Tag Archives: norovirus

How to eat nothing and still catch food poisoning

Disagreeing woman
It’s not just what you eat – it’s everything you touch as well

It can’t happen.

But it has.

For whatever reason, you’re not eating right now.

Nil by mouth – you’re going for blood tests, trying to lose weight, or simply purifying your system.

Why me?

And now out of nowhere comes the cramps and the vomiting. Some kind of gastro, probably norovirus.

Weird though.

The family all went out for eats, but you stayed home. Not off your food or anything, just not eating now.

So they came home full of the joys, but 24 hours later were all as sick as dogs.

You too, though you never touched at thing. Anyway Mexican disagrees with you – all those jalapeños, burn your insides out.

Ah, but you touched them, didn’t you – the rest of the family? And they touched you.

It’s on your fingers

And that’s all it takes when there are germs about, especially a potent nasty like norovirus. Like the lady who came down with it from NOT eating oysters.

Norovirus spreads on contact – and it’s highly contagious, 1,000 times more virulent than flu.

A hug or a cuddle, and you’ve got it too. Transferred from skin or clothing – or something others have handled. Irises from the florist they brought back for you. The mobile with the pictures they took to show who was there. The car keys in the dish in the hallway.

Could you have stopped it?

Probably.

But like most of us, you don’t think you’re under threat until something happens. And with norovirus – which takes 24 hours before it shows itself – it’s too late when it does.

Which is always the thing with germs.

Invisible killers

They’re there all the time, even though you can’t seem them. Too small, unless you have a very powerful microscope. Out of sight, out of mind.

And your immune system kicks in most of the time, before they do damage. Day-to-day, you have no idea there’s a war on.

But, being so potent, norovirus only needs a touch. And it’s lighter than air molecules, so it could be floating around in suspension too. Somebody pulls off a heavy sweater and a whole cloud of microbes is flung off – to breathe in, catch on your skin, lodge in the soft tissue round your eye

Or simply get swallowed.

Same thing if it’s on your hands – the hug, remember?

And your hands touch everything.

Which is why we call norovirus the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

Because it is.

We don’t see germs, so we’re not worried about them.

And there’s a kind of shared grudge against having to wash our hands all the time.

We know we should. But we seem to be in denial. Even the fussiest of us kicks at always charging off to the washroom every five minutes.

Sloppy hygiene

Fact is, our hygiene habits are so sloppy, it’s a wonder we’re not sick more of the time.

Which straight away shows how easily food poisoning happens.

And how easy it is to avoid.

Wash Hands LogoWash hands, use an antibacterial gel, use antibacterial wipes – whatever. It’s better than being ill. Better than the pain and discomfort of the cramps. Better than the indignity of vomiting and diarrhoea.

OK, we’re lazy, but norovirus is not a bug to play games with. In the US, around 20 million people come down with it every year – 10% of all Americans. 400,000 of them wind up in A&E and 800 actually die.

All because we’re afraid of soap and water?

That doesn’t wash, does it? If it’s so easy to be safe, why the heck aren’t we?

And if we backed up washing hands with a Hypersteriliser, we’d be even safer.

It makes rooms sterile by destroying all viruses and bacteria – oxidising them to nothing with hydrogen peroxide plasma.

OK, you can start eating again.

With your hands clean and the germs gone, you know you can safely enjoy it.

Originally posted 2015-09-29 13:44:16.

A big chomp of pizza – and 3.971 million germs

Pizza girl
Are you having 3.971 million germs
with that?

Yum!

Eating with your fingers.

Is anything better?

You bet.

Eating with your fingers AFTER YOU’VE WASHED THEM.

Germs for sure

Because however nice your chosen favourite is – it’s not worth the tummy cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea that visits you at 2.00 in the morning.

E. coli, norovirus – take your pick.

It could be any one of thousands bacteria or viruses on your fingers at any one time.

Collected through your morning until now…

Off the money in your purse, your Oyster card, the STOP button on the bus, the door handle of the coffee shop, the face of your mobile, the front door to your office, the lift call button, your computer on switch, the keyboard on your desk, the mail in your In-tray, your desk itself, your office phone, the photocopier start switch, the door to the loo, the tissue paper you use there, the flush handle, the bag of doughnuts for coffee break, the parcel from the printing company, the felt-tip pens for the update board, your face, your lipstick for touch-up, the conference room table, the overhead projector, the overhead slides from sales, the meeting microphone on/off, the stairway banisters, the lunch-time news-sheet, the pizza-joint window choosing while you queue in the street, the bag they put it in to take back to your desk…

Er, excuse us.

Where was “wash your hands” in all that?

Our minds go blank

Don’t look so surprised. Most of us forget, even though we’re sticklers for clean.

Yet everything we touch, every second of every day, is covered in viruses and bacteria.

We are too. Billions of them on our skin and clothing.

Billions more inside us too. Over 6 billion in our mouths, more than the number of people on Earth. More than 100 trillion in our gut – partners in helping us digest.

So when we pick up that pizza with our fingers, there’s plenty stuff for us to swallow that we’re not supposed to.

Yes, we’ve got bacteria inside us already – but the right ones, they’re supposed to be there. And most of the time, even the wrong ones are OK – our immune systems are too strong to let them take hold.

But the stuff on our fingers is dodgy. Often in quantities big enough to give us grief. And often really yucky stuff we’d rather not know about. Like if you didn’t wash your hands when you went to the loo, there could be poo on there.

Hold it!

Don’t take that bite!

Put it down and wash your hands first.

Be safe.

And don’t reckon you can blame the pizza company if you come down with something.

Those pizza oven are way too hot for germs to survive – 800°F, or even more.

And nobody touched your super-size slice. Straight off the pizza shovel, gloved hands on the cutter wheel, into the box, and bagged into your own hands.

Wash your hands and everything’s hunky. Quattro stagioni perfetto.

Forget and take a chance – you could be in hospital sooner than you think.

More than 800 people die from norovirus every year. More than 5,000 from e.coli. Add c.difficile, Delhi Belly and rotavirus – the numbers jump to over 80,000.

Don’t be one of them.

A wrong-way encounter with any of these nasties will be more than you can chew.

After you with the soap.

Originally posted 2015-09-28 16:04:42.

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.

Originally posted 2015-09-21 12:44:53.

Germ wars – flu, e.coli and the rest: now it’s personal

Woman shooter
Germs are always at you –
so take them down first

Nobody thinks about bugs until they get one.

OK one minute, cough-splutter the next.

Or gut-twisting tummy cramps that make you want to die.

From tiny, microscopic bugs, a million times smaller than a speck of dust.

Killers, chasing you

Out of sight, out of mind. Until the pounding head and hot/cold sweats take you over.

Gimme the pills, I don’t want to do this – get me out of here!

Yeah, right.

Most of the time, we only have ourselves to blame.

Because our personal hygiene habits, quite frankly, are up to maggots.

We know there’s germs around – we know they’re transferred by direct contact or touching infected objects. But you wouldn’t think so from the way we handle ourselves.

Uncomfortable truths

Why?

Well, it’s not on the radar, is it?

When was the last time you even THOUGHT about washing your hands? After breakfast? Before lunch? At all?

And how many thousand objects have you touched during the morning – other people, out in the street, grab handles that never get cleaned, ever? And you’re going to eat that pizza with your bare hands?

No wonder you got norovirus.

Drug resistant bugs

Don’t hold your breath that the Doc has got some miracle prescription to fix it either. These days we so over-use pills that those sneaky viruses and bacteria have mutated to be resistant to all kinds of drugs.

Which is why our top medical heavyweight – Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer of England – is so strongly gung-ho that we have to REDISCOVER HYGIENE all over again. Re-learn to wash our hands.

Wash our hands, all the time, before ever doing anything. Because if medicines aren’t going to work any more, it’s up to us to get ourselves some personal protection in the first place.

In our own defence though, it’s not all our own bad habits. We might be paranoid about washing our hands, yet STILL come down with those crippling cramps and disgusting diarrhoea. Those bugs got under the radar.

Like that annoying voice in your GPS says, “Recalculating”.

Time to rethink

OK, we properly scrubbed, soap and water – the works. But how about the tap we have to turn off afterwards? And how about the door handle we twist to get out of there?

Everybody who uses the loo touches that handle – and most of them never wash their hands at all.

Doomed?

Not quite – which is why we might want to rethink our whole soap-and-water strategy.

It’s not always easy to get to anyway. You’re out shopping with the kids and suddenly have an emergency. It doesn’t help that the nearest washroom is three floors up, four hundred yards away. Ideally we need something to keep on our person – something AVAILABLE AT ALL TIMES.

Handbags and pockets

We’ve already got it. Pop into Tesco and for less than a quid, you can get a bottle of sanitising hand gel to keep on you at all times. For less than 30p, the kids can have their own one too.

Squidge it on, work it around, let it evaporate. Easy.

Or even better, get yourself some sanitising wipes – again, to keep with you all the time – and again for around a quid. The ever ready rescue pack. Your personal hygiene standby.

Good stuff too. Unlike gel, the tissue gives you something to wipe off with. Physically remove dirt at the same time as you wipe out the germs. Not exactly a scrubbing brush, but just as good as a face cloth or sponge.

And that sanitising moistness too, evaporates. Your hands are germ-free – without touching anything that might be contaminated – job done.

Plus, on a purely practical point, it’s a lot easier to find a rubbish bin for dumped wipes than it is to find a washroom. Especially after dark when the loos are all locked. Or the shopping centre’s closed and everybody’s gone home.

OK, you’ve got your protection. Now go out there and be well.

Originally posted 2015-09-09 12:27:47.

Now arriving – your next nasty illness is in seat 19F

Sleeping woman on plane
Happy holidays – just make sure you don’t bring back any unwanted souvenirs

Makes you cross, doesn’t it?

Or worried.

You’re at your local supermarket, not even on a flight – yet somehow the latest bug has found its way to you.

Bugs are always everywhere

MERS, maybe. Or this year’s flu strain. Norovirus, perhaps. Typhoid, cholerea. Or gasp, Ebola. The latest illness.

Hard to tell in the early stages – they all feel the same. When impending victims don’t even know they’ve got it. But it’s there, incubating.

That woman with the tan, coming back from Las Palmas, for example. The one in 19F.

She looks and probably feels completely normal.

Because she is.

100% OK – full of holiday sparkle – feeling like a million dollars.

Yet in two days the sweats will start. The headache, the feeling tired and feverish, the sore throat, the loss of appetite.

Mistaken identity or emergency?

Aeroplane flu or something more serious? You can never be too careful.

It’ll take maybe another three days to know.

And in that time, how many people will she come in contact with?

How many objects will she touch? (Fomites)

Because if she’s highly contagious, you’ll pick it up in days, without coming anywhere near her.

Easy-peasy, like this. Her suitcase was handled eight times by the time it hit the carousel at Gatwick.

And there it was, lurking on the handle. A special import for you – and she never even knew. This year’s illness – yours for free.

Like, whenever did she clean her suitcase handle? Whenever does anyone?

A hole in your hygiene

And her Mum takes her straight out to Nando’s – a surprise welcome home party with all her girl friends. Big lovies, big celebration, champagne, everything.

And nobody ever even thought to wash their hands.

Which is how you got it.

From one of the girls. Hi, welcome home, hug-hug, mwuh!

Spread by contact.

One week later and it’s on you – direct from the handle of the supermarket trolley.

Well, think carefully now – do you wash your hands when you get home from shopping?

Or when you pack all the stuff away?

Come to that, if the evening meal is a rush, do you wash your hands before leaping into cooking?

All too easy isn’t it?

Self protection

And all too easy to fix.

Just a little soap and water.

Or, if it’s in the air, a good dose with a Hypersteriliser to keep everyone safe at the office.

Oh yes, one other thing.

If you do feel ill, please stay home.

You’ll feel better – and nobody else will get it.

Originally posted 2015-08-26 18:41:24.

Airborne norovirus from a vomit machine? The stuff is already up there!

Research team
There’s something in the air and it’s going to make you sick

Nasty stuff norovirus.

As common as the common cold but a great deal more unpleasant.

Like, 20 million Americans come down with it every year, according the US Centers for Disease Control – nearly 10% of all Yanks.

Hospital wards closed

We’re not much better in the UK either – 610 reported hospital outbreaks in 2013, 94% of them triggering ward closures.

Big time upchucking like that kinda explains why researchers at North Carolina State University and Wake Forest University have recently gone to so much trouble to make a vomiting machine.

If so many people are catching it, the stuff’s got to be airborne.

It’s catching

It’s certainly highly contagious. Spread mostly by touch from infected people – but also from fomites they have touched – door handles, phones, soap, salad servers, light switches – almost any surface is a transmission source.

Apparently the research machine is to prove that particles in airborne vomit spray can easily infect others if they are close enough.

And sure, looks like no doubt of it – the tests are pretty conclusive. The first DIRECT evidence of airborne distribution, according to researchers – happening by a process they call aerosolisation.

Uh huh.

Maybe we’re a little slow, but if memory serves correctly norovirus particles are microscopic – around 38 nanometres across. That’s 0.038 microns, or 0.000038 millimetres.

Blowing in the wind

About the same size as atmospheric dust, which the wind regularly blows 3,000 miles from the Sahara desert and dumps on gleaming 4x4s parked in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Doesn’t that mean slightly airborne?

And it only takes 20 or so particles of norovirus to bring you down with gastroenteritis – around 0.00076 millimetres across. Still smaller than the POINT of a pin – and so light it’s heavier than the diesel-laden air around it.

Not only airborne, but light enough NEVER to touch ground again.

And that’s not just us guessing.

More tests, more tests

ANOTHER set of researchers – from Canada’s Université Laval and the Québec Heart and Lung Institute Research Centre – claim to be the first to quantify norovirus particles in the air, in concentrations varying from 13 to 2350 particles per cubic metre.

All tested in eight hospitals and written up in the influential magazine Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Oh.

Seems you don’t need a vomit machine to prove the stuff is up there.

Any poor sod who’s unlucky enough to be near an existing sufferer can personally do the same.

Or anyone who breathes in a chance 20 particles walking down the street.

Yeah, it’s catching.

Hike up our hygiene

So wash your hands every chance you get.

And insist that the space you live and work in is properly treated with a Hypersteriliser. If you take out ALL viruses and bacteria, norovirus can’t get to you.

Because it would just be your luck to pick up the bug from somebody’s bio-cloud who was in the same room two days ago.

Vomiting machine?

That would be us.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Originally posted 2015-08-20 18:07:19.

How our kids’ revolting manners make us all sick

Crosspatch
It’s not just naughty, that iffy habit could be life-threatening

Talked to the staff at your local school recently?

Beyond the polite smiles and friendly greeting. Beyond the usual about how your child is doing. Down to the real stuff about what’s actually going on.

The sordid side

Like the disaster of meal times.

No, it’s not anything about the food or how it’s served. In most places that’s pretty good and the dinner ladies know what they’re doing.

It’s the kids themselves. Their manners.

Not just some of them, more like ALL – yours included. Right through junior school and all the way to Sixth Form.

Peer group pressure and all that.

What’s a knife? What’s a fork?

Because none of them seem to know about knives and forks.

Half of them don’t even pick them up and put them on their lunch tray.

Uh huh. Spot the missing life skill – or why they’ll never get invited to Buckingham Palace.

Well, you try it. How are you going to eat your pasta with tomato sauce when you sit down? Or your chicken roast with gravy and vegetables?

No, it’s not like eating Indian food – where eating with your fingers is the cultural thing.

Culture shock

This is the full-on horrific kids catastrophe – greasy fingers, dribbled clothing, smears of sauce around their mouths.

Horrific, but it’s true.

Check it out with the teachers who do lunch hall duty.

It’s not a one-off, these kids do it regularly. They never seem to think otherwise.

Which boggles the mind about whether they washed their hands beforehand. Or at all.

Because there’s plenty of evidence they don’t do it afterwards. Stains on exercise books, blotches on clothing, faces like make-up sessions gone wrong.

Handle it, THIS IS THE NORM!

No manners makes monsters

Ask why, and the teachers will tell you. Either the family never eats at table. Or meals at home are always convenience eating. A sandwich at the computer. Chicken nuggets and chips in front of the TV.

Just check the greasy marks on light switches, door handles, keyboards and remotes!

That’s the evidence, right there.

Nobody’s washing their hands. Probably not before – and certainly not after. And don’t even think about when they go to the toilet.

So if your little Princess comes home with a tummy ache, or cramps, or spends half the night on the loo – yes, it’s the school’s fault.

Not because hygiene standards in the place are lax. But because the kids themselves don’t have any. And nobody’s allowed to come down heavy, insisting on basic minimum cleanliness.

Political correctness and all that – teachers are gagged. Even sharp voices can get them fired – no matter how far these embryo delinquents push the envelope.

Whatever happened to the principle that rights have to be earned?

Self-inflicted misery

Yup, we’ve brought it on ourselves.

First with our own lack of discipline. Second with our increasingly crazy lifestyle.

Our whole fast-food, always-on-the-go culture. Meals gobbled on the fly, usually in a rush, with never a thought about soap and water. Everyone grows up and 95% of us still have no clue how to wash our hands properly.

Hello, norovirus – the vomit-comet wonderbug! Over and over again.

No wonder it’s all over the place – fear of soap and water.

Total ablutophobia.

Oh yes, you can betcha. If the kids bring gastro-whatever into the house, everybody’s going to get it, including you. They’re not washing their hands at school, so what’s different at home?

The Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease strikes again – all because we’re too easy-going and laid-back about manners or hygiene.

Because too many of us default on inculcating life skills. Cop out of being parents. Duck out of responsibilities. Feeding the myth that kids are in school because it’s a crèche – child-minding while we go to the mall, or rush off to the office.

Sad, totally sad.

So you’re going to come down with the tummy cramps and diarrhoea upchuck – so is everybody at work because norovirus takes three days to show itself. Three days of unsuspecting innocence until all hell breaks loose – or more accurately, all poo breaks loose.

Nauseating, isn’t it?

And how can we be so sure it’ll be norovirus?

It’s more common than the common cold, highly contagious, and never loses an opportunity to exploit sloppy hygiene.

All from dirty hands. Two minutes with soap and water – the same time it takes to brush your teeth. (You mean the kids don’t do that either!)

OK, back to earth. Want to stay well?

You’re safe enough – as long as your kids mind their Ps and Qs.

P-soap and Q-water of course.

Pints and Quarts come later.

Originally posted 2015-08-17 18:09:28.

Burger with cramps – free with unwashed hands

Burger girl
Dirty hands – ooh! Are you going to suffer!

You’ll know in about four hours.

Whether you got away without washing your hands or not.

Not that you really think about it when you’re having fun. You’re on a roll – grab a burger and go, go, go! Why not, it’s summer. Party time!

Until your four hours are up.

Paying the price

That’s how long the collywobbles usually take.

Cramps, nausea – the price you pay for forgetting soap and water.

Not nice, but it could be worse.

Like full-on norovirus – the super-puke nasty. All happy-happy for up to three days before it kicks in.

Then the cramps.

And the nausea, so bad you think you might die. And the vomiting, so bad you’re terrified that you won’t.

Oh yes, and the diarrhoea – all of your insides suddenly outside and burning like hell – over and over again. Up to four days of it if you’re unlucky.

Serious dehydration and up to a million hospital cases every year in the UK. And the lurking reality that 80 people a year actually die from it.

One hell of a price to pay for a burger.

Down and dirty

Because that’s where it starts. Right there at your fingertips. Or more accurately, ON your fingertips.

You see, we reckon we’re so safe and invincible most of the time, hand hygiene never even occurs to us. This is good old Britain, it can’t happen to us. It’s not like we’re in darkest Africa – underdeveloped, underfunded and forgotten, with disease round every corner.

So it’s highly likely we can go through a WHOLE DAY without washing our hands even once. Touching handles, keypads, phones – and then our faces, where germs are most likely to get in.

Not everything we touch is clean either – so there’s dirt and crud and other stuff, even poo.

Yucky us

Don’t believe it? A totally staggering number of us NEVER wash our hands after going to the loo.

And how about those nappy changes on the back seat of the car, which only gets cleaned maybe once a month? Do you always use wet wipes? Do you even carry a gel?

Fact is, 95% of us don’t wash our hands properly even when we do. A five-second rinse under the tap does nothing – or makes it even worse if you dry your hands on your clothes. Germs thrive on dirty wet.

Five minutes of easy effort to avoid the death of us – and still we don’t do it. That’s why we call it the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

Because nine times out of ten, all those food poisoning stories you hear are self-inflicted.

Dodgy dinner ingredients or scruffy staff?

You might want to rethink that. Because even the poshest of us never thinks to wash our hands before sitting down to splurge in a five-star restaurant.

And the germs on the door handle of a Mercedes ML 450 are just as potent as those on the strap-handles of the Bakerloo Line.

Far and wide

Worse, because of the incubation period, it spreads to everyone we have contact with and we’re none of us any the wiser. Everyone we meet, touch, hug, shake hands with, kiss.

And norovirus is possibly the most contagious of all time. More than the common cold. So transfer is inevitable. Everyone can get it and does – the ultimate cruise ship souvenir.

Plus, you’ve got to remember it’s a virus. A half-alive organism that can last active and awake for days and weeks without sustenance. Or survive dormant for years if necessary, waiting for your live body cells to give it power and energy.

So it’s not the burger that gives you cramps.

It’s unwashed hands. Forgetfulness. Unintended negligence that could cost you your life.

Five minutes with soap and water, that’s all.

A good burger from McDonalds is less than a quid, surely you’re worth more than that?

Originally posted 2015-08-12 14:14:46.

Hallo Captain – the cruise ship norovirus handshake

Boxer lady
How do you do? Yes ma’am I’ve washed my hands

Fist bump, not hand clasp.

And the Cunard cruise line has actually banned contact altogether.

No more courtesy greeting gestures, the Captain is officially off limits.

Shaking off sickness

Norovirus paranoia has finally spoken – with recognition that the bug is spread by physical contact.

Hence all the hoo-hah about alternative greeting actions, like fist bumps.

Fist bumps?

Er, no. For a classy £5,000-a-head swank-arama cruise on one of Cunard’s Queens, a “hey dude” greeting like a fist bump doesn’t exactly fit the protocol.

Not any ordinary cruise line, right?

Like, for a company currently celebrating 175 years in the No 1 slot of high society leadership, where’s the tradition and ceremony?

Because the time-honoured ritual of shaking hands is not just going through the motions, it’s a centuries-old signal of peaceful intentions – open demonstration that no weapon is threatening, the meeting is non-hostile.

Kind of important to a cruise line where the Captain is always in dress whites – you can even imagine a ceremonial sword too.

And you’re not a pirate.

Fist bump? Not on his watch!

Norovirus hysteria

OK, so the story has hit the headlines – and norovirus is the bad guy, again.

Notice how carefully everybody steps around the real issue behind ANY norovirus issue.

Somebody’s got dirty hands.

Uh huh.

Which is why all the nonsense with fist bumps – the norovirus handshake.

Not good enough, Jim – the stuff spreads on contact. The only way to be virus-free is the Ebola handshake – no contact means NO CONTACT.

Oops!

Denial, denial, denial

As if any of your top rank dowagers are going to admit dirty paws. Or any of your high-flying millionaire business types either. Dirty hands are dirty hands – exactly the same for celebrities and nobodies both. A revelation about white gloves for ceremonies, isn’t it?

And anyway, fist bump – where does that come from?

Pro boxers squaring up in the ring before a fight, that’s where – since the early 1900s. Legends like Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey. Shake like gentlemen and come out fighting.

Yeah, right. So your intentions ARE warlike.

You want to beat someone up – AND you want to pass on your norovirus – our modern take on the age-old insult “you make me sick”.

Reality check

Because, make no error – norovirus IS the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

You don’t get it from something you’ve eaten or dodgy hygiene in a restaurant. Not always, at any rate. Truth is, that is probably rarer than you think. Though restaurants always get the blame. For every one finger pointing, there’s always three pointing back.

Nine times out of ten it’s germs from your own unwashed hands that give you the stomach bug. The burger you chowed on during the shore excursion – or a close relative.

Puts a whole new perspective on food labelled “Gastro” doesn’t it? (Is it guaranteed to give you gastroenteritis?)

Because if we’re honest, when was the last time ANY of us washed our hands? A whole morning? A whole day?

And how many times have we been to the loo in that time?

Enjoying ourselves on a cruise ship – cokes, margaritas, milk shakes. Let’s not kid ourselves – that’s at least two diversions for a sprinkle.

Ew!

Down and dirty

And you ate that burger with your fingers?

Makes you queasy just reading about it, hey?

But there’s an answer. One that none of us seem to WANT to accept.

Denial is easier, it can’t happen to me.

Until the first cramps happen – the first upchuck.

There ain’t no immunity – and this stuff spreads like wildfire. But there is protection – we do have a defence.

Soap and water – easy.

Yet we run scared in denial, like vampires from garlic.

We even KNOW germs make us sick, yet still skip scrubbing up.

Masochists, right? We must want it to happen.

Unless of course, it’s enforced. They can’t make us do it at home – but they can at sea.

Safety Drill

ATTENTION PLEASE, THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING – ALL PASSENGERS MUST WASH THEIR HANDS BEFORE COMING ABOARD.

Aye, aye, Cap’n sir.

And instead of the norovirus handshake, maybe we should salute.

After all, issuing that order just saved us from the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

Disobeying it at sea is mutiny – risking the death penalty.

And that’s true.

Yup, get real. Norovirus is as common as the common cold and kills 200,000 people every year.

So over to you – it’s in your hands now.

Originally posted 2015-08-06 15:41:53.

Colleagues back with holiday bug? You’re next!

Depressed businesswoman
Count on it – whatever they got, you’re coming down with it too

Be glad you didn’t meet them at the airport.

The whole plane-load came down with this one.

Holiday hangover

Loos backed up, overflowing air sick bags – even the flight crew were looking green. A real hero of a pilot too.

Not you, thank goodness – and it was even on the six o’clock news.

Three days to your own holiday and you’re not eating any of that foreign stuff. Strictly good British graze for you, no messing about.

Er, except it’s not over, till it’s over.

Sure your mates are home safe right now. Getting over it with stacks of Imodium and Buscopan. Quarantined and out of it, so everyone in the office is safe.

Glad to see them when they’re better too. Not nice to be ill. Not nice to double up more than you planned on either – extra work when you’re trying to get clear.

But they’re your pals and you like them, so you do it with a smile.

And they like you too, so you score with the pressies – holiday souvenirs to laugh over when the tummy cramps and diarrhoea are finally gone. Some kind of norovirus the Doc said.

Yeah right, just stay off the foreign food.

As if.

What goes around, comes around

Because next thing, you’re down with the same bug too. Out of action, honking your guts out, and you haven’t even packed your bags yet.

Quick! On the phone to the airline. Are you ATOL protected? What about your insurance? You’ve GOT to cancel. Aargh!

Next thing is, why? Why you?

Your mates brought back a bug, they stayed home till they were clean, then you got it. How come?

Look no further those pressies – fridge magnets, coffee mug, T-shirt, pen, music box, bottle of booze, beach towel, souvenir hat, whatever. Fomites, all of them.

So what’s fomites?

The things you touch, that other people touch, that carry germs. Which is everything else in the office too, right? Including the door handles, lift buttons, computer keyboards, phones, light switches, photocopier, you name it.

Because it’s a nasty fact of life that though nobody’s sick, the germs that can make them that way can live for sometimes weeks out in the open.

And not just on fomites.

In the air too

We each of us trail around our own personal bio-aura of bacteria – our signature cloud of microorganisms unique to us – viruses, bacteria, fungi, moulds, dust, whatever.

And this stuff is so light it can hover and linger in the air for days and weeks, waiting to land on somebody and find a new home.

You.

Uh huh.

Your pals came back to work clean, but the bio-aura they brought from home could still carry the bug they suffered. They’re safe, but not your work place.

Yup, the whole office is bugged – inhabited by the same norovirus nasty that flew back from holiday with them.

Which means the only way you’re going to avoid coming down with it – and everybody else who hasn’t yet had a dose – is to nail all those viruses and bacteria before they nail you.

Effective debugging

Not every office has a Hypersteriliser yet.

But with dangerous germs so easily transferred by jet travel – and medical science discovering more and more of them are resistant to antibiotics – such machines could soon become as familiar as window blinds.

Because without major effort or turning the place upside down, one Hypersteriliser can make any room totally sterile and safe from germs in as little forty minutes. No viruses, no bacteria – every microorganism in the place, gone.

It does it by misting up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide – the same stuff that may have sparked life itself on Earth – actively spreading through the air, into cracks and crevices, oxidising viruses and bacteria to nothing.

Haven’t got one in your office yet?

Let’s hope they get one, before too many people go on leave. Or before winter comes with its latest version of bird flu.

Unless they do – and unless you’re meticulous about always washing your hands – you’re next, for sure.

Originally posted 2015-07-24 16:49:44.