Tag Archives: norovirus

Good germs, bad germs – we need both to survive

Before-after girl's face
Don’t worry, everything’s OK –
just as long as we keep the balance

This whole page exists because we have a problem with bacteria.

More correctly, we have a problem with hygiene.

If it wasn’t for bacteria we wouldn’t exist – and most bacteria are benign anyway.

Yes, bacteria are dangerous. Yes, they can kill.

Most of the time we co-exist in balance – and maintaining that equilibrium is what keeps us healthy.

Bacteria prejudice

Because we’re psyched to believe all bacteria are bad, it’s creepy to be reminded that they’re crawling all over us – inside and out. We wouldn’t last long however, if they weren’t there.

Our whole digestive system depends on them to extract nutrition from food. One of our key needs is nitrogen, which our bodies are totally unequipped to process. Which is why a bunch of bacteria sits in our gut, munching through nitrogen sources to power us up.

So how about the bad buys?

Time to stand our preconceived thinking on its head.

Our whole existence works on the synergy our bodies have with bacteria – a tit-for-tat relationship that most of the time works just fine. But there are billions and billions of bacteria types – and not all of them work best with humans. The soil might be better, or some kind of tree.

Right and wrong

And that’s when things go pear-shaped. They can’t co-exist because they’re in the wrong place. Wrong reactions happen, things get out of kilter and the body suffers – the bacteria start eating or changing the wrong things and some kind of infection usually results.

In the wrong place? Get rid of it – which is what antibiotics are for.

And since we don’t have any mechanism for encouraging these bacteria to leave peacefully, the only thing we know how to do is kill them. Wrong bacteria out of the way, we start getting better – or more appropriately, we return to balance – over the worst, we’re convalescing.

But killing those wrong bacteria can be brutal, with punishing results for our bodies. One well-known side-effect of antibiotics is diarrhoea. Way out of balance, we get the squitters, which the body voids as harmful waste – including the wrong bacteria. Like norovirus, say – or even nastier – gastroenteritis.

Not nice, being ill

Yes, it happens to all of us at some time – and we know it takes time to come back. The body has to repair the damage before the good guys can get to work. The collywobbles settle down and we’re back to normal.

Or take the other bad guys of the moment, MRSA – methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus to be exact. At any one time, staph bacteria is all over our skin – its function, to keep OTHER harmful intruders out. OK José, everything fine.

But get a cut that lets it into the wrong place and boom! – the body has a problem that the Doc has no medicine to fix. Why? Because with overuse of antibiotics for every little thing for the last 50 years, certain bacteria have learned how to resist them. The price of antibiotics-abuse.

Outside our bodies, of course, is another world. Some environments are safe, others have hazards – wrong bacteria, unable to find the right host, so they choose you and throw your balance out.

Again, we don’t have the mechanism to politely tell these bacteria to go away. We only know how to kill them. And experience has shown us that if we don’t get rid of all of them, they still keep coming. So we hit them with whatever – bleach usually – sodium hypochlorite, formaldehyde, whatever might work.

Brutal tactics

Trouble is, we have to spread it everywhere in our surroundings to clobber them all – good, bad together, we’ve no way of telling the difference. Just so long as we don’t affect anything INSIDE our bodies.

Brutal yes, but this is war – germ war. And we have to protect the bacteria inside us that help us live.

Kinder to practice better hygiene. To wash our hands every time we do stuff that lets the wrong bacteria get to us. But not just for five seconds. Properly, to make sure they all get away – about as long as it takes to sing “Row, row, row your boat” in your head.

After all, we’re all in this together.

Originally posted 2015-04-24 12:30:22.

How to catch a plane without catching a bug

Cabin attendant
Welcome aboard our germ-free flight, no norovirus please!

Ready for take-off?

Ready for this year’s bout of norovirus, or whatever it is you’re in for?

Happens every year, right?

Bugs on a plane. Every passenger’s holiday nightmare. Cabin crew too.

And it keeps happening. However much the airlines say they decontaminate their planes.

Everybody’s sick of it

Sure, on short-hauls – from here to the Med and back – there’s not much time for more than a lick and a promise. A quick wipe-down maybe, empty the toilets, grab all the rubbish out of the gangway.

Sometimes not even that. Come and gone in under twenty minutes. So on-board germs get a return trip. Twice as many people to infect. Victims of time-table urgency.

Back at home base though, every aircraft is supposed to get a thorough deep clean. Nose to tail scrub-out “with sodium hypochlorite diluted to a strength of 100mg/l and a 5% solution of formalin, which is itself a 40% solution of formaldehyde gas in water” exactly per the official World Health Organisation cleaning of aircraft guide.

Wipe-down procedures are laid in detail in this impressive manual. Yet still people keep coming down with bugs – cabin crew particularly, exposed to it more often.

What’s wrong?

Are airlines skimping on the job, or are these procedures simply not good enough?

From the looks of it, a bit of both. So if your airline is cutting corners, good luck to you.

But what about how it’s done?

Check out this short clip of cleaning under the seats.

It might look the business, but remember, space is really tight when you’re a passenger, so a lot of stuff winds up under the seats – shoes, bags, snacks, food debris from inflight meals, magazines, nappies, inflight blanket – you name it. Not just on the floor itself, but pushed up on the underside of seats, against the wall, wherever it’s possible to squash something.

Half the job

Uh, huh. But only the floor is cleaned. Thorough enough, but missing out any smears there might be elsewhere. Go through the WHO manual and you’ll see that detailed though it is, there’s lots of other places get missed too – behind things, under things, in the cracks in between things.

Easy places for germs to lurk. Like norovirus. Or Ebola if your aircraft is flying that way.

Which means that even though your plane might be cleaned and disinfected several times over, it can still harbour germs that can get you – as this Air New Zealand case showed up in 2009.

So why aren’t these measures enough? There are measures for avoiding bugs like norovirus, why aren’t they working?

One reason is our mind-set.

If we don’t catch a bug by breathing it in, we think of it as being spread by physical contact – touching each other, or touching surfaces like grab handles, seat backs and armrests (fomites) – actually contracting it through the skin.

ALL germs are airborne

Ahem. Ever noticed what happens when you swirl around in a dusty room? Clouds of stuff everywhere, sometimes so thick you can’t see – floating around, taking an age to settle back down.

Germs are like that – floating around in the air, all the time. And they’re millions of times smaller than a dust speck – invisible, riding the air in their billions – often small enough to go right through your aircraft’s HEPA air conditioning filters without stopping.

Which means clean all the surfaces without cleaning the interior air, and the airlines are only doing half the job. In the still moments at the gate before you step aboard, these germs have time to settle – ready for your hand to make contact on the seat back, as you steady yourself to sit down.

Hello, norovirus.

Unless of course, your airline is using a Hypersteriliser – a machine that kills germs by spraying them with hydrogen peroxide. A lot safer than sodium hypochlorite or formaldehyde – a banned substance anyway in European biocides.

Vaporised hydrogen peroxide is already proven to be superior in ridding germs from aircraft. But by ionising the hydrogen peroxide into a plasma, the Hypersteriliser is even more effective.

Plus performance germ-killing

Two things happen with ionisation.

The hydrogen peroxide molecules become actively charged, like magnets with the same poles together, immediately trying to escape each other. This forces them to disperse in all directions, up through the air and hard up against all surfaces, burrowing deep into cracks to avoid each other.

The charged molecules are actively attracted to the opposite charge of viruses and bacteria, latching onto them in mid-air or wherever they happen to be – oxidising them to oblivion.

The stuff doesn’t clean the plane – that job still has to be done first. But it does get rid of the germs – all of them – to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

Your plane is now sterile. 99.9999% of viruses and bacteria – gone. No norovirus, no anything. (Tweet this)

Just the ticket, eh?

You might like to mention this to your airline next time.

It’ll keep you out of trouble – and your cabin crew would be glad to know.

Originally posted 2015-04-23 11:50:32.

How your child can survive iffy kid hygiene

Dirty hands around boy
Kid hygiene – you really don’t want to know

Time to start winning the battle.

Though you may have to concede the “Go, clean your teeth” issue.

A minor setback. Serious Colgate moments will start happening from the first date.

Out of your hands

It’s what you can’t supervise that’s the worry. Out of sight and running free, the last thing on their minds is washing their hands or watching how they eat.

Like the stomach-wrenching bout of gastro after comidas rapidas from that street vendor in Spain?

No es su culpa – that was eating with dirty hands from not finding the loo after watching Darth Vader in Guerra de las Galaxias.

Kid hygiene. Out of sight and out of control.

Where they’re vulnerable

Especially at school.

350 like-minded young terrors all bigging it up, defying authority, avoiding soap and water – ‘cos it’s sissy.

All together under one roof. 30 to a class – all breathing the same air, touching the same things, sharing the same space.

Tough creatures, yes. Cast-iron immune systems from eating dirt as toddlers. But growing up fast – increasingly vulnerable to viruses and bacteria their systems have never confronted before. Or coming down with bugs they somehow got away with last time.

Iffy, all right. Not safe at all.

Because sure, the school gets cleaned every night. Tough regulations, class-rooms vacuumed out, basins and toilets wiped down with bleach, all rubbish taken away.

But what about the things kids touch?

Invisible risk

Pencils, crayons, paper, text books, computer keyboards, door handles, taps, loo flushes – and the favourite, underneath the desk where the used chewing gum gets stuck?

What about the classroom air-space – still lingering with somebody’s coronation chicken stashed away two days ago, and uncontrolled farts from baked beans in that day’s school lunch?

What about the things you can’t see too? Invisible viruses and bacteria – as many as 30 billion to a cubic foot – floating on the air and riding the draughts.

Waiting for the kids to come back tomorrow. Waiting for the two or three who will touch their faces once too often.

Rhinovirus – so tiny, a single cell can drop THROUGH a terra cotta roof tile. Or norovirus, the holiday favourite – highly contagious by the slightest skin contact.

The classrooms might get cleaned, but the germ threshold stays the same. A lurking threat unchecked by iffy kid hygiene. Luck of the draw who gets infected next.

Hospital-grade protection

Unless the school is using a Hypersteriliser.

In just twenty minutes, ionised hydrogen peroxide gas plasma reduces that germ threshold to zero. (Tweet this) Oxidising viruses and bacteria to shreds. Reducing the iffyness somewhere closer to safe. No germs, period.

Not compensating for unwashed hands after using the loo, of course. Or chewing pencils that have been on the floor. Or any other party tricks of kid hygiene.

Log 6 Sterility Assurance Level

But it is a safety net. A reassurance that your kid’s classroom is sterile to hospital operating room standards when everyone enters in the morning.

After that, it depends on how persuasive you are at encouraging life habits.

Nerve-wracking, yes. But WE got through it.

So will they – with much better odds in their favour.

Originally posted 2015-04-22 11:16:59.

Why go sick when you don’t need to?

Cruise ship passengers
All that money – and the best time of your life – don’t let a bug ruin it all

Think of it as a warning.

As the weather warms and thoughts turn to holidays, the first of this year’s cruise ship tummy bug outbreaks hits the headlines.

Two San Diego-based cruises to Central America and back at £1,000 a pop just for starters. Sick at sea again.

The onboard tummy bug

Norovirus again – and from the looks of it, full-on gastro. Holiday dreams of a fortnight afloat, sunk in a gut-wrenching nightmare. The price of an unguarded moment maybe in a super-cool cantina in Puerto Quetzal or Puerto Vallarta – where the locals have cast-iron tummies and the turistas drop like flies.

Avoidable, yes. The tacos de frijoles have a certain reputation.

But more likely hygiene issues in an misadventure off the beaten track.

And norovirus is highly contagious.

Get back to the ship before the symptoms set in – an enclosed space shared by 3,000 people – and the inevitable happens, everyone is sick.

Because who remembers to wash their hands and take precautions when you’re having fun? And when it’s difficult to find a place at all until you get back to your cabin?

By then of course, it’s too late. Whoever you touched, whoever you shared food and drinks with – the gastro takes hold like wildfire.

Stop it happening again

OK, the cruise people can’t stop the wayward adventure.

But they CAN minimise the outbreak and control the spread – prevent it reaching all 2,000 passengers and 1,000 crew. Fewer people need to fall sick.

All it takes is a number of onboard Hypersterilisers – the whole ship sterilised by hydrogen peroxide plasma – a zero germ threshold throughout, no viruses or bacteria anywhere.

Because this is not the first outbreak on either of the ships, Celebrity Infinity or Legend of the Seas. And gastroenteritis is a major recurring onboard sickness as stressed in the US Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) own schedule for Vessel Sanitation.

A weighty document, it details exactly how a cruise ship should be sanitised after an outbreak. The hard way, by rubbing and scrubbing.

“After both ships docked, crews went to work scrubbing down every inch of the cabins and common rooms.”

Not necessarily that effective. If you think of all the inaccessible nooks and crannies that exist on a cruise ship, there are thousands of places a virus could lurk, even after a deep clean sanitation blitz.

Reinfection threat

Nor can the ship’s HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) air conditioning system do much to filter out the virus. Norovirus cells measure 0.04 microns, but the minimum size a HEPA system can filter out is only 0.3 microns.

Even though the ship has been thoroughly processed, norovirus can survive on hard surfaces for seven days or more.

By which time the ship is back in Central America in the middle of its next cruise – all ready for the new crop of passengers – with no clue where the new outbreak is coming from.

Which is why the Hypersteriliser is so vital.

Force-fed dispersal

The super-fine plasma airborne mist it generates is ionised.

Actively charged, every molecule is vigorously trying to escape from its neighbour. It spreads everywhere by force – the molecules rushing to fill the whole air space and jamming up hard against every surface – underneath, behind, everywhere.

And of course, deep into cracks and crevices.

Even better, the actively charged mist is attracted to viruses and bacteria like a high-powered magnet – grabbing them and ripping them apart by shoving oxygen atoms at them.

No germ can survive, the ship is sterilised. Any source of infection now is brought on board as food or cargo – or on the persons or in the baggage of newly joining passengers.

No bugs next time

No norovirus, no bugs of any kind. Nobody coming down sick. Your holiday is safe.

You might want to mention that to your cruise line before you embark.

Two weeks is a long time to be ill when you’re not seasick.

Originally posted 2015-04-15 11:01:37.

A&E lockdown: shock norovirus wipeout

Rush to AandE
Panic stations, yes –
but not the end of the world

Fortunately, there is a panic button to press.

A very effective one too.

But first priority has to be to evacuate everybody out of there.

Set up somewhere for a few hours with unaffected staff – a marquee from the ambulance service is better than nothing.

Because this is winter and things can’t stop running.

You can’t stop the world

Cold weather. Ice. Old people falling and traffic accidents – you know the score.

Now, the panic button.

It’s on the front panel of an automated room steriliser. A thing that looks like a small stylish wheelie-bin. Press it, and you have 30 seconds to leave the room – before it starts spraying an ultra-fine mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide.

Yes, the same hydrogen peroxide from yonks back that you might use to treat wounds and disinfect.

Nineteenth Century champion

But with a high-tech Twenty-First Century difference.

Ionised, that fine spray is significantly smaller than drops of water mist. So light, it rides easily into the air, spreading upwards and outwards. Under things too – and behind – and deep into crevices where normal cleaning doesn’t reach.

Except this isn’t a cleaner. It’s a full-on Log 6 steriliser.

As a powerful oxidiser, hydrogen peroxide is a killer for viruses and bacteria. All of them.

It’s electronically charged too, so it physically reaches out and grabs pathogen cells, releasing oxygen atoms that rip their cell structure apart. A dry mist that evaporates as it works.

And to make doubly sure, that mist is boosted with another known germ-killer from way back – colloidal silver.

An ultra-thin residue of it is left on surfaces, a sterilising layer for on-going protection.

Safe and secure

No germs can survive this double onslaught. They’re gone on contact. No more norovirus, no more e.coli. No more Ebola either, if you were ever unfortunate enough to face that challenge.

And the stuff reaches everywhere, including places that never normally get touched. The underside of beds and trolleys, the keyboards and cables of electronic equipment, behind and on top of cupboards.

And the one place that never normally gets treated – the total room AIR space.

Worth remembering, that.

Because since all microbes are smaller than the eye can see, they’re mostly airborne anyway – even if that’s not how they’re contracted.

It’s in the air

Normal sterilising takes care of surfaces, but not the air. So as soon as you’re done, the bugs settle back – and you sit with a re-infection problem. (Tweet this)

Sterilise the air too, and that doesn’t happen.

Twenty minutes, forty, and you’re done – it depends on the room size. Totally safe too, hydrogen peroxide decomposes in action to just oxygen and water, which evaporates anyway. Then, just in case, say another ten minutes to vent.

Less than an hour and you’re back in business.

The entire place is sterilised, just by pressing a button.

Ask the folks in the haematology department at Salford Royal, they’ve had their machine for two years now – and infections are seriously down.

Under sixty minutes

So, less than an hour. Didn’t think it could be that quick? Well, with all the pressure on NHS right now, who can afford to close a ward for a week, let alone A&E?

If it’s super urgent, call Jon Knight on 07776 451222 or click here. A hit team can be rolling ASAP, often within the hour.

Easy-peasy, and you’re sorted. No more norovirus. Or anything else.

Hope you never caught it in the line of fire.

Originally posted 2015-01-22 12:31:14.

NHS rescue: let’s reclaim all norovirus shutdowns

Girl in mask
With all medics flat out busy, who needs norovirus too?

Whoa there, people! A&E in tents, patients brought in by fire engines  – isn’t it time to take down that rotten norovirus?

No, it’s not risky – and yes, it can be done.

Pick up the phone now and chances are good you can get those wards back in action by the end of the day.

Emergency on top of emergency

Because with all hands already at the pump, could anything be more screamingly urgent?

Like last month, Southampton General had eight wards closed – forty beds not available right in the middle of a crisis.

This week it’s Croydon University with three wards shut, another four partially, and 28 staff reporting symptoms.

All it needs is…

OK, let’s not go there.

Sterilised safe

The answer is to sterilise those wards quick with ionised hydrogen peroxide.

If the ward is already shut and patients are out, you can probably claim it back in an hour – all bacteria and viruses gone – 99.9999% germ free, to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

If the ward is occupied, it can be done in sealed-off sections, doubling up the beds for the 40 odd minutes the stuff needs to work and time to vent out afterwards. Again 99.9999% germ free, to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

To good to be true?

Ask the team at Salford Royal, where they started using the stuff in the haemotology unit back in 2013.

When the hospital’s record in reducing infection levels became so impressive they earned a special report on the BBC’s Breakfast TV.

Super-oxidiser

So how does ionised hydrogen peroxide work?

An automated dispersal unit about the size of a small wheelie-bin releases a super-fine mist of charged particles finer than water. The mist is boosted with colloidal silver, actively grabbing at bacteria and virus cells – ripping them apart and oxidising their guts out.

Spread is everywhere, treating the total room – the entire air space – as well as under, around and behind all furniture and fittings.

In just seconds it kills all the nasties: MRSA, c. difficile, e. coli and of course norovirus. Ebola too, though you’ve probably got that well isolated.

Twenty minutes and the place is sterile, safe for everyone. (Tweet this)

Useful stuff when you think of these infections and how resistant they’re becoming to antibiotics. Prevention instead of cure.

Because yes, the new discovery of Teixobactin might pull us back from a return to the Dark Ages, but it will still take a while to get here.

Results now, now, now

To get hydrogen peroxide treatment right NOW, the guy with the hot line is Jon Knight on his mobile at 07776 451222.

You’re already heroes, coping with all this – you don’t need a norovirus wipeout, just as you start seeing daylight.

Originally posted 2015-01-08 12:44:59.

‘Tis the season to be jolly careful about hygiene

Sad Santa kid
Don’t take chances – nobody wants a bug for Christmas

You better watch out – flu and norovirus are coming to town. And bringing a whole load of their friends with them.

Both are highly contagious.

Both transfer easily on contact – mistletoe, kiss-kiss, shake hands, hug-hug, back-slap.

Which means your festive season could be over before it starts – friends and family with you.

The cruise ship curse

Norovirus particularly, gets in on the act preparing food – norovirus, gastroenteritis, food poisoning, stomach flu, call it what you will. And there’s nothing festive about it – vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, headache and fatigue, a real party pooper.

Nine hospitals have already closed wards because of it – not enough beds for people with complications. Young children and old people who dehydrate, which can very quickly become life threatening.

Associated nasties

Flu is not nice either – the end of jollity and just as catching.

Don’t take chances when the sneezing starts. You’ll never know what kind you have until it hits you – and it could be a killer. The global outbreak of 1918 killed 50 million people, more than twice the casualties in the whole of World War One.

Yeah, yeah, it’s Mad Friday and everybody’s having fun.

Ho, ho, ho – food and drink and lots of it.

So a few precautions are not just a good idea – they’re absolutely essential.

Hike up your hygiene

Like washing you hands for a start. As often as you can think about it.

Germs love getting in through our body’s access ports – mouth, nose, eyes, ears. And we touch our faces up to 3,000 times a day – 3 to 5 times every waking minute.

Better still, clobber all germs before they start.

It takes just twenty minutes to mist up a room with hydrogen peroxide. An actively charged super-oxidiser, it grabs viruses and bacteria out of the air and rips them  apart by shoving oxygen at them.  All germs gone, the place is completely sterile.

Kind of crucial when you remember that neither flu nor norovirus respond to antibiotics. You can’t stop them once they’ve got you, so you’ve got to strike first.

And germs are ALWAYS around. There’s never a time when you can forget about them.

But now that you know, you’re good to go.

Let’s get this party started.

Originally posted 2014-12-19 12:21:25.

You’ve got to be sick, sick, to need the NHS

Heart attack woman
If it’s not a sickie, how long will you last in denial?

Sick as in not well, feeling ill, under the weather.

Because if you’re well, or only slightly poorly, you’ve no business wasting NHS time.

This is winter, see? When the NHS is really over-stretched.

Cold weather, lots of breathing problems, the seasonal bash of norovirus – and boozed-up party-goers with injuries from fights, accidents or liver-crashes.

A&E meltdown

All on top of the usual load of people needing operations, treatment for disease, controlled recuperation, or long-term care.

If none of these are you , then stay the hell out. Trivial problems just kick the whole system into overload.

Unless of course, you’re one of those workaholics in denial. Taking a big chance, but trying not to think about it.

You know you’re sick, but you’re swamped at work. Or maybe you fear for your job if you take time off.

Wellness doesn’t help

Yeah, yeah, so your company has a wellness programme. You go to the gym, follow their salady diets, fake the medicals or duck them.

But you’re at your desk six days a week at 7 am, work through regularly until 10 pm, always burning the candle at both ends.

Always with a sniffle too, because your resistance is low. Tired out of your mind, with no resilience. Tummy complaining, but you drag yourself around. How long before you give yourself a heat attack?

You need a doctor and you know it. And you’re probably dragging your colleagues down with you – a misplaced work ethic that costs UK businesses £29 BILLION a year.

You see, just by being ill you put others at hazard.

Your company might have wellness procedures and care about health.

Colleagues at risk

But betcha a million quid they’ve got nothing to get rid of harmful germs spreading around in the workplace. A quick vacuum and a wipedown and that’s your lot. All those viruses and bacteria just waiting to bring somebody down.

And the rate you’re going, you could trigger an epidemic.

Which means you need the NHS as a matter of urgency. And your employer needs to hike up hygiene levels before half the staff join you.

Like HEPA filters in the air conditioning to take out the germs.  Or a nightly mist-up with hydrogen peroxide to make the whole place sterile. Or both, for 24 hour protection. More effective than exercises in leotards, tracking your weight, and making you eat grapes.

So that if you insist on going to work, at least those around you stand a fighting chance.

Bet on yourself

Go on, get yourself to the doctor. You’re genuine, not pulling a sickie. And the whole NHS exists exactly for people like you. You’ve proved your worth, now invest in yourself.

DO IT!

And if your boss still can’t come to terms with that, you’re working in the wrong place anyway.

Do it NOW, before something happens and you can’t.

Ever.

Originally posted 2014-12-18 14:31:57.

Please, please, help our paramedic heroes

Fallen down stairs
Always there when we need them – just call 999

Temperatures are plunging, but the NHS is in meltdown.

There’s massive and unprecedented demands on the service all over  – ambulance services, A&Es, treatment centres stretched to the limit as if it’s New Year’s Eve.

It might be an ordinary week in the run up to Christmas, but more people are feeling the sudden cold and succumbing, more victims are being felled in norovirus attacks, and more people are drinking themselves silly – more arguments, more fights, more injuries, more accidents.

Pre-Christmas crisis

With 11,008 call outs last week, London Ambulance Service has raised its service status to critical.

The rest of the country was equally scary – West Midlands 3,550, North West 3,973, East of England 3,278.

Scarier still is that around 1 in every 10 call outs is alcohol related – a legacy of low prices that encourage drinking at home before a night out – straight into a drinking culture fuelled by festive season bonhomie and extended opening hours.

Many other calls are unnecessary, paramedics responding to patients who should have gone to their GP.

But many people can’t get to their GP. With many surgeries only open during business hours, waiting times for an ordinary appointment can be a week or more. Not good when you’re hurting and need attention NOW.

Going to A&E has the same problem. First priority is of course to more serious cases – but even for acute pain you can expect to be triaged to a standard 4-hour wait.

Paramedic superstars

So it’s the ambulance crews who take the brunt – long 12-hour shifts with no let up from pressure.

The stress is amazing. Response time for a life-threatening emergency is supposed to be eight minutes. Not easy when traffic congestion alone could make journeys ten times longer.

A bottle-neck in many A&Es ramps up the pressure. They’re busy in there.

Backed up when they should be on the road, ambulances might queue four and five deep to reach a hospital bay – and during that time the patient is the crew’s responsibility – along with pressure to cope with still more incidents happening out there, round the clock…

Across the board the NHS is receiving £700 million to cope with this year’s pressure. It’s not enough and all of it should go to the ambulance service urgently.

Because in case you hadn’t noticed, life isn’t as easy as it once was. GPs no longer make house calls. And when you finally do get through to an appointment, five minutes consultation time is your lot – next please, there’s people waiting.

But call 999 and the ambulance service comes running. Which means that paramedics are way more than the frontline emergency teams they’re trained to be. And as the sharp edge of the NHS, their work takes the heat off right through the whole system , not least through overworked A&Es.

In safe hands

You see, to Tom, Dick or Harrys like us, getting sick or having an accident is a major drama. We’re scared, we don’t know what’s happening to us, we anticipate the worst.

Which is where the training of our paramedics is so amazing. And why they get called so often.

Theirs is the calm, confident voice of the professional. Reassuring. Soothing. You’re obviously in the hands of experts. You can relax.

You’re in your own home too. Not the daunting environment of a hospital. Familiar things surround you while practiced hands provide care. You’re going to be OK. No panic attacks. No nervous reactions. No complications.

If you’ve ever been cared for by an ambulance crew you’ll know the quiet sureness, the easy confidence – already three-quarters of the way to feeling better.

Meet your new GP

Which makes them our new GPs – and then some. And every year 1 in 20 of us will call urgently for their services.

Not for “take two aspirins and call me in the morning” either – but for serious needs like segment elevation myocardial infarction – a type of heart attack.

Anything in fact, from minor injuries to cardiac arrest, to multiple casualties from serious road accidents. How many GPs can handle that?

Our paramedics are still in the hot seat though. The NHS is a big place and £700 million doesn’t go very far in a country that needs expert care 24/7.

More ambulances, more crews, more systems to handle them, they’re urgent now.

Because come rain or shine, our paramedics are always there when we need them – no matter how tired, hungry or rushed of their feet they are.

Genuine heroes.

And they deserve better than 10p in the pound for saving our lives.

Originally posted 2014-12-16 14:21:41.

Killer viruses: get yourself some protection

Eye make up
You do it every day
and it could be utterly deadly

Blink and you might miss it.

Tucked away amongst today’s latest is a nifty device to sterilise make-up brushes . A few minutes and no more bacteria.

Never thought of it before?

Right in your face

Actually make-up brushes are a major source of possible infection – especially in salons, used on multiple clients. That unexpected rash or worse started right in front of the mirror.

With use, make-up oil and dirt build up on your brushes, trapping all kinds of bacteria that spread over your face. Sure, you notice that they get dirty, so from time to time you probably wash them.

Because they take ages to dry, more bacteria develops within the hairs, making things worse not better. You use the brush again, close to your mouth, eyes and nose, all passages that viruses and bacteria exploit to invade your body. Next thing, rhinovirus or goodness knows what.

Ultra violet magic

So this latest Brush Medic gadget takes care of it – basically a mini vanity-slab-top drying cabinet with a UV generator built in. The ultra violet light irradiates the brushes, killing viruses and bacteria by destroying their DNA. Next time you use your brush, it’s sterilised safe.

Uh huh.

That takes care of your face, but what about the rest of you? And how about where you live – the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom? If germs can build up on your face, aren’t they everywhere?

All around, and inside you

If you could see them, you might be terrified. Because billions and billions of them surround us every day. We’re not aware of them because they’re too small to notice – smaller than the smallest grain of dust. And every one of us pulls around an aura of 3 million or so, every single second.

So why aren’t you sick?

Well one microbe by itself can’t do very much, your body’s protection system is way to clever. Your skin for instance has an acid mantle, that’s why its pH balance is so important. A single germ lands on you and it’s quickly history.

But not when they gang up on you, like in spray from a sneeze. And not when they find a way into your body through a cut or something you eat. They can even get in through your eye if you rub it, exposing the sensitive moist part.

Ah, but this Brush Medic doohickey has started something with its UV generator. Ultra violet light gets used everywhere to kill germs. Those brave medics who’ve gone to Africa to fight the Ebola disease go through a UV tunnel every day before work.

Beyond your face

Closer to home, you can get a handheld UV sanitising wand you can wave around, zapping germs as it goes. It’s fine for a once-over, like a spray of aerosol Dettol. Sanitising, not sterilising – bringing the risk down to one germ in a hundred.

The medical jobbies have way more firepower, using pulsed xenon to generate shortwave ultra violet – so potent that people using it have to keep clear. Real sterilising power down to one germ in a hundred thousand.

But like we said, germs are everywhere. And you can’t go humping a great ultra violet unit on castors with you everywhere you go. Like what happens where a lot of people get together in the same place? Restaurants, offices, schools, wherever.

Well in most places, nothing – as you probably know. People don’t think of germs, so they don’t do anything about them.

Not so wise when you think about what they do to you.

Medicine-resistant germs

Yes, you can get sick and possibly die. But don’t count on your doctor to rescue you. Right now the whole medical profession is in a flat spin because germs are becoming resistant to antibiotics. You don’t get better because your medicines won’t work.

Ah, but that’s why the make-up brush gadget is so good. It stops you getting infections before they start. And if the medicines don’t work, prevention is better than cure.

Grown-up hair bleach

Which is where another super germ-fighter comes into play – one you’re going to start seeing often. It’s a wheelie-bin sized auto-robot that mists up enclosed spaces with an ultra-fine hydrogen peroxide spray. Yes, the same hydrogen peroxide that whitens teeth and bleaches hair.

That fine spray is ionised so it reaches everywhere – up, under, around, inside. With a static charge that grabs at viruses and bacteria like a magnetic snatch. At the same moment, it releases oxygen atoms, oxidising the germs so it rips their cells to shreds. Serious sterilising down to one germ in a million.

All you do is close the windows and doors, press the button and get out. Twenty minutes later the place is sterile. The restaurant kitchen, the school toilets, the hotel room, the tanning salon, the fish and chip shop.

Worth keeping an eye on when you read about campylobacter, or norovirus, or whatever else is doing the rounds.

Gems are never safe, but you can be.

Originally posted 2014-11-27 14:21:35.