us is pulling around our own personal aura of bacteria, viruses, fungus and body detritus like hair and dead skin – the place is literally crawling.
Your whole staff is exposed to all this – including you – and you still reckon Freddie is nothing to do with you?
Especially when you realise that it’s all preventable, that Freddie didn’t have to die.
Yeah sure, with a heart condition like he had, it was going to happen some time – but with proper due diligence, it didn’t have to happen on your watch. Or if it did, as long as you’d taken every precaution beforehand, his demise was unfortunate but inevitable.
Safe and secure
Because the dead easy way to protect your staff from exposure to germs is to treat the place regularly after hours with a Hypersteriliser – a wheelie-bin sized automatic machine that just makes the problem disappear.
Press one button and an ultra-fine dry mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide fills the whole air space and pushes up hard against every surface – oxidising ALL viruses and bacteria to oblivion in just seconds.
Allow forty minutes or so to disperse throughout the whole volume area – and the entire room is sterile. No germs for anyone to catch, no sickness, no complications. No noxious residue either, the stuff breaks down into oxygen and water.
Plus, with any luck, you get a major dip in absenteeism. Money in the bank, whichever way you look at it.
And a whole lot better than gross negligence manslaughter.
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.
Because we’re at the point where antibiotics are beginning not to work any more – and modern medicine is going critical. Straighten up and fly right, or dire things will happen.
Out with the big guns
We’d better believe it. According to our top-level heavyweights, it’s time to get tough. With big-stick tactics for getting it wrong.
Like naughty GPs, prescribing antibiotics without verifying there’s a need. Or naughty farmers, dosing livestock with antibiotics, just to fatten them up.
Haven’t they heard of antimicrobial resistance (AMR)? Don’t they realise that they’re helping dangerous bacteria develop immunity to the drugs we treat them with? That superbugs will soon be untouchable and antibiotics will be useless?
Yeah, some Plan B. Not really a plan at all.
Because it’s a fact of life that BACTERIA ALWAYS SURVIVE – and have done successfully for billions and billions of years. Which is why they’re possibly the most successful life-forms on the planet – able to withstand super-hot and super-cold, super-acid, super-dry, super-salty and super-pressure.
And we dare to think an itty-bitty antibiotic designed by humans is going to stop them.
Maybe hold them back for a few years, lulling us into a sense of false security.
Like hey, remember penicillin?
The original miracle wonder-drug. It saved lives for 12 years before the superbugs got wise to it. Staphylococcus in 1940 – cousin and relative of today’s superbug, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which itself took just 2 years to get in on the act.
But like we said, BACTERIA ALWAYS SURVIVE. They might take a few generations to do it – twenty minutes at a time – so for penicillin, that’s 315,360 generations. Zap – you can’t beat the numbers.
Because, surprise, surprise – among other skills, bacteria are actually able to “teach” each other immunity, passing on their resistance skills to even unrelated types
Yeah? And we think we’re so smart. Because while they’re doing it, the rest of our wonder-drugs store cupboard is rapidly emptying. We don’t wise up, do we?
Antibiotics: crashed and burned
Tetracycline lasted 9 years, until 1959; erythromycin 15 years; gentamycin 12 years; vancomycin 16 years; ceftazidime 2 years; levofloxacin not even 1 year; and ceftaroline the same.
And now colistin, our antibiotic of last resort – the one we turn to when all others have failed – can be resisted by bacteria too.
Get the message? The cupboard is bare.
Which means within our lifetime, without being able to control infection using antibiotics, even routine medical procedures such as caesarean births, hip replacements and heart bypasses will become impossible.
Which is why Lord Jim O’Neill, AMR Review chairman for the Prime Minister, insists that doctors should only issue antibiotics against medically verified proof that they are necessary.
Lord Jim also advocates that drug companies should be strong-armed into developing new antibiotics, to keep ahead of the rising tide of resistance, with cash money incentives if necessary.
Yeah, that would be good.
Mega-buck drugs companies
Especially when Lord Jim’s own review paper identifies that drug companies are currently producing up to 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics a year. Something must be wrong with their pricing structure if they can’t finance new product development out of volumes like that.
OK, so from Lord Jim’s perspective, unless we come up with an alternative, antibiotics will stop working altogether and we’re all going to die. Antibiotics Armageddon.
And that’s just for humans.
Except around 70% of antibiotics world-wide are used to support high intensity factory farming of animals – livestock for food production. 240,000 tonnes, remember?
Now ask yourself, so antibiotic resistance is dangerous to us humans, right? But the animals are only bred for food, their lifespans are very short, not really a problem, hey?
Wrong, big time.
Those animals are farmed so intensively, antibiotics are essential to keeping them alive at all. Stressful, over- crowded quarters, unsanitary conditions – in astronomically unbelievable numbers now vital to support the three-fold population explosion of humans since antibiotics were first discovered.
Food for 3 times as many humans – OFF THE SAME AVAILABLE LAND AREA – in just 50 years.
So what happens if antibiotic resistance hits the animals?
Well, exactly like us, they can’t survive either. Nor can they breed successfully to produce more.
Which very quickly means no more food, no more manure for intensive plant crops – a massive shortfall to bring famine to at least 5 billion people – the difference between the 2½ billion we were 50 years ago and the 7½ billion we are today.
You see, the big thing about antibiotics in food production is they fatten animals up fast. Four years of growth is telescoped into six months – which is how come farmers are able to feed 3 times as many humans – OFF THE SAME AVAILABLE LAND AREA in just 50 years.
And we eat those same animals, so we consume the same antibiotics they do in the food they provide – either directly through daily dosing feedstuffs, or picked up from their manure by plants fed to them as basic forage.
Uh huh. Which means we get fat too – the antibiotics do the same thing to us. Take a look around – yup, now you know why two thirds of all adults are overweight or obese.
Except our lifespans are not the same as theirs – two years and slaughtered, ready for market.
We go on for decades and decades. Getting fatter and fatter – coming down with all the ailments that obesity triggers – diabetes, heart disease, cancer, asthma. All of them massive killers, accounting for way more than the 50,000 a year in the US and UK who currently die of antibiotic-resistant superbugs – like close on 30 million.
You begin to get the picture?
Billions of deaths
Either directly or indirectly, our miracle wonder-drugs are going to be responsible for BILLIONS of deaths. And they are already doing it NOW.
A, we conk out now from some horrible resistant superbug. Or B, we take thirty years to die, getting worse every day from cancer or heart disease.
Thank you, antibiotics! Our killer lifesavers. Like smoking, only worse.
And bacteria are only one type of pathogenic microbes. AMR means antimicrobial resistance, right? All microbe types. So where’s our plan for viruses, fungi, archaea, protozoa, or algae?
Well the heck with Lord Jim, the best plan is right in our bathrooms.
Soap and water. To wash the bugs off our hands – their easiest way into our bodies – through the sensitive tissue of our eyes, nose and mouth.
Clean hands, no germs.
Kinda important when you consider that unconsciously, we touch our faces 2,000 – 3,000 times a day.
Clean hands, good.
Except now, don’t touch anything, because every single thing around us – including the air – is full of viruses and bacteria.
Shock, horror! At any second, we could be exposed to life-threatening pathogens that could be the end of us. Even a paper cut could lead to sepsis – and that’s the end of us.
Except we do have a second line of defence beyond soap and water – and pretty soon you’re going to see it in operation everywhere.
Ionised hydrogen peroxide. Misted up into the air from a mobile Hypersteriliser machine. A mild eco-friendly all-natural chemical – the body makes its own for germ-fighting – composed of only water and oxygen. Dynamically dispersed in all directions by electrostatic charge – the same charge that actively reaches out to grab viruses and bacteria, oxidising them to nothing.
No germs, the place is sterile.
No need for antibiotics, you’re not exposed to anything.
Prevention is better than cure.
Not exactly a Plan B, because it won’t fight infections already in the body – Lord Jim & Co need to focus on that.
Which means a whole attitude change to everything we do. And a level of watchfulness we’re not even close to right now.
Take personal hygiene. Keeping ourselves clean as much as possible, so germs don’t get a chance. Hands especially, the easiest way for germs to enter our mouths, or our eyes. Kinda basic, but just suppose your life depended on it – because it does.
If antibiotics don’t work – and ask any Doc, we’re getting close to that – any germ you catch is free to run riot inside your body. Unstoppable, unless you avoid it in the first place.
Duh, soap and water is not rocket science.
Same principle applies to anything you eat. Is it fresh, is it clean, is it germ-free? Don’t eat it if it’s not – because again, if you get sick, antibiotics won’t save you.
Same thing, even if you’re just walking down the street. Be careful, avoid accidents.
If a bus hits you and you need surgery, antibiotics won’t stop infection. The bugs are resistant and you’re a goner – unless your Doc has a brilliant Plan B.
So be super-observant, all the time. Watch what you’re doing. Avoid accidents. So you don’t get cuts, you don’t get bruised, you don’t break a leg – and you don’t needlessly breathe in someone else’s germs.
Takes all the fun out of life, huh? Or kinda demonstrates how careless we normally are.
Because pretty well every ailment or accident that happens to us is preventable – if we see it coming in the first place and avoid it.
Exactly what we must learn to do, if we are to survive without antibiotics.
And yes, we’re going to have to.
Because bacteria keep evolving all the time – have done so successfully for billions of years. So even if medical science comes up with the most amazing antibiotic yet, give it five years and bacteria will always find a way to become immune to it.
Which applies to all our drugs now, and any new ones we might develop in the future – fighting off bacteria is a never-ending battle against a constantly moving target.
Ah, but antibiotics are not the only way to kill bacteria.
They might be the most effective INSIDE your body, but OUTSIDE there are options.
The super germ-killer
And OUTSIDE is where we can get to them before they get to us.
About the most effective way is to oxidise them. Shove oxygen atoms at them that rip their cell structure apart and destroy their DNA.
Which is what hydrogen peroxide does – particularly airborne IONISED hydrogen peroxide.
Composed only of oxygen and water, hydrogen peroxide is the same all-natural germ fighter the body makes for itself. And the concentration we’re talking about is a low, non-toxic and non-corrosive 6%, the same as you can buy in the chemist for bleaching your hair – though the way we use it makes it way more potent.
It’s therefore a good idea to vacate any room being treated – though it’s environmentally friendy, the stuff can cause irritation to the eyes and throat.
Why ionise? Because that enables a very mild solution, AND changes a mild and harmless solution into a super-performing giant.
Remember the three states of matter: solid, liquid, gas?
Well, ionising a dry mist of hydrogen peroxide metamorphoses it to a fourth state – from a gas to a plasma. This charges it electrostatically, so that all the particles physically repel each other – they spread actively in all directions, forcing themselves to fill the airspace, hard up against every surface, and deep into every crack and crevice. Complete and penetrating dispersal everywhere.
The change to a plasma also releases MORE antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone (a more voracious oxidiser than hydrogen peroxide), and ultraviolet.
The negatively charged hydrogen particles reach out and grab positively charged viruses and bacteria like a magnet grabs iron filings. Locked together, contact time needs only to be a few seconds and the deed is done. ALL viruses and bacteria are destroyed to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.
Uh huh. You’ve taken precautions to protect yourself, the hydrogen peroxide protects your surroundings – the room you’re in is now completely sterile. All with just one button push on a Hypersteriliser machine.
Rescued, safe, healthy
Hang on to your hat, because it’s going to be. Already the medical heavies reckon we could be only months away from total antibiotics failure.
Except we’re ahead of the game, right? Forewarned is fore-armed.
So no, we’re not dead yet. We’re going to get clean away with it.
Because this is one of those “not any more” stories.
Not any more the nasties, not any more the miseries.
Because not so long ago, getting rid of germs was more like getting rid of you.
No more schlep
It took hard scrubbing to get the place clean. With stuff so strong it took the top of your head off. Your eyes ran. You coughed and sneezed. Plus your back ached, your fingers were rubbed raw, exactly as if the germs had got you.
Yeah, well that’s what slaving away with bleach will do. And the place always smells terrible afterwards. Headaches, itchy skin – we’ve all been there.
OK, so the wise guys decided to fog the place up. You still had to scrub, but the germ-killer was spread through the air, hopefully reaching everywhere – especially all those hidey-holes no-one could reach.
Trouble was, that stuff was potent too. Toxic de luxe.
Doing your head in
Have you ever smelt aerosolised formaldehyde? Or those quaternary ammonium compounds? Which is why the CDC recommend not to use them.
Not just yuck. You’d die too, if you were a germ.
Except they don’t, do they? Germs, that is. Not in serious enough numbers at least. The place just stinks and there’s still the risk of infection. But that was back then.
Next thing they tried was ethylene oxide – EtO to the initiated. It killed germs better but was way too potent. A bit too toxic too. Still made you think your head was going to burst.
Hi, hydrogen peroxide
Then somebody had a brainwave and chose hydrogen peroxide – high powered, a known oxidiser, decomposed to just oxygen and water afterwards – what was not to like?
Too watery was the first part. It needed special dryers to get rid of the damp. Which made it dodgy with electrical stuff and computers. Short circuits and things. Risky.
Still too strong was the second part. Sure you can buy hydrogen peroxide at the chemist in a 3% solution. Safe to use at home. But way too weak to spray into the air and clobber nasties like clostridium difficile or MRSA. To do that, you had to rack it way up – 32% and even higher.
Back to the watering eyes and sore throat. And a bit more than that.
Did we mention strong oxidising properties? Because at 32% it’s a bit iffy – strong enough to eat plastic and chew certain metals, a bit too enthusiastic on all kinds of surfaces – especially with repeat treatments.
Ah, but that’s vaporised hydrogen peroxide. Mixed with water and sprayed as thin as possible. That’s why the 32%. Spread out into little tiny droplets it needs all that oomph to be sure of clobbering the germs. And it certainly does that – all viruses and bacteria are oxidised to nothing.
Except 32% is way too hazardous for general use. It needs specially trained staff, work areas have to be evacuated, and everybody needs to wear protective clothing.
Hello, ionised alternative
The revolution is ionised hydrogen peroxide. A safe process that makes it way more effective. And allows it to be milder – only a 6% solution instead of 32%, same as you can buy in Boots for doing your hair. Remember peroxide blondes?
There’s two ways to ionise the stuff – heat or electricity.
Heat is preferred because it is cheaper. All them hydrogen peroxide atoms get hot under the collar until they develop a charge, usually negative – which makes them reach out and grab at pathogens, usually positively charged, like iron filings to a magnet.
Electricity is the clever alternative – and it also means low temperature operation, no risk of melting anything the stuff come in contact with.
At the sprayer nozzle a great fat electric arc charges the parting atoms, forcing them to spread apart from each other because like charges repel. This means the hydrogen peroxide actively spreads itself out and away, reaching deep into cracks and crevices trying to escape from itself. Positively forced dispersal unlike of the vaporised stuff, which just billows like steam.
This spreadability means the droplets can be smaller, finer and ride the air better – especially with the lighter load of the 6% solution. Drier too. No moisture to mess up keyboards or cabling. And of course, too mild to attack surfaces, even sensitive ones.
No compromise on performance though. Ionising physically changes the state of the hydrogen peroxide from a gaseous vapour to a plasma – a charged gas. The effect is like hitting the turbo button. Even more antimicrobials are suddenly produced – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, super-oxidising ozone and ultraviolet – all of them potent germ-busters. 6% running on steroids.
Souped up performance
A word of caution though. Yes, it’s safe. But this IS hydrogen peroxide and it IS potent, unless you’re wearing protection, stay away. Hoicked up with radicals and stuff, its oxidising strength is way more than the 32% version.
OK, so ionised hydrogen peroxide spreads better, uses a weaker solution, kills germs more effectively, is drier and gentler to surfaces, and still becomes harmless after action, reverting back to just oxygen and water – so little water that it evaporates before it touches anything.
And push button simple with a Hypersteriliser. Just wheel the thing in, connect to power, press the button, and get out of Dodge. Allow forty odd minutes for the average-sized room and the place is totally sterile – Log 6 kill to be precise, 99.9999% of germs utterly gone.
So now you’re safe. From germs, from nasty smells, from carry-over effects.