Tag Archives: hygiene

People make themselves sick and it’s YOUR fault

You mean me
Suddenly you’re in trouble – even though you’ve done nothing

Of course it’s your fault, you’re not doing anything.

Nothing for your customers, nothing for your staff.

They’re getting themselves infected and you’re just letting them.

Get ready to be the victim

Which means any minute now, they’re going to clobber you.

Duty of care or some such… you didn’t stop them.

So now they’ve got sick in your place, so of course it must be your fault. Give them a chance and they’ll sue you down to the ground for generations to come.

After all, you let them walk in with unwashed hands and didn’t make a fuss. You didn’t nanny them into using soap and water, giving themselves a good scrub. You just let them sit there at your restaurant table or office desk and carry on regardless.

And how do you know where they might have been?

Clutching handrails on the bus or supermarket trolley. Those grubby railings out in the street. Not forgetting the escalator, or the touchscreen on their phones – all kinds of germs out there, heaving on everything.

Who knows what they might have picked up? E.coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, the superbug MRSA, flu viruses and norovirus are usual suspects. Any one of which could give them collywobbles, or something more serious.

Germs everywhere

Don’t believe it?

Just ask yourself – out and about, doing things in the city, when was the last time you washed your own hands?

Can’t remember? Neither can most of us – because we don’t think of it. Which means most of the time, our personal hand hygiene is non-existent. Most of us don’t wash our hands at all, so there’s all kinds of bugs crawling on there – including poo from the loo for at least 28% of us.

So check out these people – what are they doing? Tucking into your menu specials? Using a knife and fork, or their fingers?

Oops, there you go, a piece of bread roll straight out of their hand. Bread, butter – and norovirus – down the hatch. It only takes 10 norovirus particles to be infected – and there’s probably several thousand in each mouthful.

Give it 24 hours and the phone’s going to go. Cramps, vomiting and the world’s worst diarrhoea – after eating at your place and they’re calling their lawyers.

And you did nothing.

Nothing to cause them being ill – but nothing to stop them either. So now you’re going to get it.

Guilty because you’re innocent

Same thing if they’re working in your office. Unwashed fingers on the keyboard, then touching themselves round the eyes and mouth. Or eating a sarnie at their desk, just to make sure.

Not at work tomorrow. Sick as a dog and unable to move. But they’re onto the union rep about work-place germs – how dare you run an unhealthy environment!

Your fault again for doing nothing. Not rescuing them from themselves.

So what to do?

You can’t force people to wash their hands. They’ll get offended and give you more grief than you already have. And their sloppy hygiene could cost you plenty.

Not fair, is it? You already provide washrooms and loos – your place is always spic and span. Yet it’s you that gets hit for THEIR negligence.

Time to do something to protect yourself – duty of care – duty of bottom line.

By making hygiene much more assertive.

Because at the moment, it’s just passive, isn’t it? If they don’t wash their hands after the loo, that’s their indaba – but it’s you that gets it in the neck.

Pro-active hygiene

So put a bottle of hand sanitising gel on their desks – or offer them each individually packaged antiseptic wipes.

It’s a courtesy, right? How are they going to refuse you?

And how many are likely to think about suing you if they STILL come down with some bug? You’ve visibly demonstrated you care for their well-being. Yeah they’re still suffering, but more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.

OK – and you can take it a stage further too. Not just sanitise their hands, but sterilise the whole place – get rid of the residual germs in the air or on surfaces, some of which can survive for up to two weeks or more.

Duty of care – duty of bottom line. Because what is the cost if they sue? Or the down time if they’re not working? The loss of trade? The loss of goodwill? The loss of reputation?

Norovirus alone costs the NHS £100 million a year. Get unlucky and it could put you out of business.

Yeah, look after your people – and protect yourself too – belt and braces.

All it takes is a Hypersteriliser – and around 40 minutes every night, part of your normal cleaning operations.

Press a button and it mists up deserted rooms with ionised hydrogen peroxide – which spreads everywhere through the air and into cracks and crevices, oxidising germs to nothing on the fly.

The result? A Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6 – in non-medic speak, that’s 99.9999% of all viruses and bacteria gone.

No way anything can be your fault after that.

Picture Copyright: atic12 / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-02-05 13:59:38.

Giants clash over chicken: Dame Sally vs the FSA

Threatening Heel
Right or wrong – there’s only one way with hygiene

Looks like the FSA is washing its hands of the food poisoning campylobacter issue.

They want to duck the cost of monitoring birds for this naturally-occurring bacteria and shove it onto industry.

Oh woe is us, woe is us, we’re all going to get sick.

Misplaced objectives

Not if proper leak-proof packaging is in use across the industry we won’t. Most birds have this bacteria in their gut – just like we have over 100 trillion bacteria in our own gut. They’re supposed to be there. Take one away and the balance between all of them is disturbed.

In birds’ metabolism, campylobacter is passive and benign. It does them no harm, and occurs in probably two-thirds of all birds farmed in the UK . Far from a scandal – and not “contaminated” as media hysteria would have us believe, these birds are colonised with it naturally. Because its presence may be necessary, like a catalyst for OTHER positive bacteria to do THEIR job.

For instance, campylobacter is closely related to helicobacter pylori – itself once even called “campylobacter”. Research shows helicobacter pylori to be a key cause of ulcers and stomach cancer. But eliminating helicobacter pylori is also linked to an increase in oesophageal disease and asthma.

Swings and roundabouts. Take away one element and you trigger another. Even one that looks hazardous – at first appraisal. So surprise, surprise, as long as it’s not activated, helicobacter pylori in the body may actually be necessary.

And anyway, if two-thirds of all birds in the UK have this dreadful campylobacter, why aren’t two-thirds of us ALWAYS moaning and groaning with stomach cramps and earth-shattering diarrhoea?

Reality check

Because – and maybe the FSA don’t know this – nobody eats raw chicken. And cooking chicken completely eliminates campylobacter. The whole KFC fast-food franchise succeeds because of it. So do a lot of Sunday lunches, kids lunch boxes – and let’s face it – household budgets. Chicken is probably our No 1 food staple.

Uh huh. But the FSA actually DO have a point about chicken being a health hazard – because campylobacter frequently crops up on the outside of packaging in the supermarket. It’s even known to leak out, dripping onto shelves below and contaminating other products.

The same thing happens at home too – cross-contamination in the refrigerator. Get campylobacter on your lettuce and your stomach will soon know all about it.

Yet for all this, the FSA never says anything about packaging. On the one hand they clobber the producers to reduce a naturally-occurring bacteria. And on the other they hector the rest of us not to wash chicken. Back-splatter will contaminate everyone’s kitchen – and foops, everyone will be writhing and groaning.

Yeah, right. But have you looked at chicken packaging in your supermarket lately?

The El Cheapo stuff is just wrapped in cling-film – yer pays yer money…

Pick it up and it’s dripping all over the place, particularly the whole birds. The premium stuff – and most of the cut choices – goujons, drumsticks and the rest – are packed on foam or polyethylene trays, then vacuum sealed. So leak-proof packaging does exist – why doesn’t the FSA enforce it?

And to prove that the industry is on side, in some supermarkets, there is even a prominent sticker DO NOT WASH – the FSA war-cry for at least the last two years.

Collision course

Which is exactly where our crusading Food Standards Agency runs head-on into the stern and often dire warnings of Dr Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer.

Yeah, do not wash chicken, you can see the logic.

But consider the whole principle of DO NOT WASH – and you can feel the hackles rise.

Because Dame Sally’s rapidly snowballing headache at the moment is antibiotic resistance – the fact that a whole slew of killer superbugs are becoming immune to whatever miracle drugs we might throw at them. The Drugs Don’t Work is even the title of her book on the subject.

Without effective antibiotics to protect us, modern medicine comes to a shuddering, grinding stall. Slightly more of a crisis than food poisoning from chicken.

Which is why Dame Sally is tirelessly at it, warning us of the over-dependence on antibiotics – and urging us all to do the one thing that can minimise our exposure potential to deadly superbugs – WASH EVERYTHING.

The ew factor

With good reason. Dame Sally knows that day-to-day, our own sloppy hygiene is probably the biggest hazard we face. The facts are horrendous, yet we all smile sheepishly and shrug them away. A&E will sort it. A quick shot of amoxicillin or whatever and we’ll be right.

As if.

Kinda critical handling chicken.

And there is no way to avoid handling it – like getting it out of the packaging for a start. Then chopping it, trimming it, slicing it, whatever the recipe calls for.

Don’t wash the chicken, right. But if you want to avoid the tummy cramps, better scrub that chopping board, counter top, serving platter and trimming knife within an inch of its life – and your hands of course.

Which you should do anyway. Because it’s not just possible campylobacter you have to scrub off, it’s the likelihood of all the other bad guys as well – escherichia coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or just plain norovirus – take your pick.

Rediscover hygiene

So – wash or not wash?

Frankly, our money’s on Dame Sally.

If we’re going to get through this, we’ve got to be germ-free and clean. No way we can achieve that without soap and water. But there isn’t any available in most supermarkets.

OK then, carry antiseptic wipes – and hope the FSA gets on the packaging case soon.

Just don’t hold your breath.

Picture Copyright: konstantynov / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-02-02 14:49:56.

Food poisoning for real, or customer trying it on?

Fingers crossed
Just because you can’t SEE germs, doesn’t mean our hands aren’t loaded with them

Not used to issues like this, are you?

It raises an uncomfortable question – not for you, for your customers.

Because right up front, how many of them wash their hands before they eat?

“Ew Factor” could cost you thousands

But you already know the answer – can probably say exactly how many guests get up from their table before food is served and go to the restroom.

Yeah, right. A handful maybe, depending on the size of your place. Certainly not everybody, your restroom’s not that big. And all those people moving around at once would upset the other diners – never mind your staff twisting through with hot plates.

Which means everybody else is straight in off the street and you don’t know where they’ve been. Or more to the point, where their hands have been.

OK, so put yourself in their shoes, what do you reckon?

Did they wash before leaving work? After their ride in the taxi/Underground? And if not, what were they doing before that? What did they touch?

Or to stop the pussy-footing, what’s on their fingers RIGHT NOW that could give them collywobbles if they swallowed it?

Collywobbles meaning norovirus, or some equally unpleasant bug spread by direct contact.

Poo on their fingers

Yeah, they call it the “winter vomiting bug” and other round-the-houses names  – but the elephant in the room is that it spreads from unwashed hands. And unwashed hands in a food business like yours is an unspeakable but major problem.

Not staff hands, CUSTOMER hands – because they’re the ones touching everything and actually going into mouths.

Sure, your own staff need to be careful too – but they know the odds. Poor hygiene, bad rep, nasty lawsuits, shut the business, no more job. Not worth the risk.

Not like your customers.

Yeah, sure – loyal to you, enthusiastic about the experience you offer, nice enough on the surface.

Except like most of us, they don’t take criticism – and certainly would never accept it’s THEIR dirty hands that made them ill, not something wrong with your food.

They’re customers, see? Never wrong. And probably in denial that their personal hygiene is ever less than perfect. Like, their hands don’t LOOK dirty, do they?

Push comes to shove, it’s likely they’ll win any court case, even though it’s probably their own fault.

How can we dare to say this?

Because when you look at the facts, our day-to-day hygiene is so bad, it’s a wonder we’re not ALL of us in hospital with dysentery or something worse.

So there you are, busting a gut, doing everything to make your food safe and your place spotless. And there’s Mr Money-Bags, all too ready to squawk at the slightest hiccup, let alone tummy-ache – sitting posh as you like, quite probably with poo on his hands.

Or just as likely, on the cash or credit card he’s going to shove at you at the end of the meal.

Food poisoning? Yeah, pull the other one.

Except there’s not a lot you can do is there? Certainly not diss your customers or lay blame on them. And there’s no way you can FORCE them to the restroom.

How to start winning

But you can get ahead of the game. Turn it round and make it work for you.

Remember the last time YOU went on a splurge? Hit some swanky restaurant or flew first class – swanning around like you owned the place, at least for one night?

OK, remember the hot towels? All terribly la-di-da, offered to you with white gloves and a pair of tongs – a courtesy to wipe your hands and face.

Right, so you pull the same stunt.

Only instead of hot towels, YOU offer YOUR guests individual sachets of antiseptic hand wipes. Mr Money-Bags is not going to refuse is he? Mrs Money-Bags will probably even open it for him. And your staff look like paragons of virtue – especially with a silver tray to collect the used wipes afterwards

Which means if either of them has poo on their hands, the problem has gone away. Food poisoning isn’t going to happen because you’ve removed the cause. And your customers think you’re a million dollars for being so thoughtful.

To ram it home, you pull the stunt even further. Sterilise the whole place so guests know you’re serious about offering a good experience and caring for their welfare.

After trade every night or before you open next morning, you mist the place up for an hour or so with ionised hydrogen peroxide. One button on the Hypersteriliser machine does the trick.

No more viruses or bacteria anywhere in the treated areas. Not on tables, chairs, glasses, cutlery, light fittings, anything – not even in the air around them. Safe, secure, sterilised for your protection.

Customers still trying it on?

We don’t think so. Not unless there really IS something off with your food.

But somehow, you’re not likely to let that happen.

 Picture Copyright: citalliance / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-01-26 15:12:54.

OK, scumbag norovirus, now the gloves are off

Aggro bizwoman
POW! Straight disciplined hand hygiene wins every time

So you’re the winter vomiting bug, huh?

Big deal.

Reckon we’re not wise to you, hanging out on ATMs, door handles, handrails and shopping trolleys? You and your mates, coronavirus – aka SARS and MERS – flu and staph?

OK, so we touch all of these things all the time anyway. Covered in germs like you.

Winter germ traps

So now it’s freezing cold and we’re wearing gloves, you’re trying to kid us that we don’t know you’re there.

Nice try, dirt-bag – but it won’t work.

Those gloves are getting the treatment with antibacterial wipes after every outing – then they’re coming off. Straight onto a desk or table to dry, so you guys don’t get a chance.

No breeding, right? This means you!

You know what happens then?

Yeah, you think we’re lulled into a false security, don’t you? The gloves are off, now we’re safe.

But the joke’s on you, germ-brain. We’re going to wash our hands straight away too. Handling gloves transfers you to our fingers – so it’s the big bye-bye, we’re giving you the wash-off.

And you know what?

Hands always clean

We’re giving our hands ANOTHER wash or the gel treatment before we put those gloves back on too.

Because, yeah, we know you hang about on surfaces and in the air indoors too – riding in on our clothing, or the bio-aura of personal bacteria we all carry with us.

Uh huh. So we know if there’s low-life germs like you on our hands when we put our gloves on, you’ll be waiting for us INSIDE next time too.

Not smart enough, bozo.

With near-sterile hands, the inside of our gloves stay near-sterile.

And count on it – with a BOLO always out for you and your kind at this time of the year – those gloves are going in the wash just as often as regular clothes.

Thought we’d forget, eh?

Just shove the gloves in our pocket and never think about them from one day to the next? Never wash them, never anything from one year to another. Unless we get yuck on them, lose one, or get a hole in the finger.

Scarves too, you think we’re stupid?

Or you think because we wear classy gloves to work or out on the town, we’re too scared to wash them because they’re made of suede or leather?

Wash and re-wash

Hoo boy, don’t you know we’re on to you?

Thanks to your other pals like MRSA, e.coli and the rest of the mob, we know our meds aren’t working as well as they used to. Antimicrobial resistance, it’s in all the papers. No-go antibiotics, yeah we know about them – why do you think we’re washing our hands every two seconds – because we’re OCD?

The Docs have been warning us for years us about hygiene standards with you lot around – that staying clean is now our best defence, like back in the old days.

And finally, FINALLY, we’re wising up – going back to the old way of doing things. Soap and water, rub and scrub.

Like cleaning leather gloves? Easy-peasy. Leather, silk, suede – we know how.

Even those super-warm Thinsulate gloves too.

AND scarves. AND turning out coat pockets – jackets, skirts, trousers, everything. Clean is the new cool.

Yeah, plus our timing is spot on as well.

Here comes the festive season with everyone anguishing over what gifts to buy…

For her, for him

BOOM! Extra gloves, extra scarves – so there’s always a pair to wear, a pair in the wash, a pair air-drying, and a pair waiting for next time.

And always clean hands to go inside them.

So you’re the famous norovirus. Well bully for you.

Yah, boo, sucks – the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

Just because it’s winter, you can’t fool us any more.

The gloves are off.

 

Originally posted 2015-11-30 14:28:05.

Why our medicines make us sick and how to fix it

Exercise sunset
You are what you eat –
but do you know what you’re eating?

The way our grandparents keep banging on about it, you’d swear they were tough as nails.

“Didn’t get sick with that in my day, you youngsters are wimps.”

When we was young

Yeah, thanks for that. Doesn’t look like that now though – they get just as sick as we do.

Er, except they have a point.

There are all kinds of sicknesses now they didn’t have back then. New on the radar – nobody hardly heard of them fifty years ago.

Hello Legionnaire’s disease, toxic shock syndrome, Lyme disease, campylobacter, escherichia coli, vibrio cholerae, helicobacter, erlichiosis, Bartonellosis, Marburg virus, Ebola virus, hantavirus, HIV, cryptosporidiosis, cyclyspora, fungal diseases and spongiform encephalopathy, just to name a few. Sick and super-sick.

And how about allergies? Asthma, allergic rhinitis, peanut butter, lactose intolerance, coeliac disease, yeast, shellfish – all of them chronic, highly unpleasant – and in increasing cases, life-threatening.

Yeah OK, we don’t live the same as we did fifty years ago. People smoked like chimneys, air travel was a once-in-a-lifetime luxury – and apart from fish and chips, fast-food was a fledgling that’ll-never-work fancy.

Miracle magic

We also didn’t have the wonder-drugs – antibiotics. So amazing they wiped out a whole slew of illnesses and infection sources overnight. Doctors could perform miracle surgery – heart transplants, hip replacements, rebuild faces, reattach lost limbs, do the impossible.

Now they’re used for everything.

Got a problem? Hit it with antibiotics. Even, would you believe, for non-essential conditions like acne.

You got it – use and over-use. Fifty years of chucking them down our throats – no wonder bacteria have found ways to build up a resistance. Suddenly our wonder-drugs are not working so good any more.

Scarier still, right now all our head cheese numero uno medics are reckoning they’re going to conk out altogether. What the heck do we do when they stop working?

But that’s not why we’re getting these new illnesses. It gets way, way worse than that.

The answer lies in the soil

Because with all the wow-factor of antibiotics, farmers latched onto them too. To protect livestock crowded together in muddy, unhealthy conditions. And to fatten them up.

One of the big plus side-effects of antibiotics in feedstuffs is that animals bulk up faster on less food – getting to market quicker, at a higher price. Bingo!

Which means for fifty years, antibiotics have been used in food production big time – on a massive industrial scale, currently at 65,000 tons a year world-wide – and set to more than double in the next ten years.

Wow, amazing! All the world’s food supply problems solved.

With the totally predictable but unrecognised result that antibiotics are now in everything we eat.

Certainly in all meat, because they’re in the animal foodstuff. In plants too, because animal manure is the most productive natural manure. And in the soil, leaching down from the manure. Into the aquifers and watercourses – pretty well every river and stream in the country.

Uh huh.

One brutal and awkward fact staring at us right there.

The everyday dose

Whoever we are, man, woman or child – anywhere throughout the UK – WE ALL CONSUME ANTIBIOTICS DAILY as part of our regular diet. Carnivores, vegetarians – no exceptions. They’re even in the water we drink.

How can we tell?

Well here’s another change that’s happened over the last fifty years.

We’re all getting fat.

Check your own waistline. Right now two-thirds of adults and a quarter of children are overweight or obese.

Oh yummy. Which puts us all in line for heart disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, cancers, depression and anxiety.

The medics reckon it’s sedentary lifestyles, low exercise and high fat diets. Yeah, maybe.

But the elephant in the room is what farmers have already discovered – and been mainlining into their animals for fifty years.

Antibiotics make metabolisms bulk up. “Antimicrobial growth promoters” they call them – basically super-fatteners – like the wicked witch used on naughty children in fairy tales.

And traces of antibiotics have been in every mouthful everyone of us has eaten for the last fifty years. Exactly like we’re being fattened up for market.

Hey, fatty!

Yeah, the things are banned for farming in the EU and have been since 2006. Except here in Britain either the message hasn’t got through, or government and big bucks are conveniently looking the other way.

Want evidence?

Fifteen odd years ago, the family returned here to UK from a near life-time in South Africa. Within two years, our athletic sylph-like figures had metamorphosed into “charmingly chubby”. No, we weren’t eating different foods – just UK-sourced stuff we’d never had before.

And fifteen years ago, South Africa wasn’t using “antimicrobial growth promoters” to the same saturation level they are now. A chicken was just chicken – and a trip to Nando’s didn’t set you up to ballooning into a porker.

Which underlines the fact that antibiotics really do create major changes in the body.

Our innards are full of benevolent bacteria – 100 trillion of them doing the heavy work of digesting, producing proteins and helping to manage immune systems, while we park off with the Xbox on the sofa – Call of Duty Black Ops 3, or something equally important.

Immunity school

It’s these bacteria that our Mums teach when we’re in the womb and while we’re nursing –building our defences for all kinds of diseases we’ll face later in life. The same bacteria learn how to create immunity in our formative years too. Those days eating mud have a purpose.

Thing is though, that we don’t face the same diseases we were set up for in our childhood. Our water supply is pure, so there’s no germs there. We have inside loos and hot water, so we’re a lot cleaner than we used to be.

Uh huh. An immune system with nothing to do – so it goes rogue. Triggers false alarms like allergies when there’s no real threat. A crisis out of nothing. Net result, we’re less resistant than we were fifty years ago. Grandpa was right, us youngsters are wimps.

All these newly antibiotic resistant illnesses don’t help either. MRSA, salmonella, streptococcus, c.difficile, gonorrhoea and e.coli. Even that Victorian illness TB – almost completely off the scope in UK – has found a way to make a comeback.

Yeah, weaker than our Swinging Sixties oldies – and more at hazard because the wonder-drugs don’t work any more.

Hike up our hygiene

Which leaves one line of defence that’s now essential if we’re going to survive. Hike up our hygiene levels so that harmful pathogens can’t get us – we’re not just clean, our surroundings are sterile. No bacteria, no risk, job done.

Which means two things.

Washing our hands before and after we do anything like eat or hit the loo – so there’s never any germs on them.

And misting our surroundings up with a Hypersteriliser, so there’s no germs around us either – particularly in the air – they’re oxidised to nothing by ionised hydrogen peroxide. Bacteria gone, viruses too, safe and sterile.

OK, now we can stop with the antibiotics, though the farmers have still got an issue. Better hygiene all round should sort it – why shouldn’t pigs and poultry be protected sterile-safe like we are?

Oh yes, and no more obesity either – though count on it, diets will still remain a fad. Yes, still the gym, unless we’re sick of it. Yes, still the carrot juice.

But we don’t all have to be Size 12 to look fit.

Originally posted 2015-11-24 15:23:15.

What to do now the Doc can’t prescribe antibiotics

Pondering doctor
Life after antibiotics? Yes – if we hike up our hygiene!

It’s over – or almost.

The wonder-drugs of the Twentieth Century don’t work any more.

We are at hazard

Fifty years of pumping antibiotics into everything that moves have caused them to run out of fizz. Bacteria have learnt how to survive them – they have become resistant. Swallow a bunch of antibiotics right now and chances are they won’t do anything.

Not against the kind of infection we’re seeing today – the superbugs that medicine can’t clobber.

With rogue illnesses like MRSA, salmonella, streptococcus, c.difficile, TB, gonorrhoea and e.coli flying around, routine surgery is already an iffy issue. Soon it won’t be possible at all. The bugs will develop similar immunity to the few remaining effective drugs – and last failsafe will have gone for good.

Yes there are still a few antibiotics of last resort – the carbapenems, used in the treatment of the already-resistant MRSA.

But the bad guys are already at the door. Newest kid on the block is CRE – carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae – a resistant strain that includes klebsiella species and escherichia coli (e. coli), both of which are normal gut bacteria but can go hostile.

OK, the guns don’t work, so it’s down to bare hands. Not as impossible as it seems – and we’re not dead yet.

Our hands have it

Since we use our hands for everything, they are pretty much our most major source of infection. Every touch brings a transfer of dirt and germs, microscopic so they still LOOK clean – but potentially deadly if they get into our bodies.

But wash hands, and most of the time, the problem goes away.

A good proper session with soap and hot water will get rid of 99.9% of the germs we all carry. It works for doctors and nurses – and it’s the major reason why every visit to hospital doesn’t land us at death’s door.

But it has to be a genuine wash – not hands under the tap for a few seconds, which is all most of us attempt. We don’t know the dangers, so we’re playing with our lives. There is no failsafe. We can’t rely on antibiotics to rescue us any more.

The other thing we need to do is sterilise the spaces around us. It’s not just our hands that are covered in germs – 10 million on each in the average office – it’s every single thing in our lives, including the air around us.

Yes, the air full of germs all of the time, but not always in concentrated clouds – and yes, day-to-day our immune systems can normally cope with it.

Except we spend most of our time indoors, particularly in winter – sharing the same space, breathing the same atmosphere. Which means the smallest thing about us can easily influence everyone else.

Interacting with each other

And it does. Every one of us trails around a personal germ cloud – billions and billions bacteria, viruses, smells, dead skin cells and other body detritus – everywhere we go.

We may not pass anything on to each other – that usually requires physical contact or breathing something in. But every day our clouds mingle and influence each other, creating a germ threshold that lingers behind us after we’re gone – and is there waiting for us again in the morning.

If any one of us has a weakness or underlying condition, we are at risk. Harmless to ourselves, but a possible threat to others. But not if the place is sterile. No germs, no risk – everybody’s safe.

And we need to be.

Our bodies are more sensitive than in years gone by – prone to allergies, vulnerable to even the tiniest of germ threats. Plus living and working on top of each other as our modern lifestyles demand, we’re much more contagious – if one of us catches something , we all do.

Which is why regular sessions with a Hypersteriliser are becoming essential after we go home at night.

A nifty gadget like a sort of posh wheelie-bin, it creates a super-fine dry mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide that spreads everywhere – actively pushing into remote spaces, cracks, crevices, all the places that never usually get cleaned.

As it does so, its electrically-charged particles reach out and grab viruses and bacteria, attracted exactly like magnets. The germs die, oxidised by oxygen atoms that rip their cell structure to shreds.

Forty minutes and the place is sterile – the mild, non-toxic 6% mist leaving only oxygen and water, which evaporates before it touches anything. Oh, and a microscopically thin layer of antimicrobial silver on everything – a sterile barrier that lasts up to a week or more.

Rediscover hygiene

How does this help the Doc?

Well if we make a habit of deliberately avoiding germs, half her problem has gone away. Prevention is better than cure – fewer patients means more time for care, more effort available for saving lives.

Yes, it’s a challenge without antibiotics. But keeping clean – sterile clean – is the one sure way of avoiding infection. If we rediscover hygiene, we’ll make it.

Easy, huh?

Just clean up our act and we’re there.

Originally posted 2015-11-19 16:50:12.

Our antibiotics price-tag: weaker, more vulnerable

Unhappy fat girl
Galloping obesity – the one effect of antibiotics nobody wants to talk about

They save lives.

Modern surgery would be impossible without them.

Anywhere an incision needs infection control – unthinkable without effective antibiotics to protect us from harmful pathogens.

Introducing non-miracles

Wonder-drugs, but beginning to be useless.

Because after more than half a century of intensive and continuous use – numerous bacteria have developed resistance – our miracle medicines are about as effective as Smarties.

Any visit to hospital, any accident or infection, and we’re all of us susceptible to an increasingly common slew of superbugs – MRSA, salmonella, streptococcus, c.difficile, TB, gonorrhoea and e.coli.

Which means doctors can’t use antibiotics in the critical situations where they need to. Not without taking chances. Or working the long way round. The hard way.

By ramping hygiene levels up high enough that infection can’t happen – washing hands, and making the surroundings sterile.

Hike up hygiene levels or else

Which is why a lot of hospitals are advancing beyond traditional wipe and scrub methods. Just because it smells of chlorine doesn’t mean it’s sterile. Nor does rub-and-scrub always disinfect everything. Under tables, behind cupboards, tangles of cable get missed out.

So does the air itself, probably 80% of any room space. More crucial than most of us ever realise, with each of us trailing around our own personal bio-plume of bacteria unique to each of us. Personal good bacteria – and personal bad bacteria – possibly harmless to ourselves, but a real problem to anyone with an underlying health condition.

Knowing this, hospitals are starting to treat air spaces just as much as surfaces. Pulsing them with ultraviolet light – or misting them up with hydrogen peroxide.

Count on it, we’ll soon start seeing similar procedures everywhere – at work, in schools, in restaurants and hotels, on planes, ships and buses – regular treatment to keep them sterile.

With good reason.

The dirty secret

Because there’s a massive downside to antibiotics that we’re only now becoming aware of – one that government and big business are trying very hard to keep quiet.

They’re making us weaker and more fragile than we were – less resilient, with less stamina – not the invincibles we once were. Compare us with our grandparents back in the in the 50’s and we’re a sorry shadow of ourselves.

All from over-use of antibiotics on an industrial scale – a world consumption 65,000 tons a year and rising rapidly.

But not in medicine – in agriculture.

You see, back in the 50’s, when antibiotics were discovered, the farming industry picked them up as healthcare for livestock. So much of farming involves mud and dirt that hygiene is next to impossible.

Antibiotics gave farmers a way of compensating for the lack of it. Their animals were protected against disease and infection by regular additions to their feed. Their profits were protected too.

Very soon, they began to notice something else. That animals on antibiotics, particularly fed from young, developed faster and bulked up heavier – bigger and more impressive, ready for market earlier – AND didn’t eat so much.

That did it. Because the principle worked everywhere. Beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry – all of them developed faster, bigger – for even better profits.

Which is how the farming industry worldwide gets through 65,000 tons a year – in all likelihood set to double in the next ten years. Everybody wins, brilliant.

We’re the losers

Except for us.

Because the animals are on antibiotics all the time, right? Not like us, taking them for 10 days to clear an illness – regular doses in every feed, every day.

So antibiotics are in their systems – and have been for 50 years.

Which means they’re in us too. Not to the same level of course, but a regular part of our diet, every single day.

Not just in meat either. Livestock manure is highly prized as a high performance fertiliser. So there’s antibiotics in plants too – in varying quantities. In tubers such as potatoes – they’re pretty concentrated. The great British staple – mash, boiled, chips. We’re mainlining on the stuff.

You can see where this is going, can’t you? From the soil into the plants. And from the soil into the watercourses, leaching into the aquifers, into our rivers and streams, our reservoirs – ready and waiting for us at every twist of a tap.

Uh huh. For the last 50 years, every mouthful we’ve taken of pretty well anything has had antibiotics in it.

And if you think about how antibiotics work, they’re not exactly kind to us. They kill bacteria – and inside us that’s brutal. Because down in our gut there are more than 100 trillion bacteria living harmoniously – a synergistic arrangement where they do the work and we take it easy.

Bacteria digest most of our food for us. They make proteins to power us up. They even help regulate our immune system – set a good bacteria to catch a bad bacteria, a deal our bodies made with them millions of years ago, when we crawled out from under a rock.

But antibiotics kill bacteria. Not just the bad ones, but a lot of the good ones as well. Ones that we need to keep our bodies well. Suddenly clobbered because they were there. They got in the way. Killed in the fallout.

An internal atom bomb

Because that’s kind what it’s like when an antibiotic capsule dissolves in your belly. An atom bomb going off – among a population of trillions. Which is how, very often, a course of antibiotics can bring on a whole wodge of side effects – cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea, itches, rashes, wooziness, the works.

Yeah, the bad guy bacteria get killed. A lot of the good guys get killed, maimed or orphaned at the same time. They don’t perform as they used to – they’re weak, crippled, prevented from doing stuff. And it’s our bodies that suffer the consequences.

OK, penicillin – 1955. Discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming, sixty years ago.

Which means pretty well every one of us grew up with antibiotics being fed to us every day. Three meals a day, 365 days a year – every day for the thirty years we might have grown up to today – 32,850 doses of antibiotics in our system. No wonder we’re weakening!

Like allergies. Where do they come from? Rare as hen’s teeth back in the Fifties. Common as anything now. Peanuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat – where will it end. And why?

A glitch in the system

Because our bacteria took a hit, that’s why.

And they’ve been taking a hit every day since before birth – because Mum’s diet had antibiotics in it too. So our immune systems are reprogrammed – hacked and rearranged, so they glitch when there’s nothing there – or kick in when they’re not supposed to.

Exactly when we need more protection because antibiotics don’t work, we’re weakened, more disease-prone and less able to recover from the same cause.

All done by antibiotics.

And here’s the kicker – the final insult.

They make us bulk up too. Particularly in early years. Just like the cows and pigs and lambs and chickens. Bulk up big and develop faster.

Except we call it getting fat. Doctors call it obesity.

Yes we can blame our diet too – however we try to finagle it. Too much carbohydrates, cut back on proteins, eat more vitamins – makes no difference.

Because regardless of what we eat, it’s sure to have antibiotics in it.

And yes, fatness is in our genes – but our genes are modified by our bacteria. And our bacteria are fighting with their hands tied behind their backs.

One hell of a price-tag, hey?

Originally posted 2015-11-18 17:27:22.

The antibiotic price-tag – wash your hands, or land up in hospital

Rush to AandE
Better believe it, unwashed hands can kill you

Old wives’ tale. Rubbish. A little dirt never hurt anyone.

Your parents probably think that. And certainly their parents did.

Life was different back then. No mobiles. Only two stations on the telly. Central heating only for the rich. No 4x4s to take you to school.

Not like the old days

Yeah – and your parents’ parents’ parents had no hot water, no bathroom, only an outside loo. You did your business on the long drop in the freezing cold.

Washing your hands was a mission back then. Put the kettle on, fill the basin – just to wash your hands? Wipe them off with a damp cloth, stop wasting gas. Nobody ever got ill from it.

Yeah, right. They just died a lot earlier.

But you’ve got to admit, they were pretty hardy.

Their metabolisms were different is why. But not like they were Martians or we are aliens. Their bodies were exposed to wider environments – more outdoors, hands on, getting down and dirty. They grew up with it, their bacteria growing accustomed to it, it was the norm.

Are we aliens?

Wait a minute. Their BACTERIA?

Sure, sure. In those days they never knew it, but all human bodies are full of bacteria, whole colonies growing on our skin, in our mouths – and most especially, in our gut. More than 100 trillion of them, outnumbering our own human cells 10 to 1. A human microbiota that is more microbial than human – perhaps we ARE aliens after all.

OK, so these bacteria don’t just sit there. The body outsources all kinds of functions to them – digesting food and breaking out its nutrients, powering our immune systems, providing the muscle for tissue repair.

Yeah, there’s bad guys in there too – harmful pathogens that could bring us down. Small in numbers though, and smart enough to keep quiet. One false move and the good guys will either fight them or eat them.

Note that word smart.

Adapt and survive

Exactly what bacteria are. Because these remarkable creations are able to adapt and change to new conditions faster than anything else on the planet. Twenty minutes can breed a whole new generation – with new strengths, new skills, generating advanced enzymes to meet the new challenges.

Dirt in the system? They grew up with it, recognised it, know how to deal with it. Food not properly washed or cooked? No problem – they came from a long line of heroes with cast-iron stomachs.

Yeah, they knew upsets, what gut problems were really like. Where do you think names like Montezuma’s Revenge, traveller’s dysentery, Delhi belly, or back door sprint came from? They just manned up and ignored it, the stuff of Empire-building. “No guts, no glory” was how they lived.

Our own stomachs are more sensitive – not just from different lifestyles, the food we eat is no longer the same. Take norovirus – until 1968, it didn’t exist. Named after an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis at a school in Norwalk, Ohio,  it’s now every cruise ship operator’s nightmare.

The double-edged sword

Didn’t they eat the same food back then, same as 100 years earlier? Wasn’t beef, beef – and pork, pork? We’re not SO different.

Yeah, but what about antibiotics? Our food is NOT the same.

In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, but it took till 1942 to develop it, the first patient being treated for streptococcal septicaemia. By 1950, antibiotics were motoring big time – not in medicine, but in agriculture. To bulk up animals for market – beef, lamb, pork, chicken – all the popular meat types.

Today, half the antibiotics in use world-wide are in food production – 63,151 tons in 2010, to rise by 67% in 2030.

Half a century of industrial-scale usage means that traces of antibiotics are now in all of us – directly from the food we eat, and from the recycled waste. Even vegetarians will find them in their systems.

Use and abuse

It gets worse. Because antibiotics have been overused in medicine too. The miracle cure-all, patients clamour for it for everything from minor ailments up. By the time they’re 20, the average teenager might have been prescribed with antibiotics at least 10 times.

And have you any idea what antibiotics do to the human system?

Sure, they clobber harmful bugs – if they haven’t already become resistant (we’re coming to that).

And how do they do this?

By killing bacteria.

Er… But that means us, doesn’t it? Aren’t we 90% bacteria?

Boomitsdabomb!

Yes we are. So you can imagine the effect of antibiotics in the gut with over 100 trillion bacteria all round – like a thermo-nuclear bomb.

OK, so they take out the bad guys – clobber them to nothing. But a lot of innocent bacteria get hit too. Dead or impaired, no longer able to fulfil their vital roles. Collateral damage.

Want proof?

Ever been on antibiotics and you’ve had side effects?

Stomach cramps? Vomiting? Diarrhoea? Hello, clostridium difficile.

And that’s just for starters.

Oh sure, the immediate side effects are not too bad – the medics’ perspective of course, probably not yours.

But every treatment tears into your bacteria community a little more. The bounce-back is a little less each time. A little less, a little less – you and your children and your children’s children. Fifty years of antibiotic onslaught and our microbiota are not anywhere near the same.

All change

The balance has shifted – all of a sardine we face uphill we’ve never faced before, even a generation ago. Our bacteria is different, different breeds with different behaviour, our immune systems are different, our bodies are different.

Some blame it on diet, on lifestyle, on health and fitness levels – but messing with our bacterial balance is probably more the root cause than any other.

Where does our body balance start? As we’re starting to discover, in our gut. And we’re more sensitive than we were. After fifty years of bombardment, absolutely on a hair trigger.

Why suddenly obesity – a major chunk of the population overweight? Where from Type 2 diabetes, like it’s becoming an epidemic? We’ve messed around with our bacteria – and now we’re paying the price.

But bacteria adapt remember? They change to meet all challenges. Which is why they’re becoming resistant, mutating to cope with this continual onslaught.

Clostridium difficile? Staphylococcus aureus? They’re both impervious to antibiotics without getting clever – and you can bet they’ll find a way to get round being clever too, before too long.

Back to basics – soap and water

All of which comes back to washing your hands, believe it or not.

We’re not the same as we were – our systems are different, our defences are different and our resilience is different. We can’t take chances with random bacteria like our grandparents used to – see how quickly norovirus or something strikes as soon as our hygiene gets forgetful.

And what? If you get sick, you want to take antibiotics for it?

Whoops.

Already the docs are aware so many antibiotics don’t work. And the underlying damage has been done too. So if you do get ill, there ain’t no medicine for it, you’ve just got to take your chances.

Which means don’t get ill in the first place. None of us can afford to.

But there’s still one thing we can do – and it works.

Wash your hands.

Originally posted 2015-10-22 13:57:40.

Revealed: biggest cause of hospital-acquired bugs

J'accuse - girl pointing
Don’t blame the doctors and nurses, they’re at least trying

Humour us on this one.

Go to your local hospital – the biggest one preferably.

Smile at the reception people and go stand in the corridor just beyond.

Now watch.

Busy, isn’t it?

The world in a hurry

Lots of people in. Lots of people out. Medics, support workers, delivery people, visitors.

Depending on the time of day, more than 60 a minute.

And all in a rush. The only people taking their time are in wheelchairs or on crutches.

Rush, rush, rush.

Notice something else.

See those broad red stripes on the wall with the dispensers at chest level? Can’t really miss them, can you? Like a fire engine on wedding cake. Totally in your face.

That’s the sanitising station – a hygiene stop to treat hands with disinfecting alcohol gel. Three dispensers next to each other, on both sides of the corridor. Well, 60 people a minute, they need them.

Check how the professional people use the things. Brisk step up, squidge-squidge, step away to allow the next one, working the hands, fingers intertwined, making sure it gets everywhere – palms, backs, wrists – still at it as they move down the corridor.

In a rush of course, always on the go – but taking nearly two minutes to do the thing properly.

OK, so how about everybody else?

Here they come, rushing in to see Aunt Joey, Cousin Bob, sick Mummy, or brother Andrew.

Shouldn’t you..?

Hey, wait a minute, what are you doing..?

Stop!

Amazing, hey?

Invisible life-savers

Bright red stripe, all the way across the wall and the floor. Invisible.

Either that, or they’re colour-blind.

Nah! Not that many people – never. Fact is though, that they just don’t see it.

60 people a minute – and not all professionals. Ordinary blokes and blokesses. Straight through like there was nothing there. And all that gunk on their hands from the big wide world.

Dirt, grime, sauce from lunch, bits of poo from the last-minute dump before they came – because don’t argue, 62% of men and 40% of women NEVER wash their hands after going to the toilet.

Hang on, though. This is the main entrance – there’s other sanitising stations further inside. Go on! Follow up and see.

No-go at the lift lobby. No-go on the stairs. Not even stopping at the entrance to the ward. Straight through to Joey/Bob/Mummy/Andrew.

Ew!

Never mind this is a hospital, never mind there’s open wounds or anything.

Kiss-kiss, hug-hug – hands all over each other.

An open ticket for e.coli, salmonella, c. difficile, campylobacter, MRSA, colds, flu, norovirus – or anything else that’s on the go at the moment.

The elephant in the room, isn’t it? And you’ve just seen it for yourself. THE major cause of all kinds of infection in hospitals.

And that’s the reality.

Forget today’s paper with its shock horror headlines about the NHS. It’s not about staff inadequacies, failure of care, or lapse in procedures.

The real bad guys

It’s everyday visitors.

People straight in from outside without a hint of hygiene. Thoughtless, careless, couldn’t give a stuff.

Not until it’s them who’s in here after chopping off a finger. Them, with MRSA turning into runaway sepsis. Can’t find a doctor or nurse to take care of things? And who’s stupid fault is it there are so many people in here with complications in the first place?

The NHS takes a lot of flack because of people like that. Always hard-pressed, always in an emergency, swamped by people too full of themselves to have any consideration for others.

Sure they’ve got problems – you try running your hardest without a break for days on end and see how you score. So they don’t need more stupidity lucked on them by visitors.

Yeah, lots of finger-pointing by the holies – the service isn’t up to the job. But same like always, it’s one finger pointing forwards – and three fingers pointing back.

The biggest cause of hospital bugs? Carelessness by people like you and me.

OK, it’s not difficult – just go ahead and use the gel!

Originally posted 2015-10-15 15:45:12.

Safe hands – are we soft-soaping ourselves?

Hand washing woman
Wipes are better – your antibacterial soap isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Maybe the penny’s beginning to drop.

That we need to keep our hands clean to avoid germs.

Which is kinda important because more and more antibiotics aren’t working against them any more.

Danger, health hazard

So dirty hands mean we’re going to get sick.

Whoops! What do you mean, dirty hands? They look alright don’t they?

Besides, washing your hands all the time is a mission. Most of us skimp on the job – or avoid it all together.

Disagreeable facts

Which kinda underlines a recent report that antibacterial soap isn’t any more effective than your actual El Cheapo from Tesco. Apparently the bio-active goodie in the soap, triclosan, doesn’t kill germs with the usual exposure time most people give it – it actually needs NINE hours.

That’s because ‘Elf & Safety or whoever only allow a very small amount to be in your soap – so its real germ-fighting ability doesn’t amount to a row of beans.

Not that our regular soap is likely to be any better. Most of us hardly ever use it. We shake our hands around for five seconds under the tap – and reckon that’s it. Spreading more germs as we shake our hands afterwards – while the air dryer blasts the rest all over the wash room.

Fact is, we don’t LIKE washing our hands – even though we know it’s necessary.

So yeah, we feel a twinge of conscience if we sit down in a restaurant for a slap-up meal – IF we even think of washing our hands at all.

Too much PT, don’t bother.

The soap and water alternative

Except that some of us have got clever and we’re using gel or wipes – handy for pocket or handbag, we never need to be caught out.

Oh sure, the Parent Police will have a go at us for using them. Shielding our kids from exposure to germs retards their immune systems. At least, that’s the received wisdom.

But let’s be practical. Are your hands going to get clean or not?

The bathroom’s down the hall anyway – away from the action. Far better to use a gel or wipe. They’re instant and now. And at least you take care of the germs.

OK, that’s the soap and water story nailed. So which is it, gel or wipe?

Both have antibacterial action – the real kind. So which should it be?

Horses for courses.

Though for our money, wipes work better.

Easy gel

Yes, with gel, it’s easy-peasy. You put the stuff on, work your hands around, shake ’em about a bit for the stuff to evaporate – job done.

Still prefer wipes. If there’s visible gunge on your hands, you’ve got something to physically wipe it off. As good as a face cloth or a sponge. And the antibacterial job gets done too. No viruses or bacteria, you’re safe and good to go.

Oh right, you still have to get rid of the wipe.

So what are we, helpless? Into the bin – or a bag you can keep it in until you find one. Or your pocket.

Disposable wipes

What do you mean, carrying germs around with you?

You’re not wrong, that’s why the bag. Don’t you keep one handy because the shops all charge for them these days?

We shouldn’t be squeamish either. Back in the day, we’d blow our nose on a hankie and carry that around with, full of gunk. A tissue would get dumped ASAP – and so will a moist-wipe.

Works for us. We HATE washing, so we carry wipes. So we never get caught out – clean hands ALWAYS before meals and after the loo.

End of the grudge habit

It’s not like some secret ritual either. Nobody looks too worried if you’re wiping your hands at table or outside in the passage. Probably even miffed that they didn’t think of it themselves.

Plus it pays off too. No, no, norovirus – the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease – it just doesn’t happen.

And can you remember the time you last had a cold or flu?

Safe hands – yes, of course.

Originally posted 2015-09-18 13:13:17.