Tag Archives: MRSA

How germs at the office just got more dangerous

Germs in the office
Yes it all LOOKS reassuring – but we’re not as safe as we think we are

Dangerous? Germs at the office?  Poppycock!

A dose of flu maybe – kid’s stuff.

You’re more likely to have an accident with the photocopier.

Except there ARE germs in the office.

And if you read your papers, you’ll understand why doing something about them suddenly got a lot more serious.

First off is the report about superbugs in our travel network.

Nasties in the Underground

Research by taxi insurers Staveley Head recently turned up 121 different types of bacteria and mould in buses, taxis and in the tube – 9 of them antibiotic resistant.

As Staveley Head’s spectacular website demonstrates, pick one of those up on the way to work, and the Doc’s miracle medicine cure suddenly doesn’t work any more, them bugs have mutated to have immunity.

And pick them up you certainly can – nasties like e.coli, MRSA and klebsiella pneumoniae. Swab tests found them lurking on hand rails, seats, doors and walls – fomites waiting for contact with human hands.

To be carried along to work with all the other hazards we’re exposed to – in the air and on the things we touch. Dust, exhaust fumes, chemicals like acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, toluene and ethyl alcohol, or substances like lead, cadmium and methylene chloride.

We can’t see them of course, they’re microscopically small. But they’re on our clothes and skin and hair. We breathe them in. Ready to transfer to all the things we touch when we get to work. And for when we breathe out. Dangerous germs, unwittingly brought in for our colleagues to catch and succumb to.

And they’re not the only ones. Things are happening in other parts of this sad old world of ours that are equally dangerous to our health.

At war with disease

Like second, war in the Middle East.

Decades of conflict that have devastated whole countries and health systems. And in their wake, epidemics of diseases not seen by doctors for more than half a century. Polio in Syria and cholera in Yemen.

Not our problem, we say to ourselves. Syria is 2,000 miles away, Yemen 3,600.

Except sadly, in this age of direct jet travel, local problems are world problems. Already, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, pouring into Europe or wherever they can get to. And like us tube travellers or the bloke on the No 9 bus, bringing their germs with them.

For every polio victim, how many are carriers? How many are there with the disease incubating inside them as they thankfully emerge on our streets, looking to start a new life?

Meanwhile, in Yemen, cases of cholera have already topped 167,000 and the disease is currently killing one person an hour. How many Yemenis are in Britain, heaving a heavy sigh of relief?

And how many of either have – without meaning to, or even know they’re doing it – transferred their germs to you?

Not directly, but via the grab handle in the back of a taxi, or a rush-hour strap on the Victoria Line – swabbed the worst for germs in the whole London system. Well of course, the Victoria Line runs right through incoming refugee central – King’s Cross & St Pancras AND Victoria.

Unseen, unheard, unrecognised

Worries, yes, And bigger than we think too.

Because third, American reports indicate that antibiotic-resistant superbugs are not as closely tracked in hospitals as they should be. Infection-related deaths are uncounted, greatly hindering the fight against an increasingly global health challenge.

Hopefully, protocols are more strictly adhered to here. But with the NHS in a a state of permanent overload from challenges in all directions, it is likely the same dangers exist in UK too. You peg off with a superbug that your Doc couldn’t treat when you were admitted for something else, who’s going to know?

Which comes back to how safe are you at the office?

And the unpleasant truth, not very. A fact that stems largely from our own hype about standards of hygiene. We think we’re cool.

Reality is way different from what we imagine. For instance:

All of which puts terrific dependence on how well the office itself is cleaned if we want to stay safe.

And the answer is, not very. Not when office cleaning is usually a grudge purchase at the lowest rate. A quick vacuum and wipe-down is min protection against the 10 million germs to be found on the average office desk.

Which, together with the germs we brought in off the street, make the place a lot more dangerous than we confidently kid ourselves it is.

The cost of doing nothing

Once a luxury, it is fast becoming a necessity to do something specifically about office germs. And if bosses won’t do it for staff health, maybe they’ll do it for the sheer economics.

Or “germonomics” if they choose to get serious. The thousands and thousands of pounds that can be saved – just by removing germs that threaten productivity. Push-button technology already in place to make offices sterile, safe and secure.

So how dangerous is YOUR office – because, since it affects us all, this is one of those where you CAN believe all the things you read in the newspaper?

And the answer is very easy.

Does the button get pressed every night, or not?

Good evening – first, please wash your hands – we don’t want to be sued for food poisoning

Restaurant Hosts
We wash our hands – with everything we do. Our business depends on it – so you don’t get food poisoning. You want to eat here safely, it’s your turn

Welcome and enjoy yourselves. But no-one suffers food poisoning at our expense.

Our reputation is at stake – and why should we pay for your lapse of hygiene?

Yes, yours.

You see, we have a business to run and a licence to protect. We can’t afford lapses.

So every one of us here makes a point of washing their hands before they do anything.  Or if they’re stuck at their post and can’t get to a wash basin, to use an antibacterial gel.

We think you owe us the same courtesy. We’re thinking of your safety and well-being, you should respect ours.

Because it’s not just washing hands.

We know from long experience that every aspect of hygiene matters.

Sure, it’s good presentation to have everything neat and clean and tidy. Spotless surroundings. Fresh table linen. Shining cutlery. Sparkling glasses. Not just for appearances, but for your health.

Germ-free or nothing

Everything you will use tonight is not only clean but germ-free. To be used once only and then cleaned again. No germs anywhere.

Our whole place is like that.

No dust, no dirt. Cleaned and polished several times a day. Scrubbed, vacuumed and disinfected. Our livelihood depends on it.

So you can imagine how meticulous we are in the kitchen. How careful we are that food prep is only in super-hygienic conditions. Created by staff who know their whole career is reliant on clean hands. As significant to them as to doctors and nurses. A rigid routine we never break.

We’re just as scrupulous with actual food too. Again, our reputation depends on it.

Yes, it’s fresh and carefully checked. Trimmed, sliced and chopped with knives dedicated to each food type to avoid cross-contamination. On surfaces thoroughly cleaned before and after preparation.

Then roasted, baked, boiled, steamed, fried, grilled or sautéed by clever hands. Hands always washed and washed again through every step. Not only for your satisfaction, but to keep you safe. So you’re never exposed to the slightest imperfection – at least not if we can help it.

You owe it to yourself

So how about you?

Yes, you’re welcome and we want you to enjoy yourself.

But food poisoning is a serious thing and we can’t afford to take chances. Which is why we’re so insistent on washing your hands. We need to protect you from yourself.

Because it’s hands that cause food poisoning, nine times out of ten. Hands touch everything every moment of the day. They feel, hold, manipulate, jab, brush and grab continuously. Collecting germs all the time – from every surface, in every location, even the air itself.

Ah, but how often do you wash your hands?

We can’t see germs, so we never think we’re contaminated. But it’s inevitable that we are, germs are everywhere – bacteria, viruses, fungi. We’re half-bacteria ourselves!

OK, so when did you last wash your hands?

Before you  left home?

And did you drive straight here? Both hands on the wheel, carefully below the speed limit, watching out for pedestrians?

Ah, but cast your mind back. That booze-cruise dash to France last weekend. Loaded to the roof with your favourite Cab Sauv and a last minute grande portion de frites at McDonalds before the ferry.

Have you cleaned the steering wheel since then? Given it anything more than a quick wipe?

And you drove here with clean hands, reckoning you’re safe?

Uh huh. Any idea how long gut-wrenching bacteria like MRSA or e.coli can survive on hard surfaces?

Or how about norovirus – you know, the cruise ship virus? That can last for months.  Hundreds of people ill and massive £10,000 pay-outs?  No thank you.

No visible dirt – fake clean

So you’re actually going to sit there, waiting for the menu, while we ask politely that you wash your hands first?

Excuse us, but we know the facts:

So no, you can’t have the menu – yet.

Other customers need to handle it after you – and we can’t take that risk. You might have e.coli, you might not. But we’re not getting nailed by some hotshot solicitors because some of our clientele ate here and felt queasy.

Like the rest of the place, our washrooms are kept clean and meticulously tidy. But if you want to stay at table because of your guests, here are some hand wipes for all of you with our compliments.

Please use them, then we’ll bring you the menus and a whole evening of enjoyment. And you won’t get food poisoning because we know our hygiene is good and our precautions work.

But just so we’re clear up front. If you don’t use these wipes and you come down with some tummy bug food poisoning, we’re not taking the rap.

Picture Copyright: IStockphoto/Doug Berry

How under-powered disinfectants can actually create superbugs

Pointing to biohazard symbol
Make that disinfectant solution too weak – and you’ll make it antibiotic resistant, sure as anything

Kill germs. Make you safe. It’s what disinfectants are supposed to do.

But only if you let them.

Only if they’re at full strength – and applied for full contact time.

Maximum bleach, flat-out for 30 minutes. Complete exposure.

None of this diluted and sloshed around with a wet rag nonsense.

Resistance in the making

Anything less than full power and there are germ survivors.

Maybe not many of them, but they are the toughies that win through.

Hit them again and they’re less likely to succumb.

They’ve learnt how to resist, mutated to become immune.

Bacteria for instance, have in-built protein pumps that expel toxic substances from their cells. “Efflux pumps” to remove disinfectants AND antibiotics, making bugs drug-resistant.

And how dangerous is that?

OK, so there is a work surface, perhaps for food prep. Wiped down for 30 seconds with a usual 6% bleach solution, everyone thinks it’s disinfected, safe.

Instead, it’s alive with MRSA – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.

Already resistant to antibiotics, it easily resists to the under-dose of bleach.

Too weak, not long enough – did you feel a breeze, just then?

Not good enough

So now it’s resistant to bleach too – sodium hypochlorite.

Or maybe chlorhexidine – the preferred disinfectant for instruments. Which in its underpowered state can trigger resistance to colistin – an antibiotic of last resort. As discovered by researchers investigating klebsiella pneumoniae – a superbug capable of causing pneumonia, meningitis and urinary tract infections.

Uh huh. So somebody comes down with MRSA – redness, swelling, pain and high temperature.

They have to be isolated to keep others safe. Quarantined in a separate room. Only handled with gloves, apron and mask for protection.

And OK, the food prep area is suspect – so it’s done again.

More 6% solution – more thorough this time, wiped down and scrubbed for 5 minutes.

Still not enough.

MRSA still in residence – along with a few other bugs it’s passed on its immunity to.

Resistant to bleach and antibiotics too.

Last resort defences breached

Like carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) – unlikely in the everyday, but possible in hospital.

Dangerous?

Oh yes.

Carbapenem is the other group of our last-resort antibiotics. The ones to use when all else fails. If they don’t work – and colistin too – the poor patient is up a gumtree. Only clever doctors and the very best care can bring them back.

Meanwhile, that food prep area is still unsafe.

Scrubbed raw, it still contaminated with MRSA.

Still a place for other bacteria to learn how to survive first bleach, then antibiotics.

How antibiotic resisdtance happensAnd now it’s too late.

Flood the place for hours in 100% bleach solution – that MRSA still knows how to overcome it.

However strong the treatment, anything made up on that food prep area will still be contaminated. That MRSA is there for keeps.

Unless of course, you change the rules.

Game changer

After the rub and scrub, mist the place up with ionised hydrogen peroxide (iHP).

Because NO GERM can survive being ripped apart by oxygen atoms. Which is what happens in the 30 seconds that electrostatically-charged iHP particles physically grab hold of bacteria, viruses and fungi, oxidising them to oblivion.

And that’s only a 6% solution too. But ionised to hundreds of times the firepower by becoming a plasma. Releasing other antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet.

No rub and scrub either – the stuff disperses in actively all directions, forced apart by that same electrostatic charge. Through the air, hard up against all surfaces, deep into cracks and crevices.

Not just disinfecting, but sterilising. Making ALL GERMS dead. 99.9999% gone – to a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level. No bugs, no superbugs, no nothing.

Under-strength disinfectants – that’s really playing with fire.

There are enough superbugs already resistant to antibiotics. We don’t need any more.

Picture Copyright: michaklootwijk / 123RF Stock Photo and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How we’ll survive now antibiotics don’t work

Doctor washing
No more pills – from now on, everything gets done the hard way

Scary stuff this.

No safety net. Like driving on bald tyres.

Any accident, any surgery, any infection, any fever – we’re on our own. Either our immune systems will handle it, or they won’t. Game over.

End of the line

Because now there’s no more failsafe. No last second backup. Real Friday 13th.

No more silly buggers, the Doc can’t save you if your misadventure goes pear-shaped. The cupboard is empty.

Don’t believe it?

Already we’ve got MRSA – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – the scourge of every hospital and big bogey of AMR – antimicrobial resistance. This superbug lives naturally in your nose, for goodness sake.

Wipe your face, then touch a cut – and you’re up a gum tree.

Because methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin – take any of them and the bug might get even stronger.

And MRSA is just one of our regular 9-to-5 infections. Other AMR stars appearing daily include salmonella, streptococcus, c.difficile, TB, gonorrhoea and e.coli. All of them can kill if we’re not careful – and that doesn’t include the heavy brigade like botulism or cholera.

Over-use and abuse

How did these bacteria get so smart?

Well, we’ve been chucking antibiotics at them on an industrial scale for more than 50 years – plenty of time to learn.

Sure thing, a lot of that is in medicine – we’re a growing cult of pill-poppers. These days the average teenager might be on a course of antibiotics say, five times a year.

Hypochondriac grown-ups are worse – or should that be “cyberchondriacs?” The Internet breeds self-diagnosing adults who demand antibiotics so strongly, there’s doctors and chemists who fear for life and limb.

But agriculture is the real villain. 65,000 tons a year and more to bulk up animals for market – beef, pork, mutton, poultry – right across the board. It’s in plants too –from “natural” recycled animal waste. Over-use big time.

Which also means like it or not – carnivore or vegetarian – we’re all on antibiotics already, absorbed through the food chain. And have been ALL OUR LIVES.

Always read the label, remember? Do not take continuously for more than ten days without consulting a physician.

What the heck, we’ve OD’d all our lives!

Living mutations

No wonder our metabolisms are so different from our grandparents’ – weaker, less resilient, more prone to allergies and minor ailments, ballooning to obesity. Our internal bacteria have mutated so much, we’re hardly the same kind of human beings.

Because if it takes only twenty minutes for a bacterium to adapt and evolve to a new generation, that’s around 438,000 mutations learning how to survive antibiotics since they were first used – they should have got it right by now.

So yeah, antibiotics don’t work any more. And since we’re surrounded by billions and billions of bacteria every second – even colonised inside by over 100 trillion – washing our hands is a start.

Wash ’em off so we don’t infect cuts or swallow anything nasty. Wash, wash, wash.

The sloppy hygiene factor

But there’s a problem, and it’s us.

We touch everything everywhere without thinking of these bacteria. From one second to the next, we never think we’re contaminated. Our hands LOOK clean, so we don’t bother.

Sure, we used to get away with it – the Doc back-stopping us with a load of wonder-drugs. But not any more.

So we’re already in big trouble. From our own sloppy hygiene.

It’s not just hands either. Bacteria are everywhere. On everything, under and behind everything, even inside us. And of course, floating through the air – lighter than smoke or specks of dust – swirling, trailing, riding the smallest breeze, all the way up to 30,000 – higher than Everest.

So as soon as our clean hands touch something, they’re contaminated again.

Repeat and repeat

Which means we’ve got to clean the things we touch. And KEEP CLEANING THEM – because the bacteria keep coming back. Wash, wipe, scrub, it’s a never-ending mission.

Even then, it’s not even half the job. Around 80% of any room we live in is air space to move around in – and there’s no wash, wipe, scrubbing answer for that.

We’re at hazard from each other’s bacteria too – because we’re not all the same. Most of us have weaknesses of some kind or other. So our personal biome – the trailing cloud of bacteria unique to each of us – is trapped and mingles in the air of our work space with everybody else’s.

Just by being together we can infect each other.

Unless of course, the whole place is misted up with a Hypersteriliser, oxidising all germs to nothing with hydrogen peroxide.

Not vaporised hydrogen peroxide either – too strong for safety and making everything wet.

Press the button when everybody’s gone for the night, and the mild 6% solution of hydrogen peroxide is IONISED from a microscopic spray into an electrically-charged gas plasma – a super-performing change of state that  releases even more antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone, and ultraviolet – every particle alive with energy to disperse everywhere and grab pathogens as they fly.

Forty minutes and the place is sterile. No viruses, no bacteria. Zero germs. Every surface safe. The air totally bio-neutral.

Safe till next time

Of course it starts all over again next morning.

As we all breeze in for the day, each trailing our bio-cloud with us – hands alive with bacteria from the steering wheel, the door handle, the ticket machine, the lift button and the loo seat. Er yes, but soap and water fixes most of that.

Wash, wash, wash – it’s our latest antibiotic – which in case you were wondering means “inhibits the growth of, or destroys, microorganisms.”

Phew! We made it.

Never mind that those antibio-whatsits don’t work any more. We know how to be safe.

Enjoy your day.

Quick! Wash your hands before you kill someone!

Dirty hands
When antibiotics don’t work – all that’s between you and killer germs

Alarmist?

Well something’s got to grab our attention. And fast.

Because maybe not today, but some time soon, what’s on our hands may well kill someone. And that person could easily be you.

The antibiotics debacle

Two reasons, both triggered by antibiotics.

One, they don’t work any more. Not all of them, but a heck of a lot – enough to terrify most senior doctors.

Wonder-drugs fifty years ago, today they could be sugar pills. High expectations, but zero performance – pretty well useless. Too much overuse worldwide and the bugs we use them against have become resistant.

Yes, overuse. Particularly by agriculture. Every year more than 65,000 tons of antibiotics are put into feedstuffs – to make beef, pork and poultry animals bulk up for market. And you thought they were just for medicines.

Superbugs

OK, so how about these superbugs they don’t work against any more?

Heard of MRSA? Well add pneumonia, c.difficile, TB, gonorrhoea and e.coli to the everyday list – with a whole stack more queueing behind. Any one of which can do you down without urgent and careful treatment.

So what’s that got to do with dirty hands?

Easy. Antibiotics are our Number One defence against infection.

Cut a dirty hand and it’s antibiotics that protect us from tetanus. Without a quick dose of tetanus immunoglobulin (actually a vaccine), expect convulsions and severe muscle spasms strong enough to fracture the spine – a very, very unpleasant way to die.

Bye bye surgery

That goes for any cut too, not just accidents. Like surgical incisions. Without antibiotics, any surgical procedure becomes just about impossible. Infection is inevitable and patients will die. And that goes for everything from hip replacements to triple bypasses.

Without the wonder-drugs, there’s only one other way to minimise infection with any certainty. By making sure everything is so totally clean, there aren’t any bugs on it. Yes, by washing hands.

And not just by doctors, but by every one of us. Whenever we think of it, over and over again.

Because now we can’t take risks any more. Take a chance, eat with dirty hands, have a stupid accident, face any physical challenge.

Bye bye hospital

WE’RE the first line of defence now, not the doctors. Our own personal hygiene, our own protective washing techniques. Which means staying the heck out of trouble of course, so nothing ever happens to us. Couch potatoes.

Because reality is that hospital will increasingly become the end of the line. No more antibiotics, no more last-ditch hope. Forgetting to wash your hands is a one-way ticket – feet first, to eternity.

And make no mistake, we really are in danger. Because the way most of us are so casual about hygiene, we don’t stand a snowball’s against a serious bug. We don’t wash hands properly, or for long enough. Or, let’s be honest, ever at all.

Now the second thing about antibiotics. The double-whammy waiting to clobber us.

More than fifty years we’ve been using them. 600,000 tons every year – symbolically, the same mass as one of the twin towers at the World Trade Centre that collapsed on 9/11. And potentially even more deadly.

Timid new world

You see, it’s not just bacteria that have changed and mutated over the years, becoming stronger and more resistant. It’s ourselves, probably gobbling down a course of antibiotics at least five times a year. Except we’re not getting stronger, we’re going backwards.

And it’s not just our medicines that contain antibiotics, it’s the food we guzzle as well. A steadily rising threshold of antibiotics in pretty well every kind of meat product – and vegetables as well, from recycled natural waste going into the ground.

More than fifty years of it, continuously every day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacking – is it any surprise we have weaknesses and deficiencies that didn’t exist a generation ago?

You see it’s an awkward fact of life that our own bodies NEED bacteria in order to survive. Millions and millions of years ago we went into partnership with them to do the heavy lifting for digesting food, producing protein and even stabilising our immune systems.

We, aliens

Bacteria colonies in our own bodies outnumber our own human cells by more than 10 to 1. We’re actually aliens. Which is why we have over 100 trillion bacteria naturally resident in our gut. Dropping an antibiotic in amongst that lot is about the same as releasing an atom bomb – killing bacteria left, right and centre, that’s how they work.

Which is why we often get side-effects like being ill all over again – vomiting, cramps, diarrhoea, or worse. And in one way or another, we’ve been continuously bombarding our systems with antibiotics all the way since birth.

Not good for our immune systems – especially in the formative years from one to three, when our bodies are learning which bacteria are good and which are bad – and how to fight against them. That’s what all the eating mud and stuff is about. Equipping ourselves with protection.

Except we don’t eat mud any more, do we? We don’t live out in the country, we’re probably in a tenth-floor walk up. There is no mud – and our mothers would find it repulsive anyway. Which means our bacteria either choreograph that bit out, or develop in different directions.

Mutant beings

Changes in our metabolism and we never even know that they exist.

Take allergies for instance. Twenty years ago nobody had ever heard of urticaria, or coeliac disease, or anaphylactic shock. Yes they existed, but not on the everyday radar. Common as muck now – the muck we didn’t have when we were babies.

Fifty years on and our diet has changed too. We eat different foods, with different values – and all the time the antibiotic level is creeping up higher and higher.

Uh huh. And our resistance is going downer and downer. Today our bodies have conditions nobody even considered before.

Think obesity is something to do with diet? Oh yes, it is – but we can’t change it now. Not seriously. How else could a third of us be so suddenly like that? We’ve bred it into ourselves. Our internal bacteria are a whole new breed that live with low exercise, artificial foods and a high level of antibiotics.

Try running it off at the gym all you like – we’re getting to where we’re so genetically altered, that fat is normal. Yeah, we shouldn’t pig out on the kilo box of Quality Street – but there’s min chance we’ll get to Size 12 without them either.

Lower resistance.

But the same daily challenge of living in a world surrounded by billions and billions of bacteria and viruses – many of them friendly, many of them neutral – and many of them downright deadly.

Wash them away whenever you think of it – sterilise the living area around you with hydrogen peroxide mist. Every day, the battle goes on – and we’re not necessarily winning.

OK, now it’s serious. Keep at it with the soap and water, or someone’s going to die.

Don’t let it be you.

100 mph, eyes shut – crashed & burned, eating

Fireball
Eating with dirty hands is just as lethal

Yeah, well it looked safe enough.

Straight hamburger and chips, no big deal.

Except 2 hours later, cramps like dying. Upchucks more violent than a volcano. And you don’t want to know about the runs.

Uh huh.

Don’t blame the restaurant

But forget about suing anyone.

79 people ahead of this one ordered burger and chips. 38 people after.

None of them had anything wrong. Somebody having a laugh?

How come one case of “food poisoning” when everyone else was clean?

Clean – hold that thought.

As in clean hands.

Except it didn’t happen, did it?

The price of forgetfulness

Like doing the ton-up with eyes shut – on bald tyres, with no brakes or seatbelt.

Yeah, possible to get away with it once. Maybe even twice.

But keep chowing that burger without soap and water first – crashed and burned is inevitable.

Like hitting a brick wall. Gruesome at home, solo. Not nice either, at A&E. Better pray the stomach pump works. That dehydration doesn’t crash the body completely.

Dead from a hamburger?

Not unless it lodged in the throat – a Heimlich manoeuvre gone screwy. Not unless it was murder – strychnine or arsenic laced on top.

Hot off the grill

Because a burger gets cooked from frozen – dropped on the grill where it sizzles and does its thing at 155°F – that’s 68°C – too hot for germs like e.coli or salmonella. No food poisoning there.

Ah, but the hands that unwrap it and scoff it. On average, walking down the street, 10 million microbes on each hand. 20 million on both.

Yeah sure, plenty of harmless stuff, nothing to worry about.

Plenty of bad stuff as well. Like faecal matter from being careless in the loo. And all the usual suspects – e.coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, MRSA, flu and norovirus. Too small to see, but there anyway – just waiting for an opportunity.

Any one of those – crash and burn big time. Only about 100 deaths each per bug. Annoying reality though – dead unfortunately means dead. No chance to go round and wash hands again. Too late to say sorry.

Better to live

Reality means gone to the big fast food joint in the sky.

Time to slow down. Take it easy, wash hands first.

A lot less of a health hazard.

More chance of living to a ripe old age.

Keep hand-wipes handy – or get wiped out!

Cabin attendant
Welcome aboard. Please make sure your hands are germ-free for take-off!

Seat 11B is a nice place to be.

Next to your squeeze. In front of the wing. Nice big window to check the scene on approach.

Weekend getaway. Or company perk.

Good to get some time to yourself.

Just don’t touch that tray-table in front of you.

At least, not until you’ve wiped it.

Not with a tissue either, but with those antiseptic hand-wipes your bought before boarding.

Unwanted passengers

That THING carries more germs than anywhere else on the plane. Eight times more than the flush button in the loo. And way more than any place in your home – 2,155 colony-forming bacteria per square inch.

That’s 337,796 bacteria crammed onto your lap-sized 16½ by 9½ inch eating space!

Not surprising when you see how some people leave the place when they get off. And the poor airline’s only got twenty minutes on the ground before they’re up and flying again. No chance.

OK, so you’re not going to eat. Spoil your dinner at that posh restaurant you’re going to when you land.

Spoil your dinner anyway if you touch that thing without wiping it down.

But just sitting there with your iPad means the backs of your hands are in contact. And you’re not going to believe it, the average person touches their face 3 to 5 times every waking minute – an unconscious reflex that all of us have.

So you may not ingest those germs from eating, they’ll get in anyway through your mouth or eye openings – you do it to yourself without knowing.

And what surprises can you expect to find?

Stowaway germs

Poo for a start. Those tray tables sometimes get used to change nappies. But poo anyway because so few people wash their hands after going to the loo. Which means high risk of everybody’s holiday favourite norovirus at the very least.

Rhinoviruses (common cold types), influenza, MRSA, E-coli and listeria too.

So it’s not just the tray table you’re going to wipe is it?

You’re going to do your hands too – probably more than once. Whenever you think about it. Whenever you touch something that could harbour germs.

And since it’s a few hours before you land, you’ll have time to reflect on the need to keep doing it when you get off the plane too.

That posh restaurant for example, your special reward for yourself. There’s other people there too, all dolled up to the nines like you.

Impressive, yes. But when did they last wash their hands?

Maybe they showered coming straight from the office. Or maybe they just togged up and ran. Don’t want to waste valuable drinking time – sorry, socialising time.

Unseen party-killers

Except part of this place’s charm is self-service. Eat-as-much-as-you-like – smorgasbord, salad bar, you name it. And all those other people are touching the same serving spoons and forks that you are. You with your antiseptic-wiped hands, them straight in off the street.

Which is why you keep wipes on you all the time of course. You can’t always get to a washroom. And they wipe goo off your hands, which always seems to get on there when you don’t want it – something those antiseptic gels just can’t.

Worth it too – it only takes a few moments. And the food is every bit as amazing as you hoped it would be.

Those other folk from the plane are eating here too. Another getaway couple. Give them a wave. They’re not carrying wipes like you are, so that e.coli attack is going to mess up their whole time here.

Shoulda-woulda-coulda.

All the time, always

Yup, now you’re thinking, it should be a life-time habit.

Not just for your hands. Not just for your tray table. There’s your office desk as well. Didn’t you read somewhere that the average office desk has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat?

Come to that, the office should get a Hypersteriliser as well. So should this restaurant. Sterilise the place properly.

People walk around with 10 million viruses and bacteria on their hands most of the time – trailing a whole bio-cloud of several trillion others. Locked in here overnight, they’re just waiting for new victims to walk in tomorrow.

But not if they’re knocked out with hydrogen peroxide plasma. The whole place is sterile – safe like your hands are.

Hmm, what will that couple do when the e.coli strikes?

Claim food poisoning? Sue the restaurant? They wipe themselves out, then they want to wipe out their hosts.

Which could never be you of course.

Your hands are clean.

Antibiotics bullies? It’s back to fixing infections with blades

Doctor with scalpel
If antibiotics don’t work, we’d better up our hygiene levels sharpish

It’s happening now, at a surgery near you.

Doctors intimidated, patients extorting prescriptions for antibiotics.

Self-med madness

Not because they need them, but because they think they do. For a cough or a cold. Ailments that antibiotics were never meant to cure. Self-prescription gone mad – and doctors strong-armed into making it happen.

Probably the most dangerous thing anybody ever did. Doting Mums, worried Dads – playing with fire that will come back to burn all of us before the decade is out.

Because antibiotics are NOT the cure-all that everybody thinks they are.

Not any more – and never for situations they weren’t designed for.

You see, using them for everything has blunted their edge.

So many bacteria have developed immunity to them, they’re powerless and useless. And viruses were always resistant to them anyway.

Which means the next time any of us goes for surgery or needs attention after an accident – it won’t be drugs fighting the infection.

First cut is the deepest

It will be surgeons, cutting bits out to improve our survival. Chopping and slicing in the only defence left to us. The only alternative when antibiotics don’t work.

Not nice, eh?

Loosing an arm or a leg because germs got in. Or half a lung, all of your stomach – and just how easy will your life be then? Forget playing the violin again – you could be a basket case.

Which is where all our clamouring for antibiotics is going to get us if we don’t pack it in.

MRSA – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – is already a major infection headache for hospitals everywhere. There are many others, and increasing everyday. Soon none of our repertoire of antibiotics will have any effect at all.

All because the wonder-drugs of fifty years ago are now used everywhere on an industrial scale. Agriculture alone uses near 500 TONNES a year – no wonder they’re over-used!

Which means it’s back to the Dark Ages – the government has already said so. More to the point, so has Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, who basically admits that drugs don’t work any more.

You get an infection now, the only cure is going to be to cut it out – with the risk of more infection of course if the enlarged wound gets infected.

Wash, wash, wash

Yup, we can wash our hands – our first line of defence. Except too many of us don’t even do that – 62% of men and 40% of women – do we have a death wish or what?

Or are we already used to the idea that the price for getting ill is to start losing body parts?

And sure, we can use a Hypersteriliser to take out viruses and bacteria that threaten our living space – but only BEFORE we get infected, not after.

So slip and cut yourself getting off the bus, and you could lose an arm.

Better to leave the doctoring to the doctors, don’t you think?

Because if we haven’t done six years of med school – followed by two years of internship minimum – what the hell do we know about antibiotics anyway?

Why germs only attack you SOME of the time

Carefree woman
Easy does it – most of the time germs can’t touch you

Take your eye off the ball and things go pear-shaped, right?

A momentary lapse of concentration.

Kinda how it works in your body too.

Oh oh, glitch

A momentary hiccup in your immune system and oops! That’s a nasty infection you’ve got there, better take something for it.

Momentary because your body is surrounded by teeming microbes all the time. Billions and billions of them in the air, on the ground, and on all the things you touch. So many, it’s impossible not to be in contact with them every second of your existence.

Constantly immersed – and constantly under siege.

Mostly by neutral stuff, but by good and bad too – viruses, bacteria, moulds, dust mites, fungi, spores, pollen – all successfully deflected away by the body’s fantastic immune system.

Be glad. Because inside our bodies there’s a bunch of bacteria too. Whole specialised colonies dedicated uniquely to every one of us. Outnumbering our own human body cells by 10 to 1 – or according to some scientists, even 100 to 1.

Most of these are the good guys, the gofers that do our body’s grunt work for us – processing food, digesting it, manufacturing the natural chemicals we need to do stuff – like even dopamine and serotonin, to keep the brain firing on all four.

OK so far, everything’s going fine.

The whoops moment

But life goes on – and a lot of things happen in every day. We grow up, get educated, find a job, get married or involved, go on holiday, have kids, buy a house, become famous – and life around us is usually pretty harmless.

Except now and then comes the hiccup – the glitch that triggers an immune system alert. Germs like MRSA, transferred from someone else – by touch, or through a cut, or from something we carelessly pick up with unwashed hands.

Even then, we usually pretty safe. Immune systems can cope with MRSA and most other pathogens that life throws at us – sometimes unaware that anything’s happened.

As long as we’re OK, of course. Not vulnerable from some underlying medical condition, impairment of our immune capabilities, or reduction of the bacteria we would normally use to inhibit the bad guys having a go at our bodies.

You see our soft spot, don’t you? Our Achilles’ heel, the one everyday drawback in our defences?

Right, first time. Just about everything in our existence we touch with our hands. Things around us, things we use, things we eat – our hands handle the whole lot. And whatever’s on our hands touches our face – 2,000 to 3,000 times a day.

Which means germs through our eyes, in our nose, or down our mouths – unless we’ve washed our hands. The good guys, yes – the harmless guys too.

And the bad guys who want to take us out – typhoid, cholera, Ebola, e.coli, norovirus – there’s a billion billion pathogens out there only too happy to make us dead.

Under attack

Forget to wash your hands and the germs will go at you for sure. Not just something you picked up, but infection by negligence. You caused it, not accident. You didn’t look after your body – and falling ill is how you pay for it.

Yes, that’s harsh – but unfortunately true. People who keep their hands clean don’t get sick. Not usually.

But being unlucky happens too – particularly since we all live together most of the time – sharing the same space, working, relaxing, eating and drinking.

And while WE might be OK, others might not be. Their germ-clouds are not all safe, there’s bad guys in there. We could breathe them in, absorb them by touch, or swallow them without knowing.

Which is why “wash your hands” applies to the environment we live in too – the indoor lifestyle we’ve always stuck to, ever since caveman days.

Overkill defence

To some people that means go at everything with bleach. Scrub down every surface, kill the germs with stuff so potent it takes the roof of your head off. Not good if you’re asthmatic, or even just sensitive. And who can live with the howling headache?

It’s not good enough either. Because though it gets rid of germs on tables and things, it does nothing to the rest – so tiny and light, they’re suspended in the air. Untouched and hovering in 80% of the room space, no wonder coughs and sneezes go round a place so quickly – schoolrooms, offices, restaurants, cinemas, hospitals – wherever there’s people gathered together.

The safe way

Only one sure way to get rid of them – use a Hypersteriliser. Like washing hands for the total room space, only a lot more effective. Eliminating ALL viruses and bacteria by oxidising them in an ionised mist of hydrogen peroxide.

Germ neutral, totally sterile. You and your body’s own bacteria cloud are totally safe.

Until of course, somebody walks in trailing something else to have a go at you.

But you’ll wash your hands of that, won’t you?

It’s the holiday season now. Happy, happy!

And keep well.

Life-saving dirty secrets land MRSA in the poo

Apple girl
You have to do it when you’re little –
play dirty to play safe

Blam!

Suddenly you’re back a thousand years, toiling on a farm in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex.

That super-star tough guy Canute hasn’t arrived yet – he’s only due in Poole Harbour in September or so – it’s too hot for fighting and pillaging now.

Dirt under your fingernails

So you’re out in the fields, getting all muddy, then chopping up garlic and leeks for tonight’s meal – a bubbling stew with wine and stuff you make in that brass pot your forefathers brought over from Denmark in the last invasion.

Oh yeah, and with the leftovers, you’re going to dump in some bile from Sunniva, the family cow – your man Betlic has a nasty stye on his eye and your ancient family-recipe goo is just the thing to fix it.

He’s got to wait a week or so before you can use it though – the stuff needs to do its thing – simmer, bubble, mature, whatever. All you know is, it settles down into a kind of paste – and clears up eye infections overnight.

Amazing how things work with min resources, isn’t it?

Back then, there was no such thing as an antibiotic. Nobody even knew what “biotic” was. But when you live on the land, getting good and dirty working the soil, you learn a thing about treating cuts and scratches – or even serious injury.

Make it up as you go along

This mud makes a good poultice, mixed in with pounded comfrey. Those leaves fix your stomach ache if you boil them, then mix the liquid with goat’s wee. Chew that willow bark to fix your headache.

Natural things – and your own body’s immune system, intertwined and reacting to your environment. There are no doctors here, so injuries get trial-and-error treatments handed down through centuries.

But nobody gets sick either – their bodies have built defences to the usual soil bacteria and seasonal viruses. Bad food, of course will do it – or the bite of an animal from another area – different germs you’ve never got used to.

If a doctor examined you in some Twenty-First Century Clinic – nobody would believe the findings. You’re good to go anywhere at all – while your modern cousins are languishing with asthma, hay fever, all kinds of other coughs and sneezes – stuff you shake off without thinking.

‘Cos your immune system’s good, see. Up and running and properly tuned.

Everywhere, threats

Not like them. Allergies of all kinds they can’t get rid of. Immune systems compensating for challenges they haven’t faced for hundreds of years.

But that’s the price of modern living. Safe drinking water and plumbed sewage. Hygienic surroundings. Food produced so carefully there’s no chance of infection. No threats for your system to latch onto – so it finds substitutes.

Like, back in your pre-Canute days, who ever reacted to grass seeds? Or pollen in the air? Or flared up with bee stings? Or swelled up eating nuts?

It didn’t happen because your system knew the odds. It learnt from chewing dirt as a child. Mud and cow bile. Mud and poo – what’s the difference? Babies are tough – and self-teaching their immune systems is why.

You think your stye ointment is just for fixing eye troubles – with no idea of its other healing powers.

You don’t have MRSA in your time – methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus – there are no antibiotics for it to resist. But you don’t have the staph infections either – your eye-gop stops them too.

Body self-destruct

Count yourself lucky.

Because allergies aren’t the only thing that happen when the immune system over-reacts.

Ever heard of sepsis?

Blame it on our over-clean, over-safe, sanitised, pasteurised lifestyle. One tiny, everyday disorder and the system goes into meltdown. It’s only a throat tickle, but the body retaliates as if it’s thermo-nuclear war.

Every antibody in your whole metabolism goes into over-drive, but there’s nothing serious to react to. But everything’s gung-ho, so the body attacks itself.

Which is what happens when the immune system has nothing to do. And why 37,000 people die from sepsis every year. Not big, like cancer, but every bit as deadly – which is why heartbroken families have helped put together a trust fund to fight it.

Yeah, MRSA – and all those other hospital-acquired infections. Other bugs too, that we’ve lost our defences for – because we’re too clean-obsessed for our own good.

We’re in it now

Because it’s too late now to go play in the mud. We’re all grown up and unable to learn. A bit of dirt and we all come down with something dreadful – like our every-time-a-coconut holiday friend, norovirus.

So it’s not just MRSA that’s in the poo, it’s us.

OK, so clean-obsessed works, up to a point. Time to go wash your hands. And blast all the germs and viruses around you out of existence with a Hypersteriliser.

And that’s no secret, just common sense.