It comes at you as a blast.
A dry, dusty gust in the Underground.
Grit stings your face and flies into your eye.
Your blink – a grain of dust at least as big as an elephant.
You blink again, realisation this time. Airborne dirt maybe 50 microns across. Feels like 50 miles, scratching across your eye.
Riding the wind
The train arrives and you step in.
You do the math – 0.05 of a millimetre. Ten thousand times bigger than a typical germ cell. Eighty thousand times bigger than the cell of Ebola they discovered in that doctor’s eye two months after he was declared clear.
The train moves off and you pull out a tissue. Your eye is watering like crazy. The train lurches and a corner of the tissue stabs your cornea. Hurts like hell, but you’ve got the dust particle out. A boulder, the size of a small car.
You blink again, feeling better – turning your head from the constant draft through the open window between the cars.
You think hurricane, you think tornado. You’ve seen clips of storms picking up cars. You suddenly remember about jet streams – powerful winds six miles up, blowing a 350-ton Boeing 777 200 mph faster than its normal cruising speed.
And the penny drops.
Just yesterday you read that the MERS outbreak in South Korea could be going airborne.
For sure it could. You’ve just had a boulder several thousand times larger than any MERS cell slam into your eye. One grain of grit out of many. A whole cloud of them blown down the tube tunnel. You even coughed last time, remember? How many grains was that?
And how many cells of MERS could that be, clustered together?
50? 500? 5,000? And still way smaller than your grain of dirt.
A single cell wouldn’t do it of course, the body’s immune system is too good..
But 5,000 cells in a clump? All gulped in with a gasp of air, straight to your lungs – exactly as suspected in the spread of South Korean hospital cases – breathing through ventilator apparatus before diagnosis pointed to contaminated air.
Now your mind is in gear.
If air can move cars, shifting bacteria is nothing.
At 20 nanometres, a single cell of rhinovirus is so small it has no gravity. It can ride the air indefinitely – just like billions and billions of other living microbes. Viruses or bacteria, no matter which – even the largest of them is barely a micrometre.
If there’s a fan going in the special care wing of a hospital in super-hot Saudi Arabia (where the virus was first reported), you wouldn’t want to be sitting downwind from a MERS patient.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Germs can transport pretty well anywhere without effort – both “airborne” ones and the types you can only catch on contact. They weigh nothing, so they can linger too.
Wheel the patient out of the room and the germs are still there.
OK, so a hit team moves in and deep cleans the place – really thorough, complete wipedown of everything with sodium hypochlorite.
But your mind still tells you – germs in the air, germs in the air.
Not good enough – 80% of that room space is air.
They could be lurking at head height. Clustered behind the vital signs monitor. Down the back of the bedside cabinet. Jeepers, everywhere – and the room’s just been cleaned!
Which is when you know you need a Hypersteriliser. Ionised hydrogen peroxide that actively disperses everywhere – right through the air, deep into cracks and crevices. Oxidising germs on contact, ripping apart their cell structure. 40 minutes, and the place is sterile. No viruses, no bacteria anywhere.
So yeah, MERS might be a problem. That whole host of others too – especially those rogues resistant to antibiotics.
They might be airborne, they might be clinging on tight. But we have a defence.
And in this particular room – whenever you want – all germs are dead.
Originally posted 2015-06-22 11:31:16.