Tag Archives: norovirus

Norovirus: why frantic $40K cleanup could still come unstuck

Anxious businesswoman
It’s not just the cost, norovirus can kill a business reputation stone-cold dead

You don’t take chances with norovirus.

Very unpleasant – and very bad for business – it has a boomerang property that keeps it coming back and back, whatever anyone does.

Boomerang in Kansas?

Which may soon be the experience of the popular New Theatre Restaurant in Kansas City. With 400 people down with norovirus last week, but determined to stay open, they’ve had hit-teams spray the place with a “Lysol-like” disinfectant – the same kind of stuff used on cruise liners – and boldly kept on going. Comedy performances of Out of Order starring Gary Sandy of WKRP in Cincinnati fame are to continue uninterrupted.

Let’s hope they’re not too hasty.

Norovirus is a nasty not to be wished on anyone. Cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea – up to four days and more, feeling like the end of the world.

Violent and explosive vomiting is one reason why a Lysol-type spray (similar to Dettol aerosol) may not be enough. It’s one of the ways the virus ensures it spreads as wide as possible. You’re not just being sick, you’re rocketing out your guts further and farther than with any other upchuck.

So if that spray doesn’t reach into every little nook and cranny, norovirus can be back in full raging force just hours later.

Virulent and vindictive

Norovirus is more contagious than other viruses too – 1,000 times more potent than everyday winter flu. All it takes is 10 tiny particles (around 2 microns in size) to become infected – and one particle can contain 100,000,000,000 particles.

But that’s not the only reason New Theatre Restaurant might still be in trouble. The spray they’ve used is water-based, hose-piping around trying to cover all areas. It’s potency is 99.9% effective – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 3.

Not really good enough.

Water-based vapour starts falling to the floor as soon as it’s dispersed. It never reaches ceilings or walls, the water drops are too heavy. And with a potency of just 10 particles needed to start an infection, 99.9% efficiency might work for an hour or two – then it’s back to square one.

Meanwhile, the super-light particles of norovirus float easily around on the smallest wafts of air – smaller and lighter than the molecules around them – lighter than nitrogen and hydrogen (once used to lift airships), tinier than dust, wispier than smoke, so almost nothing they may never fall to the floor, ever.

Yeah, it infects on contact – but how do you think it spreads?

Plus, there’s the boomerang effect.

Repeat performances

Get rid of norovirus – or think you do – and it’s back, with interest in days. Again and again and again.

Check out the sad story of Fred Olsen Line’s cruise liner Amsterdam in 2002.

FOUR times the ship sailed from Port Canaveral, Florida, with a load of happy, expectant holiday passengers. FOUR times, the ship had to put back with outbreaks of norovirus. It got so bad that passengers on the later voyages were even warned before embarking!

Only when the ship was pulled from service and 600 workers took TEN DAYS to disinfect the ship under supervision of the CDC, was the boomerang cycle broken.

Imagine the cost – FOUR fully-loaded voyages with 1,300 passengers paying upwards of $1,200 each – TEN days of docking fees and port costs – plus labour for 600 workers, cleaning down to detail fomite objects like poker chips and bedside bibles – not much change out of 10 million.

Alongside that kind of money, New Theatre Restaurant’s 40 grand begins to look like chicken feed.

And was it the same Lysol-type spray that was so ineffective on Amsterdam? In which case look out future audiences of Out of Order – you may not be as safe as you think you are.

No more norovirus

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Norovirus might be potent – out of reach in the air, or hiding in cracks and crevices. But there IS a way to clobber it good – along with all other viruses and bacteria too – just by pressing a button.

The trick is to use a Hypersteriliser or a number of them. Called the Halo in the States, this minor miracle is a nifty portable machine about the size of a small wheelie-bin that sprays the air with hydrogen peroxide.

Not just any hydrogen peroxide either. It’s a 6% solution – the same strength you might use in a mouthwash/teeth whitener from the chemist – boosted with silver, the proven antiseptic treatment doctors used for burns and wounds before antibiotics were discovered.

It’s also ionised, so that as it mists the room or auditorium, the particles of hydrogen peroxide become charged, pushing dynamically to disperse away from each other. Spreading everywhere – hard up against walls and ceilings, deep into cracks and crevices – over, under and behind things where most clean-ups never even get considered.

Ionising actually changes the state of the hydrogen peroxide too. Already smaller and finer than water droplets – lighter than air like the viruses it preys on – the mist changes from a gas to a plasma, an electrostatically-charged cloud reaching out and grabbing at live bacteria and viruses, oxidising them to nothing.

A whole kit of extra antimicrobials help it do this – because ionising releases further hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone (a more voracious oxidiser than hydrogen peroxide), and ultraviolet. Look carefully in a darkened room, and you may even see a faint purple glow.

Safe and sterile

An hour or so later and it’s all over. 99.9999% of germs are gone – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6 – and the hydrogen peroxide reverts back to just oxygen and water, in such small quantities that it evaporates to nothing.

Ain’t no norovirus boomeranging back after that treatment. Theatre-goers can enjoy their dinner and the show without a care in the world.

But let’s hope they’ve fixed it already.

Picture Copyright: natulrich / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-02-01 14:06:50.

Norovirus tummy bug – always the blame game

Woman - arms folded serious
Yeah right, norovirus is always somebody’s fault – and never the person who comes down with it

Reality is, there’s only ever one cause for norovirus.

Somewhere, someone doesn’t wash their hands.

Then they touch food, somebody else swallows it – quick, call the Doctor, I feel terrible!

Accusations, accusations

Your fault or theirs?

Never anybody’s.

It wasn’t me.

Yeah, right.

But make no joke, whoever it happens to, norovirus is always the pits – really unpleasant, the end of the world – and in bad cases, life-threatening.

It’s the end of the world if you’re running a business too.

Lots of fingers pointing – negligence, carelessness, unhygienic conditions – no matter how spotless your place or professional your staff. Difficult to prove anything otherwise.

Somebody on your side

So here’s a little common sense, to help you figure whodunit. Because if it is your fault, you’ve got to take action fast. Norovirus and bad press can put you out of business.

OK, reality again – who did, or did not, wash their hands?

Your customers will deny it, but them’s the usual suspects. Check the evidence:

Uh huh. And if you think about it, when was the last time ANY of your customers might have washed their hands before they came to you? Five minutes ago? Before lunch? If at all?

Now the common sense bit.

So someone’s moaning norovirus. Is it one person or a handful?

If it’s just one person, you can suspicion a mouse.

Customer Zero

Like how come, if you serve several chicken liver pâtés over a day, that only one was off? You’re a business, right? So most of your stuff to some degree or other is all made in batches – it saves time and stops the customer waiting.

So if one of your pâtés was off, they all should have been, right? You should have a dozen complaints about tummy cramps and upchucking, not just one.

And if all the others were OK – batch-made, remember? – why was that one portion different? They were all the same when they went to table, the only difference was the customer they went to. You can’t prove it, but that one customer’s norovirus misery was probably self-inflicted.

Same thing if it starts with just one customer – and then a handful more, hours or days later. Norovirus spreads by transfer. So your customer had his mitts all over the butter knife or salad servers and the rest of his table picked up the bug.

Bad this, because the ripple effect can spread wider. A few hours more and a whole stack of customers are moaning and clutching their tummies. Either by touch, or through the air, the norovirus has got to them and is giving them hell.

A whole lot of people out of action, but all triggered by Customer Zero – the common denominator.

When you know it’s you

Because if everybody all comes down with it at once, you know it’s YOUR fault. Something or someone engaging with your customers is contaminated – they’re all exposed at the same time, they all come down together.

OK, you know what to do – or do you?

Maybe you’ve read about those hospitals and cruise ships where norovirus keeps coming back. The same will happen to you if you’re not careful.

This stuff is highly contagious and VERY efficient at spreading. With violent vomiting particularly, norovirus gets everywhere. It’s a virus too, don’t forget. Which means every cell is tiny. Small, as in, it can fall THROUGH a roofing tile without stopping.

Which means among all the other things it is, it’s airborne. It rides the air – swirling, twisting, spreading, turning – so light that it may never reach the floor. So it’s on the walls, on the ceiling, on the light fittings, and under the tables all at once. In the air throughout your whole place too. Blown around by the air conditioning, the rush of air as people come in the door.

And it can survive in all of these places for up to ten days or more.

Impossible, impossible

So you scrub the place down with carbolic and everything – and next day one of your waiters walks into a floating cell that takes him in the eye. Four hours later, he’s vomiting too – and you’ve only just re-opened after clearing up the last lot.

Or it could be somewhere else. On the maître d’s lectern, all over the PDQ machines. First person who keys in a total – boom, they’ve got the runs within hours.

And if not there, there’s plenty of other places. All unreachable or just never thought of. Brushing against people as they walk through the curtains. Among the cushions on the banquette. Or the one everybody forgets, all over your stack of menus.

How long is it going to take to clean all those places? Can your cleaning cloths reach into those cracks where a virus only 2 microns across might lurk? There’s millions and millions of places, can you be sure to catch them all?

Eliminating the odds

Actually, yes, you can. With a Hypersteriliser.

Press the button and it mists up your place with an ionised cloud of hydrogen peroxide – electrostatically charged to spread everywhere, actively reaching out and oxidising viruses and bacteria as it does.

Forty minutes, an hour, and the place is sterile. No more norovirus. No more repeat infections either.

Until the next customer breezes in straight off the street and climbs straight into the stuffed olives while the table’s main course is processing.

There’s a cure for that too. Don’t put anything on the table until every customer is handed an antiseptic hand wipe, courtesy of the house.

OK, now let them blame all they like.

Ooh my tummy, I’m going to hurl, blame, blame, blame.

You’ve taken the precautions and you know.

It isn’t you. Never, never and never again.

Picture Copyright: brendan80 / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-01-29 15:26:27.

Food poisoning for real, or customer trying it on?

Fingers crossed
Just because you can’t SEE germs, doesn’t mean our hands aren’t loaded with them

Not used to issues like this, are you?

It raises an uncomfortable question – not for you, for your customers.

Because right up front, how many of them wash their hands before they eat?

“Ew Factor” could cost you thousands

But you already know the answer – can probably say exactly how many guests get up from their table before food is served and go to the restroom.

Yeah, right. A handful maybe, depending on the size of your place. Certainly not everybody, your restroom’s not that big. And all those people moving around at once would upset the other diners – never mind your staff twisting through with hot plates.

Which means everybody else is straight in off the street and you don’t know where they’ve been. Or more to the point, where their hands have been.

OK, so put yourself in their shoes, what do you reckon?

Did they wash before leaving work? After their ride in the taxi/Underground? And if not, what were they doing before that? What did they touch?

Or to stop the pussy-footing, what’s on their fingers RIGHT NOW that could give them collywobbles if they swallowed it?

Collywobbles meaning norovirus, or some equally unpleasant bug spread by direct contact.

Poo on their fingers

Yeah, they call it the “winter vomiting bug” and other round-the-houses names  – but the elephant in the room is that it spreads from unwashed hands. And unwashed hands in a food business like yours is an unspeakable but major problem.

Not staff hands, CUSTOMER hands – because they’re the ones touching everything and actually going into mouths.

Sure, your own staff need to be careful too – but they know the odds. Poor hygiene, bad rep, nasty lawsuits, shut the business, no more job. Not worth the risk.

Not like your customers.

Yeah, sure – loyal to you, enthusiastic about the experience you offer, nice enough on the surface.

Except like most of us, they don’t take criticism – and certainly would never accept it’s THEIR dirty hands that made them ill, not something wrong with your food.

They’re customers, see? Never wrong. And probably in denial that their personal hygiene is ever less than perfect. Like, their hands don’t LOOK dirty, do they?

Push comes to shove, it’s likely they’ll win any court case, even though it’s probably their own fault.

How can we dare to say this?

Because when you look at the facts, our day-to-day hygiene is so bad, it’s a wonder we’re not ALL of us in hospital with dysentery or something worse.

So there you are, busting a gut, doing everything to make your food safe and your place spotless. And there’s Mr Money-Bags, all too ready to squawk at the slightest hiccup, let alone tummy-ache – sitting posh as you like, quite probably with poo on his hands.

Or just as likely, on the cash or credit card he’s going to shove at you at the end of the meal.

Food poisoning? Yeah, pull the other one.

Except there’s not a lot you can do is there? Certainly not diss your customers or lay blame on them. And there’s no way you can FORCE them to the restroom.

How to start winning

But you can get ahead of the game. Turn it round and make it work for you.

Remember the last time YOU went on a splurge? Hit some swanky restaurant or flew first class – swanning around like you owned the place, at least for one night?

OK, remember the hot towels? All terribly la-di-da, offered to you with white gloves and a pair of tongs – a courtesy to wipe your hands and face.

Right, so you pull the same stunt.

Only instead of hot towels, YOU offer YOUR guests individual sachets of antiseptic hand wipes. Mr Money-Bags is not going to refuse is he? Mrs Money-Bags will probably even open it for him. And your staff look like paragons of virtue – especially with a silver tray to collect the used wipes afterwards

Which means if either of them has poo on their hands, the problem has gone away. Food poisoning isn’t going to happen because you’ve removed the cause. And your customers think you’re a million dollars for being so thoughtful.

To ram it home, you pull the stunt even further. Sterilise the whole place so guests know you’re serious about offering a good experience and caring for their welfare.

After trade every night or before you open next morning, you mist the place up for an hour or so with ionised hydrogen peroxide. One button on the Hypersteriliser machine does the trick.

No more viruses or bacteria anywhere in the treated areas. Not on tables, chairs, glasses, cutlery, light fittings, anything – not even in the air around them. Safe, secure, sterilised for your protection.

Customers still trying it on?

We don’t think so. Not unless there really IS something off with your food.

But somehow, you’re not likely to let that happen.

 Picture Copyright: citalliance / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-01-26 15:12:54.

Contagious, infectious, why you’re gonna catch it

Unhappy woman in viral mask
They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere! And germs aren’t picky who they infect

What goes around, comes around, right? Which is why you’re gonna catch it.

Because we’re not all hermits.

We need to be with each other and share things – at work, at home, or out enjoying ourselves.

Get a life and keep it

Otherwise, avoiding bugs is easy – we stay in splendid isolation and talk to nobody.

Not much of a life though, hey?

So we’re out there with everybody else – and sure as little apples, if there’s a bug going round, we’re ALL gonna catch it.

No, no, it’s not going to be because someone coughed over us, or sneezed in our direction. It’s not going to be because somebody honked their guts out on the office carpet either.

We’re careful, we keep away. We’re sympathetic, yes – but we don’t let that stuff touch us.

Besides, the place LOOKS clean and our hands aren’t dirty. If whoever it is stays away from work, we’re laughing.

If only we knew.

Because they could stay away for a week and we still might catch it.

Telling ourselves we can’t SEE germs doesn’t mean they’re not there. And germs, believe it or not, can survive for weeks clinging on to whatever – not the same as a nice, warm bod, but do-able.

So yeah, they’re there alright, all around us – like raindrops in a rain storm… No, hang on, that’s not all-embracing enough – like steam particles in a sauna.

SURROUNDING us.

Our own bio-aura

For starters, we each of us trail a cloud of germs – actually a cocktail of bacteria, skin and hair debris, viruses, fungi particles and dust all around us wherever we go.

There’s more in the air too, swirling and floating in every space on Earth. Too small to see so we don’t even think that they exist. Good germs, bad germs – so universally present it’s almost impossible to avoid them.

Only by washing them away are we momentarily safe from them – or eliminating them from the space around us, which amounts to the same thing.

Otherwise, we’re at risk, every moment of our existence.

We’ll touch something that somebody else has touched – a door handle, a light switch, a salt shaker or a phone. Next minute, because we do, we’ll touch our face and that’ll be it – bacteria will get in through our eyes or mouth – we’ve got the bug.

Yeah OK, most of the time it doesn’t happen.

Careless hygiene costs health

Our life and its surroundings are clean enough and hygienic enough for us to get away with it.

Which means we get forgetful. Careless because we’re always on the go. We don’t clean things, because they don’t look dirty. Or we get Harry casual when we do, choosing a wipe instead of a proper scrub with soap. And as for disinfecting… not even on the radar.

Want an example?

Look no further than your favourite coffee hangout.

More especially, watch the barista make your start-of-the-day cappuccino to go. See that steam pipe on the Gaggia machine? That’s to bubble the milk, give it that distinctive foam al perfetto.

Uh huh.

Now watch the J-cloth that wipes the pipe, then into the plastic jug, waiting for the next order. Watch again. Same wipe action, back to the jug. Over and over – all morning if you watch long enough.

Not exactly hygienic, right? Shouldn’t that be a fresh cloth every time? Or a tear-off paper towel?

Yet who else is watching? Not even an inspector is likely to pick that up. Unconscious habit – and so perfectly normal that nobody sees a thing.

And that’s how it happens. Sleep-walking ourselves into sickness.

A little bit of soap

Like, be honest, when was the last time you washed your hands? Before you left home? When you reached work? After you hit the loo? Before your ritual ‘cino and Danish?

Don’t worry if you feel a twinge of conscience at the last two. Most people forget either of them are so vital – a wonder we don’t fall down dead with so many germs around.

Makes you think twice about the office though, doesn’t it?

Perhaps not as safe as you think.

Especially when Harry from Sales upchucks after the staff party.

All those germs floating around. Billions and billions of them. Often only 2 microns across – small enough to fall THROUGH an unglazed terra cotta plate.

Ew! Because it only takes around ten particles of norovirus – our favourite winter vomiting bug – to infect someone. And one droplet of vomit can contain 100,000,000,000 particles.

OK, so Harry stays away – and so do you. Except it’s near the photocopier, an area you can’t avoid.

Germ defence force-field

Nae problem, your work has got you covered with a Hypersteriliser.

You go home last thing – and the chars move in, right? And last thing when they quit is press the button on the machine.

Hisssssssss!

That’s ionised hydrogen peroxide misting up the place. Penetrating everywhere through the air space and oxidising germs on the fly. Over, under, behind, through – into all the cracks and corners. Over every surface too.

Forty minutes later, the place is sterilised. No viruses, no bacteria, nothing.

Next day, Harry is safe, home in bed.

And you’re safe with your ‘cino and Danish – after a turn by the wash basin. No point taking needless chances.

Except what? No Hypersteriliser, it was only on appro?

Better book your own sickie off now, it’s only a matter of time. And get the boss to order one fast.

Because you’re going to catch it.

So’s he.

Originally posted 2016-01-12 16:27:37.

Avoid norovirus or worse as flood waters drop

Rain girl
Just remember, germs are like raindrops but smaller – up in the air and all over the place until you get rid of them

Goodbye Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva and Frank.

You weren’t nice and we never liked you – good riddance.

Likewise storms yet to come – Gertrude, Henry, Imogen, Jake and Katie.

We know you’re coming, but don’t expect us to roll out the welcome mat. You and the rest of your Named Storms mob have done enough damage already.

The long road back

So now it’s the heartache and the clear up. Putting your life back together.

But be careful.

There’s sickness in that water – and sickness where it’s been.

Up to your ankles in the kitchen, even more in the street. With the over-run sewer system four feet below that. Which means there’s poo in that water, nothing about it is safe. And as the level goes down, that yuck is going to be everywhere.

Be safe, don’t touch it, or risk getting it on your skin. Norovirus could be lurking there – or even worse, cholera. For sure, there’s nothing healthy.

So whatever you do, wash your hands if it gets on them – or if you’ve touched anything lying in it. Norovirus spreads on contact – and it only takes a dab. You don’t want that misery on top of everything else. Cramps, runs, upchucks – no thank you.

Wash your hands properly too, this stuff is pernicious. Find yourself some hot water – as hot as you can stand – and give yourself a good going over. Soap and scrubbing brush. Under your nails and between your fingers. Like you’ve got plague on them and you can’t take chances – which if you think about it, is true.

Proper hygiene is everything

And which of course means your place will need the same treatment.

After days of immersion in poo, sweeping out the mud and hosing everything down is not going to be good enough – not even with a turbo-wash. It’ll be in the wallpaper and the plaster – in the concrete and even the bricks. Going to have to be brutal.

It’ll be UNDER the floorboards too – in the crawl space around the foundations. By the time you get to it, a kind of sludgy, gooey gunge. Norovirus in there – and all other kinds of nasties. Squirt it out if you can, possibly forcing it out through the air bricks. You don’t want the drama of ripping everything up to get rid of it.

Yes, it’s a health hazard, but if you can get rid of most of it, it’s possible to neutralise the rest with hydrogen peroxide or some other oxidising steriliser.

Misting up the under-floor gap with a Hypersteriliser is a good choice – any airborne germs will be clobbered immediately and the stuff is good at forcing itself into difficult nooks and crannies. Any viruses or bacteria it comes in contact with will be dead in around 40 minutes.

Likewise any mould. The hydrogen peroxide won’t physically get rid of it, but it will kill it dead – you can tell in two ways. It won’t be that horrible black any more, but a pale grey. And whatever smell there might be – if it’s anything organic – will have disappeared.

That hydrogen peroxide mist will work well in the rest of the house too – especially at getting rid of the smell. But remember it’s only a vapour – actually a super-vapour called a plasma, which is why it’s so effective. But it won’t physically clean or scrub, so any smells could come back when the stuff wears off after a week or so.

It pays to be thorough

To do the job properly, you’ve got to chuck away all the carpets, lino, wallpaper and plaster so you can scrub down with disinfectant right to the bare walls and floor. Your place won’t look pretty, but at least it will be safe. Mist it up again with hydrogen peroxide and chances are good any smell is gone permanently.

The no-smell thing is important, because that means any microbial action has been stopped – there are no more germs breeding in there to come and get you. If the smells come back it either means you missed a bit and the germs break through when the hydrogen peroxide wears off – or the place isn’t fully dry and mould is reforming. Another mist-up will give you a quick fix, but the real answer is to get down and dirty all over again – this time, with a more eagle eye.

Look after yourself while you do all this, because don’t forget you ARE exposing yourself to germs – and nasties like norovirus are airborne as well coating everything, so you could by mischance breathe some in. To be really safe, Public Health England have this excellent guide – useful and easy step-by-step stuff anyone can follow.

There, all done – and well done you. A real schlep, but you don’t want anyone coming down with anything serious on top of all the other setbacks.

Welcome back to the land of the living.

Originally posted 2016-01-07 16:22:45.

Which gift will be yours: cramps, runs or barfs?

Santa doctor
Nobody wants to be ill at this time of year – wash your hands and you should be fine

Yay, festive season!

Jollies and super-grub. Ripping into gift-wrap and cramming our faces. May it all be wonderful and great for every one of you.

It isn’t always though, is it?

Not so nice

Because those tummy rumblings are not always from over-eating. Yup, from Noel to norovirus in just hours. The twelve days of cramps and misery – and all we want to do is die. What evil-minded soul lucked this onto us?

Actually, probably ourselves.

The odds on it being proper food poisoning are pretty remote. Both at home or in a restaurant, most food is prepared and cooked properly enough so that germs are eliminated. Though yeah, norovirus is highly contagious – and yeah, it’s probably from something we’ve eaten.

Except our own fingers put it there.

That’s the trouble with this dratted tummy bug. Most of the time it’s undoubtedly self-inflicted – a reality we tend to avoid, except it’s true – because norovirus is the undisputed No 1 Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

Because our hands touch everything, right? And most of the time we think they’re clean because they look it, so it never occurs to us to wash them.

The invisible nasty

Not good when norovirus is so small it’s only 2 – 5 microns across. You couldn’t see that, even with a magnifying glass.

But it’s so easily there – picked up from high-contact locations like door handles, light switches, grab handles and keypads. And when you come down to it, when WAS the last time you washed your hands? Some time after breakfast? When you went to the loo?

Don’t be ashamed if you can’t remember, a shocking lot of us forget altogether. Would you believe that most of us never think of it after going to the loo – and pretty well all of us never wash before eating?

Now how about the things you touch that NEVER get washed, or never seem to – grab-rails on buses and trains, escalator handrails, just about anything walking down the street – even the inside of your own gloves.

Oops! But our hands don’t LOOK dirty, so we take a chance without knowing it. And the norovirus transfers when we touch our face – which we do 3 or 4 times a minute without thinking – or when we grab a pretzel, piece of stollen or turkey drumstick.

Don’t want the bug – or the cramps? Wash your hands whenever you think of it and you’ll probably be OK.

Second nasty

A word of caution though, about the turkey drumstick.

Gnawing on it at table is probably OK – but turkey needs care in preparation, like any poultry.

That’s because most birds are naturally colonised with a bacterium called campylobacter. It’s harmless to them, but to us humans it’s a villainous carbon copy of norovirus – brings on the cramps, the vomiting and the diarrhoea – exactly what none of us need in the festive season.

Fortunately campylobacter is destroyed by cooking. When that bird is a delicious golden brown, all trace of the bug is gone.

There is a but. Which is that it spreads easily from uncooked meat, so that knives, chopping boards, plates – and of course hands – are easily contaminated during preparation. Wash everything thoroughly and the problem goes away.

Seasons greetings!

So now you’re safe. All set to enjoy every second of the celebrations.

We wish you a very happy and pleasant time – and all the very best for the coming New Year.

With any luck, somebody will give you a nice-smelling soap as a thoughtful reminder.

Go well, and don’t over-eat!

Originally posted 2015-12-18 13:54:20.

How using your phone on the loo could cost your job

Girl phoning on loo
You don’t want to know what could be on your phone

Look away now if you gross out easy – this one’s not for the squeamish.

Though you might squeam loud when you realise the consequences.

You see, your phone’s got poo on it. Dinkum.

Some researchers reckon it’s not every phone, it’s only one in six.

Yeah, right.

You’re sitting on the hopper, you get stuff on your hands – impossible not to. And your phone’s in your hands, so it’s got poo on it. A no brainer.

Forgotten hygiene habits

So maybe you’re one of that amazing minority who does actually wash your hands after going to the loo. Most people don’t, in fact they’re real chance-takers.

Uh huh. Even celebs like Jennifer Lawrence fess up that she doesn’t wash after taking a dump. She denies it now, but we all tell those kind of porkies, don’t we?

But let’s get real now, who in the world washes their phone?

Nobody, right? Water and phone batteries don’t get on.

But even if you did wash it, the stuff comes straight back onto your fingers next time you use the thing. And keeps transferring to everything you touch afterwards.

The stuff on your desk? The lift buttons, light switches, door handles and all? 10 million germs on it according to research.

And how do you think the stuff got there?

Your job on the line

OK, so totally gross – what’s this got to do with losing your job? ‘Elf & Safety poo police going to get you fired or what?

A lot worse than that.

Because with stuff on your hands and your desk and your phone, it’s inevitable you’re going to transfer some to other people – the people you work alongside, your colleagues.

And as you’ve probably experienced yourself many times in this life, Sod’s Law always applies.

So while most of the time nothing happens with all this stuff on your hands – just when you don’t want it to, things go pear-shaped. Like the faeces literally hit the propeller.

Most likely calamity choice? Norovirus – the most common cause of gastroenteritis world-wide. A.k.a. gastric flu or food poisoning – or as regulars of this blog already recognise, the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

Translate that as severe cramps, projectile vomiting, violent diarrhoea and days of on-going misery. Strikes in as little as twenty minutes, twelve hospitals in Scotland already smitten with it, 3 million cases annually and around 80 deaths.

The UK’s top sickie

Yeah, a major player. Get norovirus in the office and it goes round like wildfire – seen what it does to cruise ships? But at least they’re ready for it – with doctors, nurses and a whole crew standing by with disinfectant sprays and the works. Back home, all anyone’s got in the office is Band-Aid strips.

OK, so you’re playing with fire. And with poo on your hands, sooner or later something WILL happen.

Like when that make-or-break project comes in, and it’s all hands to the pump. Concentrated 24/7 to get it done. The one critical shot at fame and fortune – or the company goes to the wall.

Think it can’t happen? Ace consultants Pricewaterhouse Cooper put the cost of sickness absence in the UK at £29 billion annually. Top accountant gurus Sage put it at three times that, topping £100 billion. Plenty of companies better than yours go bang against money like that.

Facing reality

So how’s it going, with everyone at home, groaning and clutching their gut? Networked on the laptop, sitting on the loo, nobody’s brain more than mush for longer than five minutes – what chance do any of you have?

Yeah, the writing’s on the wall. Take chances and there might not BE a company left to work for.

So them’s your marching orders.

Don’t take your phone to the loo and ALWAYS wash your hands. Wipe the phone regularly with antiseptic wipes – and everything on your desk too.

If we’ve made you paranoid – and with so many germs hazards around it’s difficult not to be – you can even sterilise your office nightly with a Hypersteriliser. Germs oxidised to zero by ionised hydrogen peroxide – all surfaces and the air itself – the whole place, safe and secure.

Anyway, who wants to talk in the loo? Whoever’s in the stall next to you starts blabbing and it’s all over town, like a virus of its own.

Better to keep schtum – and hold your job.

Originally posted 2015-12-02 15:55:06.

OK, scumbag norovirus, now the gloves are off

Aggro bizwoman
POW! Straight disciplined hand hygiene wins every time

So you’re the winter vomiting bug, huh?

Big deal.

Reckon we’re not wise to you, hanging out on ATMs, door handles, handrails and shopping trolleys? You and your mates, coronavirus – aka SARS and MERS – flu and staph?

OK, so we touch all of these things all the time anyway. Covered in germs like you.

Winter germ traps

So now it’s freezing cold and we’re wearing gloves, you’re trying to kid us that we don’t know you’re there.

Nice try, dirt-bag – but it won’t work.

Those gloves are getting the treatment with antibacterial wipes after every outing – then they’re coming off. Straight onto a desk or table to dry, so you guys don’t get a chance.

No breeding, right? This means you!

You know what happens then?

Yeah, you think we’re lulled into a false security, don’t you? The gloves are off, now we’re safe.

But the joke’s on you, germ-brain. We’re going to wash our hands straight away too. Handling gloves transfers you to our fingers – so it’s the big bye-bye, we’re giving you the wash-off.

And you know what?

Hands always clean

We’re giving our hands ANOTHER wash or the gel treatment before we put those gloves back on too.

Because, yeah, we know you hang about on surfaces and in the air indoors too – riding in on our clothing, or the bio-aura of personal bacteria we all carry with us.

Uh huh. So we know if there’s low-life germs like you on our hands when we put our gloves on, you’ll be waiting for us INSIDE next time too.

Not smart enough, bozo.

With near-sterile hands, the inside of our gloves stay near-sterile.

And count on it – with a BOLO always out for you and your kind at this time of the year – those gloves are going in the wash just as often as regular clothes.

Thought we’d forget, eh?

Just shove the gloves in our pocket and never think about them from one day to the next? Never wash them, never anything from one year to another. Unless we get yuck on them, lose one, or get a hole in the finger.

Scarves too, you think we’re stupid?

Or you think because we wear classy gloves to work or out on the town, we’re too scared to wash them because they’re made of suede or leather?

Wash and re-wash

Hoo boy, don’t you know we’re on to you?

Thanks to your other pals like MRSA, e.coli and the rest of the mob, we know our meds aren’t working as well as they used to. Antimicrobial resistance, it’s in all the papers. No-go antibiotics, yeah we know about them – why do you think we’re washing our hands every two seconds – because we’re OCD?

The Docs have been warning us for years us about hygiene standards with you lot around – that staying clean is now our best defence, like back in the old days.

And finally, FINALLY, we’re wising up – going back to the old way of doing things. Soap and water, rub and scrub.

Like cleaning leather gloves? Easy-peasy. Leather, silk, suede – we know how.

Even those super-warm Thinsulate gloves too.

AND scarves. AND turning out coat pockets – jackets, skirts, trousers, everything. Clean is the new cool.

Yeah, plus our timing is spot on as well.

Here comes the festive season with everyone anguishing over what gifts to buy…

For her, for him

BOOM! Extra gloves, extra scarves – so there’s always a pair to wear, a pair in the wash, a pair air-drying, and a pair waiting for next time.

And always clean hands to go inside them.

So you’re the famous norovirus. Well bully for you.

Yah, boo, sucks – the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

Just because it’s winter, you can’t fool us any more.

The gloves are off.

 

Originally posted 2015-11-30 14:28:05.

Workplace germs: a loaded gun on every desk

Gun
Invisible – and make no mistake – deadly

Try this, right now.

Lift your keyboard and look underneath. Pretty yuck, huh?

Everyday killer

Where did all that come from? How long has it been there? What kind of germs might be living in it? Are you safe?

The short answer is, that’s all you – and ANY germs can make you sick if you’re unlucky.

The usual bad boys are flu and norovirus – the most potent, meaning they’re easiest to catch. And the most common – ready to bring you down over and over again, several times a year.

Oh yeah. And just so you know, flu kills around 14,500 people a year – most of them elderly, but you only need one complication to be included in that number.

Norovirus is even easier to catch (20 particles is all it takes) and makes you wish you were dead – those cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea are the end of the world. If it’s bad, dehydration sets in – and if that goes pear-shaped too, it’s curtains. Around 80 people die from it every year, but diarrhoea can do that all by itself.

Norovirus is a major cause of gastroenteritis world wide, alongside the main villain, the salmonella family of 2,500 bugs. Both are usually to be found on your desk along with campylobacter – another family of horribles, escherichia coli, the shigella tribe of nasties, staphylococcus aureus, bacillus cereus and clostridium perfringens.

Invisible health hazard

That gun is loaded alright – and pointing straight at you.

So how come your desk is so dangerous – up to 400 times more bugged than a toilet seat?

Ah, but we know the toilet is a hazardous place for germs – so the facilities management people are in there like clockwork, cleaning and scrubbing several times a day, sometimes even once an hour.

But they don’t come anywhere near your desk, do they? Never anything more than a quick wipe – with the same cloth that does all the desks. All that confidential stuff, projects on the go – don’t touch or else.

Plus you eat there too – like nearly two-thirds of us do.

Which is where all those crumbs and dust particles come from – last week’s fish and chips, smears of dressing from yesterday’s salad because you were on a health kick, today’s pizza. All over the desk, too small to see – under the keyboard is just where they collect most easily, behind the screen too.

Now try this.

It only takes twenty minutes or so for bacteria reproduce itself. So after a couple of days that germ population has doubled. After a week or so, it’s doubled several times over.

One touch and all kinds of things transfer to your hands – which then touch your face, your eyes, your mouth, because so many of us rest our chin in our hand when we work. Infection by fomites.

Inevitable illness

Sooner or later you’re going to get it, even if you’re meticulous about washing your hands. And you really don’t want to know how bad we are about forgetting to do that – let alone how to do it properly.

There’s more germs in the air too, stirred up by us moving around. Also brought in by each of us as part of our personal germ-cloud.

We can’t see these either, but we all have a constant aura around us of billions and billions more bacteria, some good, some bad – neutral to us maybe, but a possible health risk to our colleagues with different sensitivities and immunities. Even if we’re well, we can make them sick.

And that doesn’t include the have-a-go heroes among us who drag themselves into work when they ARE sick – driven by pressure of work, or job anxiety, or simply unable to stay away. Gone to work with illness, ready to infect us all.

Looks like there’s more than one gun pointing at us.

Time to get bullet-proof. Strike back at these germs before they get us.

And there’s only one way.

Fight back

A mop and bucket won’t crack it, especially with all those computers around. It won’t touch the air either, 80% of any room space, where most of the germs are.

It has to be a Hypersteriliser.

Never heard of it? Get ready to kiss sickies goodbye. You might even be able to bundle your sick leave together with your holidays. Take a month off Pingsonbury, you’ve earned it.

The thing looks like a posh wheelie-bin with a nozzle and lights on it, ready to spray the room with hydrogen peroxide – one of the most effective germ-killers there is.

Posh is right, the thing is state of the art. Because it ionises the hydrogen peroxide as it sprays – changing it from an ordinary vapour into a plasma – boosting its performance by releasing hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone (a more voracious oxidiser than hydrogen peroxide), and ultraviolet.

Give it forty minutes, and the room is totally sterile. No viruses or bacteria, all gone – even on your desk.

Yeah, the dirt and crumbs and dust bunnies are still there – you’ll have to swab those off yourself – with the wipes you keep around so your hands are always clean.

But now there’s no gun – and anyway the bullets are unloaded. You’re safe and so are your colleagues. Breath easy.

Now all you have to worry about are those lunatic drivers on the roads.

Originally posted 2015-11-27 14:44:59.

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.

Originally posted 2015-11-02 17:13:15.