Tag Archives: microbes

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

Doctor with microscope
More deadly than any terrorist threat – and they’re all around us

Doctors are scared.

They don’t show it because they’re too professional.

But they know and they’re scared. That deep-down gut-twisting fear that things are wrong.

It’s about antibiotics.

Antibiotics and germs.

Once upon a time antibiotics were thought to fix just about anything. Not viruses of course, they’re physically even more difficult. But certainly bacteria. Any risk of infection, bung in antibiotics – the miracle drugs that have made modern medicine the wonder that it is.

Alarm bells ringing

Trouble is, antibiotics are beginning not to work any more. The germs are winning.

Which means any kind of routine surgery – from gallstone removal to a simple bypass – is no longer as safe as it was. Infection is less easy to control. Complications are more likely to set in. Pretty well the only thing between success and disaster is the level of hygiene.

Exactly why doctors are hearing alarm bells.

Because there’s one massive difference between a surgical incision protected by antibiotics – and one not protected at all.

At all? Surely not.

Better believe it. Look at the lengths medics go to in isolating dread diseases. Hazmat clothing for all personnel. Isolation tent with built-in sleeves and gloves for patient care without touching. Like Ebola tents – we’ve all seen the pictures in the media. Just imagine if EVERY case was like this.

Because if antibiotics don’t work, they already are.

Staph infections, TB, c.difficile, gonorrhoea, e.coli – they’re all immune and have-a-go – often present but inactive in our own bodies. Waiting for just one opening, one simple little cut…

External germs are an even bigger headache. They’re everywhere, on every surface, swirling and teeming in the air.

See for yourself

Want a demonstration? Grab a handful of glitter and throw it in the air. Better still, throw it in front of a fan, because all microbes can float on the slightest breeze.

The stuff goes everywhere, right? On your clothes, in your hair, all over your face. And see how difficult it is to wash off. See how it keeps twisting and fluttering in the air – be a couple of hours before that’s finished settling.

But at least you can SEE glitter. Germs are smaller and you can’t see them at all. But they’re there alright – like there’s already 6 billion right inside your own mouth.

OK, maybe glitter is a bit radical – but at least it shows how difficult the problem is.

A better example is Glo Germ, a harmless liquid or powder of fake germs – invisible and no more than 5 microns across, exactly like real. Like germs, it spreads all over the place and can’t be seen.

Not in the air unfortunately, but certainly on surfaces like food preparation areas – a tell-tale to show when areas HAVE NOT been cleaned effectively.

Shine an ultraviolet light on the treated area and uncleaned parts immediately show up – like TV’s fancy CSI-goo for detecting blood stains.

Hey Fred, this thing’s filthy – watch your six, or you’re gonna get it!

Yeah, OK. So our antibiotics have packed up and there’s billions of germs around that we can’t see. Should we give up and cry?

Start with soap and water

Not unless you want to be dead – which is what germs do, given half a chance – make you dead. The bad ones that is – inside every one of us, there’s more than 100 trillion good bacteria of our own.

Which means the best thing is show bad germs where to get off. With soap and water for example – washing our hands at least before and after every meal – and very definitely going to the loo.

Of course doctors and nurses do this already, scrubbing up before every procedure. They know the odds – and nobody wants to lose a patient on THEIR watch.

They’re still scared.

Washing hands, sterilising instruments, swabbing everything down – none of it gets rid of microorganisms in the air. And gut-feel tells the Docs those germs are up there. ALL germs are airborne, it’s a physical impossibility that they’re not. At 5 microns across or less, that’s 100th the size of coffee fumes!

Only one thing for it. Some kind of spray to take out the airborne jobs. If they can fumigate a whole house for insects, then surely they can do the same thing for superbugs.

Hello, hydrogen peroxide

Very definitely yes. And nowhere near as toxic.

The spray is hydrogen peroxide, exactly the same as the body produces for its own germ-fighting – in a mild 6% solution – the same as you might use as for minor cuts and abrasions, or as a mouth wash.

Underpowered? Not a bit of it. Hydrogen peroxide kills germs by oxidising them – shoving oxygen atoms at them that tear apart their cell structure. There’s no germs coming back from that.

Plus, because it’s ionised as it’s sprayed, the hydrogen peroxide is cranked up to warp speed as it leaves its Hypersteriliser dispenser – a slick, handy unit about the size of a small wheelie-bin.

Remember your states of matter? Solid, liquid, gas, right?

Well ionising a gas, which is what vaporised hydrogen peroxide is, changes its state again. From a gas to a plasma – a kind of supergas in which all the molecules are charged.

And which releases a whole slew of other antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone (a more voracious oxidiser than hydrogen peroxide), and ultraviolet.

Germs to oblivion

Yeah, World War Three in microcosm. But it still takes time to happen. The hydrogen peroxide has to disperse and fill the room space – a rapid action because the molecules all carry the same charge.

They are actively and desperately trying to get away from each other. Which forces the plasma through the air, equally in all directions – fetching hard up against all surfaces, including walls and ceilings – and pushing deep into every crack and crevice, exactly the places wipe-down disinfecting cannot reach.

Filling the air and making sure the stuff works takes around 40 minutes for the average room. After that, the place is sterile. No germs, no bacteria – just oxygen and water which evaporates before it touches anything.

OK, doctors are still scared. There’s still no replacement to do what antibiotics do.

But at least they’re not terrified.

Originally posted 2015-10-29 18:41:36.

Good germs, bad germs – just make sure you’re safe

Good cop - bad cop
Invisible good and bad – one 10,000th of a millimetre in size

A bit of a head-scratcher this. Since our body cells are outnumbered by bacteria 10 to 1.

That’s 100 trillion microbes in the average HEALTHY body – believe it or not – bacteria and human beings getting along just fine.

Which raises a whole issue about keeping safe from germs.

Killing ourselves

Anything we might use to sanitise, disinfect or sterilise could actually attack us – killing some of the very bacteria we need to keep healthy.

You see, we’re not infested by these germs – like free-loaders out for what they can get. They pay rent to be with us. Especially with food intake and digestion.

That first hunger-driven chomp into a juicy burger meets over 7½ billion bacteria in the first second in your mouth – more than the number of people on Earth.

With every chew and swallow, a whole mess of processing takes place, preparing your food for being turned into energy – by the two to three POUNDS of bacteria that live in your gut.

Without them, no digestion. In fact you’d be pretty ill, all that food with nowhere to go, eventually poisoning your system.

Living with germs

So yeah, germs in our bodies.

Better take it easy with that chlorine bleach in the kitchen. That could bring big trouble – as your nose tells you by the way it bites. The body knows it’s harmful – and the smell you experience is a warning.

But you’ve got to get rid of germs, right? The bad things that kill.

The body is under threat when stuff decomposes or putrefies – blitz it fast, before you get infected!

Actually, there’s a whole bunch of experts who reckon we’re wrong to keep zapping germs. That our paranoia with pathogens indiscriminately kills good and bad alike, destroying useful microbes and upsetting the natural balance.

OK, we’ll buy it – but not all the time.

Away in the Great Outdoors, there’s not much we can do anyway. The wind blows, germs come and go – we could get infected any time.

Except we don’t usually – and one microbe by itself is not enough to take on the whole human body – unless it gets awful lucky. And ordinary air movement disperses germs anyway, so they don’t stand much chance.

Indoors, in danger

Anyway, we don’t live like that most of the time, do we?

We’re indoors, in our “built environment”. Enclosed air spaces, shared living areas. Our bio-auras of germs – the surrounding cloud of microbes we all carry around with us – all intermingling and mixing.

And if any of us happen to be infected with something – contaminating each other.

Which is what happens in a classroom full of kids. Thirty of them together, for up to six hours at a time. Breathing the same air, touching the same objects and each other – bio-auras fully exposed.

So two of them have rhinovirus – perfectly normal variations of the common cold – sneezing and coughing, but determined to stay in the loop. Yeah, well. Most of the other kids are healthy enough – a few days of discomfort if they come down with it. Nothing to worry about.

Except we’re not all equal are we? And we don’t all have the same health levels.

In any group of people you like, a large proportion invariably have some kind of underlying medical condition. Two or three in our classroom of kids – as high as 10% – asthma, TB and one of them with early cancer.

So how fair is it on them when rhinovirus hits – as it probably will, at six hours exposure per day, every day? And how sick will they be with the complications a common cold can bring?

Sure, let’s not destroy all germs everywhere willy-nilly because we’re paranoid about getting sick.

Protection where it counts

But doesn’t it make sense to treat selected areas where we’re more at risk?

With more people on top of each other at school than at home, school is a more likely place to pick up infection.

So is the office, or factory, or supermarket, or train, or bus – higher germ concentrations from a greater number of sources. More infections to choose from, higher odds of catching one.

But one disinfected school room – or even a whole school – does not destroy the eco-balance if it is treated to protect the weak. The greater world is too big – and goes on being just the same outside.

Besides, once our kids move back into their school room after treatment, their own bio-auras will re-populate the “germosphere” very quickly. A tummy bug like e. coli for instance, can double its bacteria every 20 minutes.

Yeah, the kids are still exposed – but not to the same level.

Mist up that schoolroom with sterilising hydrogen peroxide gas plasma from a Hypersteriliser and the germ threshold falls to zero – no viruses, no bacteria, totally sterile – in 40 minutes.

The kids start from totally safe – no lingering germs from yesterday, or the day before – not on surfaces, and not floating around in the air either – the room is totally NEUTRAL.

Germ zero

A lot safer than letting things ride – because some pathogenic nasties can survive outside a body for weeks or more. And wouldn’t it be luck of the draw if it was YOUR kid that came down with it?

Your own flesh and blood – in an isolation ward with with the first case of bubonic plague for 300 years – chance infection by an 8-year-old new kid – an immune carrier from Madagascar, where the disease still affects hundreds, every year.

Good germs, bad germs. Life and death.

Why take chances?

Originally posted 2015-06-30 11:17:48.

You want ALL germs gone or just some of them?

Satisfied woman
If there aren’t any germs, what are we worried about?

Just possibly the craziest thing we do is all live together.

We all want be on top of each other, gathered in tight groups – 37 million in Tokyo, 20 million in New York City, 8.5 million in London – crowds and crowds of us in cities all over the world.

Are we nuts?

How on earth did we decide to do this? It’s not what our bodies are designed for. Physically we’re still hunter-gatherers, meant to be living out in the open. Clustered in groups, yes – but only large enough to ensure survival when very young or old.

Worse, we choose to live in enclosed environments – always surrounded by walls.

Of course, we don’t see it like that, prettied up with windows and doors and décor and bric-a-brac – in fact we kind of like it. Reality is though, that we’re most of the time sealed off from the world outside.

Hemmed in and forced to react with each other, our metabolisms interlink too. All of us in hives, sharing a common existence.

Except we don’t, do we?

We’re not the same

We don’t do the same things, share the same interests, eat the same foods, or follow the same lifestyle. Neither do our bodies – each of which it totally unique and different.

Which boggles the mind when you think of how germs impact on us. Especially since we’re more germs than human ourselves – inhabited by 90 trillion microbes, which outnumber our own body cells by around 10 to 1.

Uh, huh. You understand now why medics see us as so many different biological signatures. The bacteria that colonise one are not the same as those that colonise any other. Our bio-auras are different.

We walk around trailing our unique bacteria-clouds with us, each as distinctively different as our fingerprints and retina scans. Count on it, in the future, CSI forensic teams will be able to ID us by the bio-traces we leave behind – like recognising our perfume, but 100% more pin-point.

Thing is though, with all these bacteria-systems overlapping, we’re constantly exposed to an intensified spectrum of germ challenges – way more than our immune systems would face if we were living out in the sticks where we started.

OK, fine – as long as everything is neutral.

Whoops

But as soon as one of us gets a cold, it tips the balance.

Now just maybe we grew up with our immune systems exposed to colds on such a regular basis, our resistance is higher than anyone else’s. We’re OK, nothing to worry about.

But the Tom, Dick or Harriet living right alongside in our 8.5 million cluster might not have such resistance. The cold – let’s give it its real name, rhinovirus – hits them the way it could never hit us.

And down they go. Cough, sneeze, splutter, gasp.

Yeah, OK. This is where the Good Germs, Bad Germs philosophy comes in – that the body has the resources to fight back – just isolate it at home and let nature takes its course, with proper rest, food and hydration.

Except the dynamic doesn’t work like that when we’re living on top of each other. And not from the germ’s point of view either – we’re germs ourselves remember?

Crowd rules are different

Individually and separately that might make sense. But with 8.5 million of us so close together we can feel each other breathing, our germ-clouds interact way too fast for that.

In the 10 days it takes for the rhinovirus to incubate itself, we’ve passed it on maybe hundreds of times to others whose immune systems are not so acclimatised. And the closer we are, the faster it works.

Which is how a cold goes round a school so fast, your head spins. Well what do you expect, when the kids spend six hours a day together in the same classroom?

Of course we don’t think of all this – it sits at the back of our minds as a kind of brooding concern about hygiene. We do try to do something though – which is where the mop and bucket brigade come in at the end of the day, scrubbing and wiping everything down – and following up with a vacuum cleaner.

Under-responding if you think about it – and basically for surfaces only.

Because the kids might have gone – and their germ-clouds with them. But their bio-trace is still in the air. So are residual touches of the rhinovirus they have in them. Able to survive for weeks at a time and waiting to attach to new bodies when class resumes in the morning.

Yeah, it’s good to let things be natural and let them take their own course. Our own bacteria in balance with the rest of the world – what’s possibly wrong with that?

Bigger populations, bigger threats

But living on top of each other accelerates everything – multiplying its effect in a pressure cooker of fast-acting bio-clashes. Today rhinovirus, tomorrow Ebola.

And how do we deal naturally with that? By withdrawing and isolating, going into quarantine. Not wrong, but difficult to find space for with 8.5 million people on top of each other.

Since we can’t go round asking each bacteria if it’s good or bad for us, we have to clobber the lot. We already recognise this, which is why we’re attacking the place with detergent and bleach.

But if we’re going to do it properly, we’ve got to include the air too. Fish where the fish are – in this case, the micro-organisms so small we don’t even know that they’re there.

Which is why we keep banging the drum for ionised hydrogen peroxide – the one sure way to remove ALL viruses and bacteria totally from the room you’re treating.

Ionised – a different dynamic

And we mean IONISED hydrogen peroxide – not that vapoury stuff you might have experienced before – that double-strength fog that gets pumped in to oxidise germs, and then has to be dried out afterwards.

Remember your school magnetism? It’s the same effect, but multiplied several hundred times in the Hypersteriliser.

Ionising electrifies the hydrogen peroxide particles with the same negative charge, causing them to repel each other. Like a super-gas, actually a plasma – it spreads up and out, under and into, actively trying to get away from itself.

That same charge aggressively reaches out and grabs at viruses and bacteria which have the opposite polarity. Oxygen atoms are released that tear their cell structure to shreds. The charge dissipates – and all that’s left is oxygen and water.

No germs, nothing. Sterilised safe.

Safe, not sorry

OK, yeah. It’s overkill. Brute force tactics.

But with millions to protect, not just a handful, isn’t it better to shoot first and ask questions afterwards?

Because it’s not just you that needs protection. It’s the person next to you, and next to them, and next to them – some with stronger metabolisms, some with weaker – millions of times over.

With all germs gone, at least they stand a better chance.

Originally posted 2015-06-12 13:02:08.

Open wide… no chance of infection here

Dental checkup
No chance any infection
will get you while you’re here

Terrified of the dentist? You shouldn’t be. These days it doesn’t hurt – and when your mouth feels healthy, so do you.

Unless you’re worried about infection of course. That Nottingham dentist did nothing for anyone’s confidence.

Strictly come clean

But your own dentist has strict hygiene rules to follow – and you can bet he does. With around 20 billion oral microbes living in your mouth – more than the number of people living on earth – no way he’s taking chances.

If you think about it, a dentist’s surgery is like a hospital operating room, so some basic rules apply:

  • All surfaces are disinfected between patients.
  • Hands are washed and new gloves pulled on between patients.
  • All instruments are heat-sterilised between patients.

UV in the OR

Plus, after the Nottingham case, you might notice your dentist has a new toy. A schnazzy new ultra violet light generator.

Because in a hospital you personally get prepped before any operation – cleaned, disinfected, sterilised – made safe.

But dental patients walk in straight off the street. And every single one of us wears an aura of at least 3 million viruses and bacteria all the time – every one of them looking for a way into our bodies to start their mischief.

OK, so you’re at the dentist.

Then what happens? Your dental operation starts bang, straight away.

But you’re still in your street clothes, with slush on your shoes, no opportunity to wash your hands – you touch the dentist’s chair, the armrest and maybe something else – what sort of things are you bringing in for the next patient to run the risk of?

Well, none.

NONE.

Because you’ll notice that when the patient before you comes out, so do the dentist and the nurse –they don’t want to be exposed and things are about to happen in there.

Death ray for germs

They close the door. The dentist presses a remote control – not for catch-up TV, but for the ultra violet generator.

ZAP!

Inside the surgery the machine goes into action, blitzing every germ dead  – in the air, on surfaces – destroying their DNA by irradiation. Pumping out high intensity ultra violet light in the shortwave C spectrum, pulsed in concentrated flashes to minimise human exposure.

5 minutes and it’s safe. The room is sterile. No germs for you to catch except those you brought with you. And you’ve survived the day so far, ain’t nothing going to happen now.

You go into the surgery with the dentist and nurse. No germs, no nothing, the whole room is 99.999% free of them – what they call Sterility Assurance Level 5 (ever so posh).

Still worried about the dentist?

Don’t be.

If you’ve ever had raging toothache at 4.00 in the morning, you’ll know he’s on your side.

Originally posted 2014-12-17 14:30:00.

Today’s health: queasy tum, germy, flu later

Deluge of germs
Look out!
There’s a germ storm coming!

You wear a raincoat if it rains – probably carry an umbrella.

But how about a germcoat?

Every day, every one of us moves around with a personal aura of around 3 million microbes – smaller than raindrops or dust, hanging onto us by our own static charge.

Germ clouds gathering

Some of them are viruses, some of them bacteria. A few of them are even benign.

But count on it, the rest are out to get you any way they can – they just can’t reach you, floating around as individual cells. Your skin is too thick, you blink too often, your nose filters them out, and  you keep your mouth closed.

There’s more of them out there in clouds as well. Billions and billions. Norovirus, rhinovirus, e.coli, campylobacter, salmonella, c.difficile, AIDS – so many, some of them don’t have names yet.

Don’t worry though, as long as they’re not inside your body, you’re safe. Just don’t give them a chance by letting your hands get dirty or wolfing down some dodgy food.

Always at hazard

But it”s not that easy – things can happen.

That bloke next to you in the Underground suddenly explodes and a mist of vapour and ewwy bits flies through the air. Not single germs any more – just one gob of snot is loaded with millions – enough to gang up and enter your body if you’re careless enough.

Luckily you have handiwipes in your bag and can clean the stuff off. You’re only exposed for a few seconds, hopefully you’re OK. Not so easy with the stuff you might breathe, though. You’re right to try to move away.

Right to wipe your hands too. Unconsciously, most of us are always touching our faces – wiping eyes, rubbing cheeks, gesturing up to our mouths. Entry ports for germs if you just let them.

Never thought about any of this?

Out of sight, out of mind

Most people don’t. Out of sight out of mind.

Not like those dark winter clouds above, or the rain splattering down around us.

Germs, microbes, pathogens – they’re all too small to see. Several million could fit on the head of a pin – so to have 3 million or so always floating around us means they’re actually quite sparse – an empty day for them.

You’d freak if they were dyed with colour so you could see them though. Hit by the sudden reality that you’re not as safe as you thought you were. Threatened at every second.

Well, not exactly.

You’re not attacked by wild dogs every time you step outside your front door, are you? Creepy buzzards don’t swoop down from the sky.

The same with germs. Except they’re always with you on the spot and ready, waiting –  while the nearest pack of wild dogs could be several hundred miles away.

You’re no safer indoors, either. You can’t escape a germ cloud like sheltering from the rain.

Wrong.

Safe places

Indoors is the one place where we can make ourselves safest. But – out of sight, out of mind – we never do it.

Out in the open, there’s no holding germs back. And they’re out there all the way up to the troposphere – scientists have found bacteria happily thriving nine miles up and beyond, no problem.

Indoors is different. In a closed environment, we can control the air.

Look at hospital operating theatres, clean rooms and computer data centres. By pumping up the pressure greater than outside, no air or germs can get in, everything is pushed out.

The air can be filtered too. Protected by high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filters that are fine enough to trap many of the pathogens that threaten us.

Protective measures

We can even sterilise the place – eliminate viruses and bacteria immediately.

The quick way is with short wave ultra violet light. A few seconds exposure at close range and BAM, it attacks the germ cells’ DNA and destroys them.

A whole room of course takes longer  – more time to reach places further from the light.

Better still is hydrogen peroxide, well-known as a germ-killer back in the Nineteenth Century. Souped up for the Twenty-First, it’s even more effective. Experiments have proved that in the gaseous state, it’s many times more efficient.

Difficult to work with though, as it decomposes easily. So the trick is to ionise it in liquid form and spray it out like a mist. Dispersed like this, its performance is formidable.

Ionising gives it a static charge that makes it spread more quickly, ultra-fine so it rises easily and reaches into cracks. The static charge also attracts it to germs, which it kills by oxidising – shoving oxygen atoms at them.

Neither viruses nor bacteria can survive this treatment – their cells are ripped to pieces. In twenty minutes – that’s all it takes – the average room is completely sterile. No germs, nothing.

Makes quite a difference to your health forecast, doesn’t it? If there aren’t any germs around, there’s nothing to touch you. You don’t get sick, you’re totally safe. And all it costs is about a fiver.

So why don’t hospitals, hotels, restaurants and schools use it all the time?

Well, why aren’t you wearing your germcoat?

Out of sight, out of mind. And most of the time, we’re healthy enough to get away with it.

Unless – cough, wheeze, sniffle – we’re careless or unlucky.

Originally posted 2014-11-21 15:04:05.

Why most sterilising procedures are only 20% effective

Girl covered in germs
You can’t see them, but germs are everywhere

Think about it.

Most cleaning/sanitising/sterilising procedures are applied to surfaces only – usually just horizontal – worktops, bedding, tables, chair, floors.

Yet 80% of most rooms is air – necessary space for us to move around in. All of it untouched by conventional hygiene disciplines.

Reality is that ALL microbes are airborne most of the time. Think of dust motes you might have seen in a ray of sunshine – billions and billions of them.

Well, microbes are billions of  times smaller – too small to be seen. So small they are virtually weightless, riding the air on every swirl and eddy, wafting around you in constant movement.

Think of them as raindrops and you would be walking around soaked all the time, drops hanging off your eyebrows, nose, ears, everywhere. The air surrounds you, you are immersed in viruses and bacteria all the time, some good, some bad.

Which is why misting up treatment areas with hydrogen peroxide is so much more effective than surface applications. It destroys viruses and bacteria on the 20% of all exposed surfaces – AND in the 80% of enclosed air surrounding them.

It’s not just SOME of a room that is sterilised, it’s ALL of it.

Relax, if the room has been misted, you’re safe.

Originally posted 2014-08-27 11:07:34.

Could you be sued for your bad habits?

Girl - oh no
We could all be liable – and never even know

We all have them. Bad habits we don’t want anyone to know about.

Not always so easy with cleanliness and hygiene. Our “crimes” are too obvious to miss.

Yeah OK,  we know we should tidy up. Not just for appearances, but to stay out of trouble.

Easy enough for ourselves, but a minefield of nasty surprises when what we do impacts other people.

That’s the thing, see. It’s not just us. If it was, we could live like slobs and nobody would care.

A wider responsibility

Except we don’t live alone, do we? Family, friends, work colleagues, customers – our lives are intertwined with maybe hundreds of people – all of whom could get mighty pissed off if our behaviour messes with their health and living conditions.

Of course, a lot of this we already know – and unconsciously correct for.

A lift full of wrinkled noses at our sweat and BO very quickly persuades us to use regular deodorant. Same thing with breath fresheners and toothpaste.

Smells are offensive, yes. They’re also a sign of bacteria at work. Something isn’t right, so bacteria are eating it. The smell of infection and disease is a warning for others – it could be contagious, keep away.

And right there is our hiccup. What it is that makes bad habits bad.

Bacteria.

Actually microbes of all kinds – bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa. “Bugs” to most of us – nasty germs that make us ill and bring us down. At least that’s our usual experience of them.

And why our bad habits can bring so much trouble.

We luck our bugs onto other people and they can get ill. Depending on the illness, it could screw up their lives. There could be permanent damage – disability, deformity, mental impairment. They could even die.  Super bad habits, super bad all round.

None of which is likely to win us as friends. It’s our fault, we’ve ruined their lives, they want compensation. Think of a number with lots of zeroes behind it it. That’s us, paying for ever – the unwanted price for a silly bad habit.

Bad, bad, bad

And no, we’re not talking the gruesome stuff that some people get up to – eating food dropped to the floor per the crazy “five second rule”, eating off plates unwashed from a previous meal, or wearing week-old clothes.  We’re on about day-to-day things, the daily bad habits that all of us share.

Number One is not washing our hands.

We all reckon we do wash them, but most of the time we don’t, as these shocking statistics show:

How can we be so careless? Because we judge by appearances, not reality. Our hands look clean, therefore they are. Meanwhile, they’re anything but.

Which does ourselves no good – and those around us neither.

Sure, we’re better off than a century ago, but not because we wash our hands. Back then, many homes did not have a bathroom and most people washed only once a week – a tin bath in the kitchen, filled from the kettle. Toilets were the “long drop,” often outside. Even running water and sewerage were not available to everyone.

Modern day hygiene levels are a quantum leap away, which makes us a lot healthier. Bathrooms are essential, our super-efficient toilets are discreet – and our whole culture makes baths a regular indulgence, showers a daily treat. We’re cleaner and healthier in every possible way.

But not our hands.

Always hands

They get down and dirty as much as they always did. Germs are as invisible as they always were too. So we waltz through the day with the same carelessness that we always have, never thinking for a moment that many of our illnesses are therefore self inflicted.

All the usual bad guys – escherichia coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, MRSA, norovirus, even colds and flu – are all afflictions picked up by direct contact.

And no, we don’t always catch them from food which is contaminated by them – more likely we catch them from food which we ourselves have tainted with our own mitts – germs from a whole day’s worth of touching things without washing our hands.

Just ask yourself this. Sitting down for a meal in a restaurant, when was the last time you washed your hands? Come on, genuinely?

When you came in? Before you left home? As you left work? After your last pee break? After lunch? After breakfast? When you did your teeth?

And how many things have you touched since that time? Things that were touched by other people?

How many germs did you pick up, or transfer elsewhere by direct contact?

And how many times did you touch your face during all of that, passing germs on through the soft tissue of eyes and mouth? (Hint: most of us touch our faces 2,000 – 3,000 times a day.)

Germs on our hands!

Passed on by touching all the things we share in common. The firm handshake of friendship, door handles, light switches, keypads, documents, money, knives and forks. We pass germs to other people, they pass germs to us. Because it’s not just our hands that are unwashed, it’s all of those other things too.

Your fault? Theirs?

We’re all equally culpable.

Because all we have to do is wash our hands and nothing happens. No illness, no time off work, no loss of income, nothing. No reason for anyone to sue.

Unless of course we’re responsible for the things we touch.

Then Number Two, it’s our negligence – failing to protect people from germs caught off objects  we didn’t keep safe. Not cleaned, not disinfected, the equivalent of not washing hands all over again. Well, who does wipe down the lift call buttons and sanitise every telephone handset at least once every day?

Except that’s fixable too. By sterilising the lot – and the actual room they’re in – by misting the place up with ionised hydrogen peroxide. Reaching everywhere, all viruses and bacteria are oxidised to nothing, destroyed, dead.

At a stroke, all the “touchables” and the environment they’re in are safe and free from germs.

Bad habits?

We still have them of course. Always posing for selfies. Wearing trainers at work. Two twists of sugar with our flat white.

But nobody’s likely to sue us for them.

Picture Copyright: halfbottle / 123RF Stock Photo

First Class or Budget air travel – all viruses fly free

Unhappy flight attendant
Unwanted passengers nobody knows about – a problem we share with the world

Unwanted and unloved – viruses don’t need a boarding pass.

They don’t need a visa either – however exotic their departure point.

They’re used to grabbing freebies – travelling INSIDE your body or ON it.

Everywhere and spreading

On your skin, on your clothes, or dragged aboard in floating microbial aura we all carry round with us. Or simply sucked into the cabin with the rest of the air at the airport. Invisible, out of sight, out of mind.

Which means – take your pick – whatever the latest big scare is, it’s coming here.

Zika, MERS, Ebola, Black Death – they’re all packed and ready – waiting for the next flight out.

Which is also how come a local disease or illness can suddenly become world-wide.

A Boeing 787 carries up to 335 passengers and flies at 560 mph. PLENTY opportunity for a travelling virus to climb aboard – with, or without the mosquito that transmits it.

International emergency

Eight hours, ten – and it’s in a whole new country. Like the overnight celebrity Zika virus – Brazil last week, 23 countries today – declared an international emergency by the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation both – latest member of the jet-set.

Which kinda means we should be watching our hygiene levels a bit more than usual. Here in the Old Country, we’re not necessarily as safe as we think we are.

Especially as Zika doesn’t really affect most of us. Only 1 in 5 infected people get ill. And even then it’s mild – a rash, joint pains or irritated eyes – a few days and it’s gone.

Not so nice if you’re expecting though. Or for your kids. Microcephaly is with them for life – sometimes OK, mostly not. Not a condition to play games with.

But nor is any virus, yet we do it all the time – take chances with our lives by simply being careless.

The Zika virus may not survive long in the UK – it’s too cold for the mosquitoes that carry it. There’s plenty of others that can though – and bacteria too. And because we’re made of mostly bacteria ourselves, we need to protect against these foreigners getting into our bodies.

The right place, the wrong place

Most viruses and bacteria are passive and benign, they serve many useful purposes as long as they’re in the right place. In the wrong place they can be devastating, deadly if unchecked.

And yet we carry on absently, not thinking that a touch, a minor cut, a mouthful of food, or even our next breath could trigger a whole interior infection that could have us fighting for our lives.

How lax are we? Frighteningly when you consider we’re surrounded by germs all the time, with maybe ten million possibly harmful microbes on each hand right now – e.coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, MRSA, flu, norovirus – take your pick.

Despite all this:

We don’t do much about our surroundings either. Slop around with detergent and water in the kitchen, a wipe of bleach here and there. Surfaces only – the 80% air space of the room around us never gets touched – even though most microbes are smaller and lighter than dust, smoke, or even the oxygen molecules we breathe.

Billions and billions and billions of them all the time – silently buzzing like a cloud of mosquitoes we can’t see.

Getting our own back

We can clobber them though – and our weapon of choice is far better than any bug spray.

Close the windows and doors, wheel in the Hypersteriliser, press the button and get out of there for half an hour.

Fsst! The place mists up with hydrogen peroxide – ionised so it reaches everywhere, electrostatically grabbing at viruses and bacteria, oxidising them to nothing.

Come back when it’s finished and the whole place is sterile. No Zika, no anything – gone.

Not so easy for your next holiday though. Fly to where these viruses originate and a Hypersteriliser is a bit big to take with you. Better take some mosquito coils, twenty gallons of Autan (the repellent that smells like jet fuel), wash yourself like crazy – and be careful.

And whatever you do, don’t get bitten.

Picture Copyright: bruno135 / 123RF Stock Photo