Tag Archives: norovirus

Hey, that’s the Germ Alarm! Can you really keep your kids safe?

Carbon Monoxide Bomb
You have a carbon monoxide alarm – but germs are every bit as deadly

Deadly stuff, carbon monoxide.

You can’t see it, you can’t smell it, but you don’t take chances. So like a lot of careful people, you fit a carbon monoxide alarm.

But you don’t have a GERM ALARM do you?

Same thing, you can’t see them, you can’t taste them, but they’re there in their billions – all the time, every day – and every bit as deadly as carbon monoxide.

But what do they say?

Ignorance is bliss, right?

Because any room is full of germs and we’re quite happy to walk in without checking.

Or worse, let our kids do it. Thirty children in one classroom – with goodness knows what kind of bugs they’re exposed to.

Scary.

Of course, we don’t really need an alarm.

Viruses and bacteria are ALWAYS there. It’s their natural environment. Just as it’s their natural behaviour to try to invade our bodies and do us down.

So what do we do about it?

A spray of room freshener perhaps? A quick wipe-down with Dettol?

Not exactly the best defence against norovirus, or e. coli – or whatever bug some other kids might have brought back from holiday. Malaria, yellow fever – in some parts of the world they’ve even got polio.

And you can die from pretty well any of them. Or more accurately, your kids can.

But there is a defence against a room full of germs. A totally effective one too.

You see, one thing that no virus or bacteria can survive is being oxidised. Having extra oxygen atoms shoved at them so their cell structure is ripped apart.

Which is what hydrogen peroxide does. The same stuff that disinfects cuts, whitens your teeth and bleaches your hair. Or as a good second choice, ammonium chloride.

And here’s the clever bit. Spray a room with hydrogen peroxide that’s been ionised, and it naturally reaches up and out, dispersing everywhere – through the air, into cracks and crevices – drawn there electrostatically in a mist that’s lighter than water.

It’s naturally drawn to germs too. Latching onto them the same way a magnet grabs iron filings.

Which means they’re gone – over skedover.

The room is sterilised and your children are safe. All for about the same cost as a cup of coffee and a sticky bun. Rescued from germs every day – by a machine about the size of a wheelie bin, that does the job in twenty minutes.

If you get stuck or have an emergency, there’s a handbag-size  ammonium chloride aerosol that does the same job in about the same time.

A bit under-powered alongside hydrogen peroxide, but it clobbers the germs and very effectively. All you do is press the button and leave the room.

Slightly more effective than a carbon monoxide alarm.

It gets rid of the hazard instead of squawking without doing anything.

The Health & Safety people would be proud of you.

But not as much as you are of course, with your kids running round, glowing with health.

Still scared of germs? A very wise attitude.

It’s a big world out there, full of germs, pathogens, microorganisms – whatever you want to call them. And there’s a squeezillion, susquetrillion, megamillion more where those came from

But at least you know it’s safe where your kids are.

Originally posted 2014-09-22 11:03:08.

OK, so Ebola’s coming – don’t be scared, be prepared

Woman looks at hands
Relax, you’re safe as long as you’re clean

Think of it as a great, big, wake-up call.

There’s this dread disease coming and we’re all going to die.

Poppycock.

First of all, it’s got to get here – and we’re protected by an alert and watchful health emergency service.

That poor lady on the flight from Sierra Leone? Sadly she died, but not from Ebola – the plane was quarantined and everybody on it was checked and registered.

Second, we’re a lot more fortunate than Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.

No super-challenged medical  teams over-stretched against impossible odds. No under-funded hospitals or emergency clinics. No ambulance shortage or emergency workers scared for their lives.

Most important of all, we lead healthier lives. We eat healthier, so our bodies are stronger. We’re more aware of hygiene and preventing infection in the first place.

It’s still not enough though.

We know about washing hands, but how many of us do it properly? A proper scrub, not just a rinse.

And how about the towel we use – a disposable paper one, or the same old cloth hanging on the bathroom door?

Or how about antibacterial hand gel?

Oh sure, we all know about it and use it whenever we remember.

But did you know it takes a minimum of 30 seconds to work? Or that you’re right back where you started once you touch your face, your hair, or the nearest door handle?

Yes, we’re careful. But we’ve got to be carefuller.

Because it’s not just Ebola, it’s a whole slew of other viruses and bacteria queuing up to have a go at us. Germs that have become resistant to antibiotics. Killers just as deadly.

Of course they can’t touch you if your hygiene is good.

So ask yourself, is it?

And are you really watchful?

Do you wipe dust away with your fingers? Do you tap your teeth with your pen? Do you put your keys in your mouth when you bring the shopping through the front door? Have you looked at the face of your phone after you’ve made a call?

No germ can get you if it can’t make contact – through a wound, through your skin itself, breathed in or swallowed. That’s why the Ebola teams wear full body protection. So the disease can’t touch them.

We’ve got to think the same – keep our bodies protected so germs can’t get us. Like all the things you try to do when you’re away on holiday. Be careful, remember you’re in a strange place, your body does not have built-up local resistance.

Don’t go swimming in dirty water. Don’t eat food that you sense is off or not cooked properly. Careful what you drink, if necessary take the cap off yourself – insisting that it has a cap in the first place.

Keep yourself clean. Avoid contact with the body fluids of others – don’t let yourself be sneezed on, no drinking from the same glass, super caution when you change junior’s nappy. In other words, don’t be careless.

Because it’s not Ebola that’s going to get you. It’s norovirus or e.coli. Really unpleasant – and an unnecessary price to pay for sloppy hygiene.

Just be watchful – and you’ll be fine.

Originally posted 2014-08-05 17:42:05.

You can tell from the smell

Splash
Looks bad, smells worse, full of germs

The worst is spilt milk.

One of those cardboard cartons, crushed open in the boot by the sharp edge of other shopping. Dripping everywhere. Soaking into the carpet, the boot lining, right through to the NVH material underneath because you got stuck two hours in a jam.

Ew. Not just the mess, the smell. Especially in summer. You’ll never get rid of it, even if you scrub with carbolic.

And it’s not just the smell either. Mould, bacteria, nasties growing in there that could make you very ill. You wouldn’t be the first to trade in your car for it.

It’s not all that unusual either. Imagine how often it happens with delivery trucks and courtesy vans  – the supermarket drop-off that delivers to your door.

A bit more difficult there. Time is money, so those vehicles are on the road all the time. And if you’ve ever poked your nose in one delivering next door, some of them really pong!

You can’t see the germs that make the smell, but your nose tells you they’re there.

But don’t forget about the others you can’t see – the ones with no smell. Like, how would you recognise norovirus, or salmonella, or campylobacter without a microscope?

OK, you might try a deodoriser – spray it up good with a pleasant smell. Not really a good idea because it just masks what’s underneath. You’re still exposed, you could still get ill.

Unless of course, you actually sterilise.

You can do that you know. Mist up your car with a germ-killing oxidiser.  A bit pricey at around  a tenner, but easy and effortless in an aerosol.

It’ll stop the smell and nail the bacteria too. Though you’ll have to keep doing it. It kills the germs in the air and on all the surfaces – but not the yucky stuff that impregnated deep down. Only replacing the fabric can fix that.

So what about the delivery vehicles?

It’s not good. Most of the time they just get hosed out. Which leaves damp, dark interiors – exactly what viruses and bacteria like to breed.

Though that too can be fixed by sterilising. It takes around twenty minutes for a mist-spray of hydrogen peroxide to work. Bye-bye smells and the inside is completely sterile.

Exactly the sort of thing you’d expect an upmarket supermarket to do. To their local drop-off vehicles and their hulking great pantechnicons too.

If they’re not, maybe you should insist. They already spend money making them look clean on the road – upholding the corporate image, you know.

So what’s a few pence and a couple of minutes on top. Especially when the driver’s sleeping – they’re not delivering then, are they?

And they’re already charging premium prices, so you’re pretty well paying for it.

Not to get rid of the pong either, though that helps. But to be sure there’s never any germs in anything you buy and eat.

That’s work a little extra, isn’t it?

Originally posted 2014-08-05 17:35:29.

Coming home with bugs

Jumbo descending
Home, safe from germs – or caught a bug?

The euphoria is total, the excitement unbelievable. But now that the World Cup is over, we’ve got to get back to reality.

We’ve got to get home too – which can cause a lot of us plenty of adventures.

For instance, if you flew to Uruguay as well as Brazil, you would have been sprayed with insecticide on descent into Montevideo. The airlines call this “disinsection” (dis-insect-ing) and you’ll experience it entering various countries, especially the tropical ones.

That’s fine for killing ordinary bugs, but what about the kind you can’t see? The viruses and bacteria that all hot countries seem to have, often contagious and capable of making you quite ill.

Believe it ot not, there is no spray treatment or procedure anywhere. You’ve got to have your shots before you go – and that’s it.

So if you’ve got a bug – or are sitting next to somebody with one – you, and everyone else on your flight could be at risk.

Somehow we’ve all experienced it, haven’t we? “Aeroplane flu” is a fact of life. And it’s almost impossible to prevent. What are they going to do, refuse everyone with a sniffle who tries to board?

It’s a problem and no mistake. All kinds of people could unknowingly carry bugs – and at 600 mph, it’s the fastest way for any new disease to spread itself around the planet.

Six countries currently require pesticide spraying on all inbound flights: Grenada, India, Kiribati, Madagascar, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay.

Another six; Australia, Barbados, Fiji, Jamaica, New Zealand and Panama require the use of residual pesticides – when every surface in the cabin is sprayed with a solution of 2% permethrin shortly before crew and passengers board.

But there’s nothing to stop germs. No spray, no anything to prevent the spread of the usual Brazilian villains – malaria, dengue, yellow fever, hepatitis A, typhoid, hepatitis B, and rabies. Or the more usual travel bug and everyone’s least favourite, norovirus.

It’s up to the airlines to decide what action to take. And because it takes time and money, the issue tends to be ignored. Even our own CAA are not too concerned. Yet every five years or so there is a global outbreak of something – and it’s jet travel that spreads it faster than anything else.

What can be done? Not much, if passengers are already carrying a disease or infection – and may not even know that they are.

But the issue can be minimised. Aircraft can be sterilised before every flight, so that at least cabins themselves are not the source of anything.

It may not happen very often at the moment.

But count on it, as we become more susceptible to bugs from elsewhere – particularly those that have developed resistance to antibiotics – it is likely to become the norm.

Originally posted 2014-08-05 13:50:37.

Norovirus: how to stop repeat outbreaks before they start

Norovirus misery
Being sick is bad enough, even worse with a norovirus repeat, over and over again. Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Norovirus, ugh! Not only does it feel like the end of the world – seems nothing can stop the dreaded repeat outbreak.

Repeat, repeat and repeat – it boomerangs back and back again. Highly contagious, seriously pernicious – despite the most meticulous deep clean procedures.

Which either means it really IS impossible to beat. Or whatever we’re doing to stop it simply isn’t good enough.

Harsh truth when a thorough job usually involves ripping the place apart. Head-blowing bleach stink with hard scrubbing everywhere for hours – and STILL the bug comes back again.

Know your enemy

Yes, but norovirus is no ordinary stomach bug. It’s the ultimate survivor.

For a start, it only takes ten microscopic particles of the virus to start an infection. Compare that with flu, at maybe between ten and forty times that – and you’re looking at a much more vicious enemy.

Vicious is right.

It’s also why norovirus is so violent – crippling cramps, projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhoea.

Exactly right to spread itself as far and wide as possible – the widest opportunity to start new infections with any newcomers who unsuspectingly chance along.

Plus of course, it might only infect on contact – but it DISPERSES through the air.

Well sure, each particle is barely 2 microns across – light enough to ride the air currents in any room for hours or days. Breathe in just ten of them through your mouth, swallow – and chances are you’ll be hanging onto the loo in utter misery, just 12 hours from now.

And those horrid upchucks?

Yes gruesome, but think of how far they reach and spread.

Across the impact area on the furniture and floor, obviously. Exactly the right place to move in with mop and bucket. But how about underneath? Or behind?

And those are just the big gobs of stuff.

How about the individual particles swirling around – settling everywhere or still riding the breeze? Reach those with sponge or squeegee too?

Wipe down the surfaces, yes – but how about in the coils of power cables, or down the back of electronic equipment? How about the sheets of paper lying on the nearest table – the first thing to be removed by unthinking hands?

The floors get scrubbed. The walls too. Every surface is rubbed down within an inch of its life.

But seldom underneath. And seldom in those hard-to-reach places that nobody thinks about. Cracks, crevices – tiny places where a 2 micron particle might survive for weeks on end.

Which means deep clean or not – the infection never went away in the first place.

Start using the room again, and those norovirus particles are only too ready to come out and do their thing. Not gone. And certainly not forgotten. Repeat, repeat and repeat.

Not good enough

And anyhow, how effective is the stuff we’re using?

That bleach solution might be strong enough to rip your head off, but how does it stack up against a survivor like norovirus? A wipe with even a concentrated solution won’t crack it – to kill norovirus, bleach has to be in continuous contact for at least TWENTY minutes.

So even though a surface is treated, it still might not be safe.

Same thing with steam.

You can give yourself a nasty burn if your not careful. But to kill norovirus, even that kind of heat takes TWO minutes of constant contact or more to do the job. Like bacteria, viruses can survive in the frozen Antarctic, or live happily in a seething volcano. What’s a little steam bath, now and then?

And how are you applying it? With a waving hosepipe?

Well, yes. Because if you did apply superhot steam to everything continuously for two minutes, it would be sodden through and probably useless – shorted out or fused, if it’s anything electric.

And have you seen what bleach does to surfaces with prolonged contact? Shrivelled up or corroded very quickly.

Which puts us where? Hours of work down the drain and the bug still present. Repeat, repeat and repeat.

We think we’re safe, but norovirus is just biding its time. Ready for its repeat performance, just when you thought it was safe.

Money, money, money – not just health

Don’t worry, we’re not the only ones. How about an expensive investment like a cruise ship? Hundreds of passengers, sick and ready to sue.

Thousands down the drain and STILL norovirus comes back – like Fred Olsen Line’s Balmoral, struck down SIX times since 2009.

Or Holland America Line’s Caribbean cruise liner Amsterdam – having to cancel four trips in succession because of repeat outbreaks in 1982.   It got so bad, the ship had to be taken out of service to ensure thorough decontamination – and new passengers were even warned before embarking that the ship had previously had problems it couldn’t get rid of.

All of which says, if you want to get rid of norovirus, there’s no pussy-footing around.

Conventional cleaning just won’t work. And that’s all it is anyway – cleaning.

It’s not actually sterilising – making germs dead, so they can’t infect anything.

Repeat, repeat and repeat

The job’s not done and norovirus is still lurking.

OK, so get unconventional.

Think killing germs, not just cleaning.

Especially getting to the airborne stuff that never gets treated anyway. Yet 80% of pretty well every room we live in is nothing else!

You can throw technology at it, like ultraviolet radiation – that will at least do something.

But there’s a downside to that too. Light can’t go round corners, unless you have lots of mirrors. So blitzing a room with UV means either a lot of exposures in different positions – or manhandling great unwieldy pieces of shiny metal (glass would break).

Oh and yes – a variation on the contact time. The potency of UV as a germ-killer falls off rapidly with distance from the light source. Unless everything’s within about ten feet, those pesky norovirus particles won’t be cashing in their chips just yet.

Which leaves fogging.

Like the insect control people do when they fumigate a house – pump a load of germ-killer into the air and let it swirl around. The usual choice is hydrogen peroxide, an effective germ killer and less toxic than most alternatives.

But also fraught with a few problems.

Just getting it into the air doesn’t make it reach behind, underneath or on top of things. There’s nothing to push it into cracks or crevices either.

It will kill the germs alright, norovirus included. But without effective dispersal to reach everywhere, there’s still nothing to prevent repeat outbreaks.

And just consider fogging the place up with a vapour. Lots of moisture to play havoc with sensitive equipment and paper. Enough that a second machine is necessary alongside the fogging one – to dry everything out after the vapour has done its work.

Plus there’s the old question of contact time. As a vapour the stuff is heavier than air, so doesn’t stay airborne long.

To compensate, a strong solution is necessary – 32%, about the maximum permissible without being totally toxic. Yes it kills, but it’s also pretty corrosive – not good on plastics or sensitive surfaces – and certainly not good for computers.

So what, repeat norovirus outbreaks are inevitable – even with technology?

The RIGHT technology

Depends on the technology.

Because it IS possible to mist up the place with a safe solution of just 6% hydrogen peroxide. And have it spread everywhere by ionising it – so it tries to escape from itself, yet reaches out and clamps hold of germs as it does so.

Contact time is less than 2 minutes – because ionising changes the stuff into a plasma, which multiplies its oxidising power several times over. Forty minutes tops, and the whole place is sterile – no germs anywhere, not even norovirus – repeat or no repeat.

OK, yes, this a blatant plug. But if you’re as sick of one norovirus repeat after another as we are, you’ll be glad to know there’s a system that works.

And not just on norovirus either – on everything.

Your way of giving germs the same dirty treatment they give you.

About this blog

Back Off, Bacteria! is the blog of Hyper Hygiene Ltd, supplier of what we’re convinced is the most effective health protection system in the world. A fully mobile, all-automatic Hypersteriliser machine mists up workplaces with ionised hydrogen peroxide, spreading everywhere and eliminating all bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Hypersteriliser units are supplied to businesses and institutions across the UK, notably the haematology and other critical units at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester; Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital; South Warwickshire Hospital; Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital; and Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.

The Halo Hypersteriliser system achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. It is the only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. It is also EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

Reference links checked and working at time of posting.  However, some URLs may be taken down or re-sited later. If your link goes nowhere or you get an Error 404 message, please accept our apologies.

Why corporate wellness programmes won’t save you from the flu

Exec surrounded by germs
Wellness is not the issue – start thinking illness prevention

The usual pitch for wellness programmes is to advance employee health.

That’s if you believe the glossy brochure.

Ask any bean-counter and you’ll get one of two answers.

In the US, a wellness plan is about reducing insurance costs that underwrite employee healthcare.

The UK is closer to the mark, where a wellness plan aims to slash absenteeism.

Wellness or money?

Not really health-related at all, either of them. More geared to pushing productivity.

Work harder, work longer – here’s a bribe to persuade you.

Most staff would probably prefer more money. But if the feelgood perks are dishing out, sure why not?

Just don’t expect protection from illness – that’s not on the radar.

People get sick, it happens. That’s their lookout, not their employer’s.

Besides, KEEPING well is easier to handle than illness – that’s what doctors and hospitals are for.

Which is why pretty well all wellness programmes avoid it like the plague.

  • Health risk assessments, check
  • Weight loss incentives, check
  • Screenings for blood pressure, weight, height and BMI, check
  • Fitness classes, check
  • Gym membership, check
  • Stop smoking groups, check
  • Lifestyle coaching, check
  • Flu shots, check

Wait a minute, flu shots! We’re talking rubbish, right?

Real world perspective

Well no, because against this year’s virus particularly, flu shots are only 20% effective. And we’re up against FOUR types of flu, not one – H3N2, H1N1, B/Yamagata and B/Victoria.

Plus flu is not the only bug to knock us flat on our backs.

What about norovirus, the winter vomiting bug? Or all the other gastric nasties – salmonella, campylobacter, e.coli and c.difficile? What do wellness programmes do to stop any of them?

For Pete’s sake, they even encourage them!

Ever heard of gym germs?

According to Fitness Magazine, “Gyms are hotbeds of germ activity, researchers say.” All that sweat and gasping breath. Just the place to pick up colds and flu, norovirus, staphylococcus, streptococcus, MRSA, athlete’s foot, hepatitis, take your pick.

Some wellness programme! And who’s going to believe you got sick in the gym?

Unhealthy workplace

Meanwhile, the average office isn’t much better.

There’s another thing about wellness programmes. We all get signed up, and then we have to DO something to make them work. Actually go to the gym classes – in our own time of course, lunch or after work – never office hours.

Same thing with the health checks, the smoking clinics and everything else. Busy-body employers, who do they think they are?

We’re lazy at a personal level too. Unthinking and unobservant. Which makes us our own worst enemies.

How can we get revved up about a wellness programme when we can’t even help ourselves?

Wellness, schmellness

Which means for any kind of plan to work, it has to assume we do nothing.

We arrive for the nine-to-five thing, sit there like a sack of potatoes and it all has to happen around us. Laying a guilt trip on us because two-thirds of us are fat isn’t going to crack it.

And anyway, if we DO go to the gym, it takes six months before any of that flab visibly comes off.

No, no. Any SERIOUS wellness programme just has to happen. Like in the background while we’re not looking. HEPA filters in the aircon maybe, taking out the germs – fine until the penny drops that most germs are too small to be caught.

How about the nightly cleaning brigade? Mop and buckets, plenty of bleach – problem sorted. Except the bleach stinks, so everybody has a headache – and the rub and scrub never gets to the hideaways where germs wait to grab us.

Nope, nope and nope. For a wellness programme to work, it has to prevent illness.

Which means getting rid of three things:

  • Germs
  • Stress
  • Pain

Germs are easy. Sterilise the entire place on a regular basis, so there aren’t any. No germs, no illness – sorted.

Stress is more difficult. People clam up when it’s personal – emotions and worry going round and round. Which takes listening, understanding and lots of time to get right.

Tick, tick

Except time is suddenly something you have a lot of. Because there’s no germs, people are at their desks more. They’re feeling better about it too – without the nagging off-colour complaints that ALL of us go through every three days or so.

All adding up to the 57.5 days of being at work but unwell with it – not able to concentrate properly, making mistakes and dragging our heels through the day.

Yes, time. Time to talk and reach out. To relate and demonstrate concern. To take off and sort out the circling monsters that bring work to a halt – child care, finances, relationships, bereavement, accidents and personal responsibilities. Make the stress go away and there’s more time than ever.

Which leaves pain.

Not much you can do against something this physical. Bones and muscles out of whack. Cramps, injuries, spasms.

Unless you give away time for this too.

Time for physiotherapy, massage and heat treatment. Maybe even at the office if it helps. Rescue sessions on the spot to ease the agony and up the commitment to perform. All paid for out of the time reclaimed from getting rid of stress and germs.

So wellness programmes, get real.

Start thinking illness prevention.

About this blog

Back Off, Bacteria! is the blog of Hyper Hygiene Ltd, supplier of what we’re convinced is the most effective health protection system in the world. A fully mobile, all-automatic Hypersteriliser machine mists up workplaces with ionised hydrogen peroxide, spreading everywhere and eliminating all bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Hypersteriliser units are supplied to businesses and institutions across the UK, notably the haematology and other critical units at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester; Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital; South Warwickshire Hospital; Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital; and Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.

The Halo Hypersteriliser system achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. It is the only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. It is also EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

What’s your crisis plan for Aussie flu, or other business health threat?

Send hime home
Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Send anyone infected home.

Your plan had better be good. Once these things get started, they go round like wildfire.

Half your office, out in one go. A whole team, down for weeks.

And just maybe a law suit, because you didn’t protect your team enough.

Plan, or else

Sure, flu jabs. Except it’s common knowledge this year’s vaccine is only 20% effective against the killer H3N2 strain. Lots of refusals from people who don’t want stuff injected into their bodies if it isn’t going to work.

What if it’s not Aussie flu, but the Japanese B / Yamagata strain – and the vaccine’s not available yet?

Or not flu at all, but some other illness that snuck in while everyone was looking elsewhere?

Can’t plan for everything? Quite true, you can’t – there’s no controlling anything your team might have picked up outside.

But again it’s common knowledge most offices are germ factories. Everybody all close together in the same space. Exposed to each other for hours, touching the same things, breathing the same air.

Just one person comes down with something and the ripple effect can last for months. Round and round, infecting and re-infecting each other. Enough to bring the whole business down, how do you plan for that?

You HAVE got a plan, right?

Not just flu

Like if it’s legionnaire’s disease, protecting your team is legally part of your duty of care. Not a virus, but a bacteria – legionella pneumophila. As its name suggests, an illness very much like pneumonia, which is where H3N2 can lead to if it gets out of control. And pneumonia is deadly – killing 50 million people back in 1918, the world’s worst ever epidemic.

But yes, legionnaire’s disease. One of a list of about 30 diseases you are legally required to shield your team from. It breeds in water systems and air conditioning units, but is breathed in from the air.

Gloss over taking precautions and the Health & Safety people will be all over you – a £1 million fine for Stoke-on-Trent based JTF Wholesale last year. Enough to put you out of business.

Getting sued of course is only part of it. Which is why having a plan is so crucial. What does it do to your business to have a load of people out of action all at once? And how do you contain infection from the handful you have left, holding the fort?

A big thanks to all our readers

This post today is our 500th  since we started, appropriately enough with How I Survived When Germs Killed My Business. Thank you for your support and interest, it’s people like you who keep us alive.

If nothing else, make your plan insist on one thing.

First sign of anyone being the slightest bit unwell, SEND THEM HOME.

They’re useless to you at work anyway – unable to concentrate, fighting an uphill battle with their bodies, spreading contagion to everyone else.

SEND THEM HOME and don’t let them log on either. They need to get better – and worrying about work stuff is only going to delay that. Paracetamol, rest – and at worst, mindless daytime television are about all they’re capable of handling. Let them be.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, you’ve got some rear-guarding to do.

Time for Plan B

Because the smitten ones might be gone, but not the germs they leave behind. And germs can survive in warm centrally-heated offices for weeks at a time.

Some of them might be airborne, swirled around in the continuously circulating air. Others lurk on surfaces, waiting to infect – on high-touch objects like keypads, touchscreens, light switches and control buttons. On all the other things people use too – documents, pens, keys, money, phones, handbags, wallets, clothing.

Better get your cleaning service on it, Priority One. Not just a wipe-down, but a deep clean. Give it the works, to take out everything that might hit you, not just Aussie flu.

Norovirus for instance gets everywhere and keeps bouncing back if not clobbered hard enough. The violent vomiting it causes is not just gruesome, it deliberately spreads tiny particles of itself everywhere, every little crack and crevice. Miss any out and it’ll be back, surer than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Better still, not just a deep clean but actually sterilise the place. Make it so that all germs are gone completely. No Aussie flu, no legionnaire’s disease, no norovirus, no nothing – the only way to make 100% sure your team don’t catch anything.

Other than that, sit tight and wait for everybody to get better.

Kick in that other plan you have too. The one for dire emergencies. Like what to do when your building has a fire, a power-out loses your data, or floods stop you getting near for few months. If you need to know how to set one up, Newcastle City Council have a blueprint right here.

Good luck with everything. See you in summer when this is all over.

About this blog

Back Off, Bacteria! is the blog of Hyper Hygiene Ltd, supplier of what we’re convinced is the most effective health protection system in the world. A fully mobile, all-automatic Hypersteriliser machine mists up workplaces with ionised hydrogen peroxide, spreading everywhere and eliminating all bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Hypersteriliser units are supplied to businesses and institutions across the UK, notably the haematology and other critical units at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester; Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital; South Warwickshire Hospital; Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital; and Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.

The Halo Hypersteriliser system achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. It is the only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. It is also EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

Productivity: how most British businesses are standing on the brake

Employee Health Protection
Not healthy – business spend a fortune on accelerating productivity, but peanuts on taking the brakes off

OK, so we’re lagging behind if you believe the Office for Budget Responsibility. Not keeping up, hanging onto our shekels, not investing in the future.

Doesn’t look like it with the new start-ups making the headlines. New ideas, new technology, the front-runners are showing the world.

Across the board though, there’s no doubt performance could be better. Bigger, more established businesses are not so quick to jump in the gaps – and too many cut corners with low income immigrant labour.

They might look like they’re trying to go places, but the fact is that pretty well all of them are standing on the brake. Holding back, without even knowing they’re doing it.

But as winter draws in and the days get colder, the evidence becomes more obvious.

The first sneeze, the first sore throat, the first coughing attack in the office. A team member gamely pushing themselves at their desk, determined not to give in to whatever bug it is – common cold, H3N2 Aussie flu virus, MERS, SARS, or any one of a billion possible illnesses.

No protection against germs

And that’s the clue – being unwell at work. Trying to keep going, but feeling like death warmed up – at what kind of capability level? 60% of their normal? 40%? 25%?

Under-powered performance and under-powered concentration. So the work load suffers and accuracy with it. Lots of good intentions, but unwell staff are unable to deliver their best – which means productivity can only take a dive.

And how long will it be before other team members start coughing too? Everyone sharing the same work space, breathing the same air, touching the same things – it’s going to happen isn’t it? What goes around, comes around – a setback is almost inevitable.

Which is what we mean by standing on the brake.

Because what do most businesses do about protecting staff from colds and flu – or anything else for that matter? A company flu jab, maybe – and that’s your lot.

And how about prevention?

It’s winter – so expectations  are high for norovirus,  the vomiting bug, to appear. What measures are taken against that?

Or legionnaire’s disease, a pneumonia-like killer that spreads through the air via the HVAC system? Neglect that one and it can cost millions in health and safety fines, as G4S Cash Solutions found out.

What about duty of care?

Also on top of the health risk, other hazards like mould and damp can trigger a £5K spot fine. Or as one charity found out, £12,000 in compensation and six months of expensive renovations.

That’s in addition to the 30 other notifiable diseases listed by Public Health England – along with 60 notifiable organisms that present a significant risk to human health. 90 illnesses any business is liable for if found negligent in duty of care.

All of which are expensive oversights to make. But a drop in the ocean compared to on-going unwell-at-work costs and the impact of under-performance on productivity.

Because unlike time off for sick leave, which for most people is just 6 days a year according to the CIPD – being unwell at work is likely to be 10 times that at 57.5 days a year, almost three working months.

Three working months of under-powered performance. And that’s for EVERY team member – from the lowliest apprentice to the top-ranking CEO – because we’re all human. No wonder productivity is less than it could be!

And the cause?

Germs holding us back

Sure, we’re exposed to germs all the time, so some of them may have come from outside.

Reality is though that we spend 90% of our time indoor, particularly in winter – and most of our waking hours are spent at work. So it’s no surprise our workplace is where we’re exposed the most.

On top of which, because we can’t see germs, we don’t imagine we’re at risk. We LOOK clean, therefore we are. But again in reality:

There’s another dimension too. Germs are so tiny, they’re airborne most of the time. And around 80% of any room space we work in is air.

We might clean our workplace thoroughly, scrub every surface within an inch of its life, but there’s no way to scrub the air. And in a study prepared for the Wall Street Journal, germs were found to spread from the front door handle to more than half the office in less than four hours.

Up in the air – and waiting

Uh huh, the air. We share it, we breathe it, we move through it – and all the time we’re immersed in germs, surrounded by them, constantly in contact.

Sometimes we fall victim, sometimes we’re lucky. We get something and throw it off quickly, or it has us seriously out of action for several days. We’re at constant hazard, yet how many businesses provide protection against it?

Surprisingly, nobody thinks about it, accepting getting unwell as a fact of life. Productivity with the brake on, even when money and technology are trying to accelerate it.

Yet releasing the brake is easy. Mist the place up with an effective biocide like ionised hydrogen peroxide, and ALL germs are eliminated in under an hour depending on room size. Throughout the air space, across all surfaces, and into all the nooks and crannies too.

Back to 100%

And with no germs to catch, there are no illnesses to fall victim to. Those three lost working months are restored, with team members able to perform at full capacity all the time – 33% more than they could previously.

33% better productivity.

The brake is well and truly off – there’s nothing to hold back from a rapidly brightening future.

Full throttle – look out world!

Hello? How your phone is bugged and trying to kill you

Worried businesswoman on phone
Radiation sickness? Spies listening in? More likely germs to make you ill – invisible so we never know they’re there.

Bugged?

Oh no, who is it? GCHQ? MI5? The CIA?

A quick look at the screen and it’s more likely MRSA,SARS or DRSP.

Translated, that’s Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or Drug-Resistant Streptococcus Pneumoniae.

Not electronic bugs, but living microbes.

Germs trying to get at you

Millions of bacteria, fungi and viruses (the real ones) – all trying to infect you as best they know how.

And the best way is contact.

Your hands touch everything. Then you eat with them, touch your face – the germs’ easy way in.

Gotcha!

Next thing you know it’s a cold or flu. Or maybe gut-wrenching norovirus, campylobacter or e.coli.

Inevitably something – just check your screen.

See those finger marks?

That’s evidence.

You go through the day, thinking your hands are clean, but they’re not.

Which is why the finger marks. Not just traces of grease and dirt, but visible confirmation there are germs present. Your phone is bugged alright.

Dangerous?

You bet.

Microscopic killers

Some germs are so tiny, it only takes  10 cells or so gathered together – and you’re infected.

Norovirus, for instance, or e.coli. Or dreaded Ebola, which is smaller still – your one-way ticket to serious illness.

So, germs right there, on your phone – millions of them. Any one of which could kill you if you’re careless enough.

Which means when did you last clean your phone? And when did you last clean your hands?

Because germs are everywhere, not just on your touchscreen. The whole place is bugged too.

On the TV remote, for instance – possibly the most dangerous source of germs in your whole home.

And everywhere else as well. On all surfaces. In the air.

Only you don’t know they’re there because they’re invisible.

Your hands don’t LOOK dirty, neither do all the things around you. So like all of us, you take chances.

OK, so what if you do clean your phone – scrub it down with antibacterial wipes? And you hands too – have a go with good old soap and water, singing Happy Birthday twice like the World Health Organization recommend.?

Clean, but still contaminated

All well and good.

But now you can’t touch anything, because you’ll immediately get contaminated again. The whole place is bugged, remember? And even just standing there, your hands will pick up germs from the air.

The surfaces you touch might not be so bad, maybe they had a once-over last night.

But the air?

How do you take soap and water to that?

How the heck can you be safe, particularly in the workplace – where there could be hundreds of you , all touching the same things and breathing the same atmosphere? Desks, keyboards, door handles, light switches, documents, coffee mugs, money, everything?

Effective debugging

Only one way for sure.

Sterilise the air and everything it touches – exactly the same tactics germs use themselves.

Which means a mist-up with a germ-killer.  A full-on go when everybody’s left for the evening. De-bugged, de luxe.

Not with bleach or ammonia either.  That stuff will asphyxiate you in two seconds flat. They take forever to work anyway – at least 30 minutes contact time to be effective.

The stuff that works is hydrogen peroxide. Takes around 2 minutes to kill germs by oxidising them. Nixes the whole lot of them – bacteria, viruses, fungi, the lot.

As long as it’s ionised first.

That way it’s electrostatically charged so it spreads everywhere, trying to escape from itself. And the charge attracts germs like magnets – so they’re forcibly grabbed at and ripped apart by oxygen atoms.

Oh, and the other thing about ionising. It turbo-charges the hydrogen peroxide mist, making it more potent. Releases a whole slew of other antimicrobials into the air as well – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultra violet.

Oxidised to nothing

No way any germ is coming back from that. And the whole place is now sterilised from top to bottom – all surfaces, under and behind them as well – and the air itself. Germ-free to a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level  – that’s 99.9999%, or just one cell in a million.

Of course your phone could still be bugged and trying to kill you.

The CIA have tabs on everybody these days – and the jury’s still out on whether cell phones generate enough radiation to be harmful.

And if you’ve read Stephen King’s Cell, you’ll know you’re right to be terrified.

Safer with smoke signals and carrier pigeon – as long as you keep your hands clean.

First UNEQUAL pay, now TOO MUCH sick leave – how misreading women makes business losses snowball

Unfair to women
Being sick at work is bad enough, no wonder women are sick of the attitude

Women are right to be furious. Because what is British business becoming, a misogynists’ bean-feast?

Hard on the scandal of unequal pay for women come fingers pointing at disproportionate sick leave.

“An additional 2.8 million days of absenteeism more than men in the past three months alone, ” according to a report. 19.8 million days lost, versus  17 million.

How shocking. How disgraceful.

Unequal everything

You can feel the prejudices kicking in, can’t you?

All those clichés about headaches, period pains and emotional upsets. Easy to misread when your own most regular health distress is likely to be a hangover.

Oh sure, some issues are serious.

A gastric attack like norovirus is no joke. Neither is flu, especially the H1N1 variety – hovering at the edge of pneumonia and just waiting to do you in.

Yeah, men can suffer these too. But never any of the other anguish that comes from being a woman.

Which puts management understanding of women’s wellbeing about on a par with that hangover. A minor issue to be suffered in silence against the unbreakable discipline of being at one’s desk.

Uh huh.

And does management ever consider the QUALITY of such work with a pounding head or churning stomach? How good that might be for business?

Multiply that hangover several times over for period pain – especially if accompanied by dysmenorrhoea, the days of spasms experienced by many women on both sides of it.

Boiled knitting syndrome

Now try to give full attention to that sales meeting. Or input that critical figure with the decimal point in the right place. Or respond to that crucial client request so easily glossed over in a telephone call.

Just a few hours being unwell at one’s desk can cost thousands. Far more than the salary days lost staying at home in bed. A whole million pound contract and more – down the tubes with a phone call, a missing staple, a misstyped computer key.

So what kind of a manager allows a staff member to influence business when they’re not capable? As long as everybody’s at their desk, who’s going to notice that productivity’s gone for a ball of chalk?

Sod’s Law, isn’t it? Everything drags its heels. Processing gets continually stuck in the works. A job that should take five days takes ten. The wheels keep coming off.

And all because they’re women. Look, that one there, holding her head.

Sure, she has a string of degrees as long as your arm, passed out top of her class at business school – but what kind of asset can ANYBODY  be when their brain is like boiled knitting?

Take off – it’s better for business

So OK, women have to take off more days than men.

Let them do it. Insist on it.

Because yes, it’s scary that absenteeism costs the country £29 billion a year.

What’s even scarier is that the cost of presenteeism – being unwell at work – is TEN TIMES HIGHER. As you can work out for yourself in your own business, here.

You see, though the bean counter’s perspective is that staff assets are supposed to perform according to their salary package 100% of the time – reality is that they’re off-colour for 25% of it, experiencing pain or nagging discomfort roughly every three days.

And that’s men as well as women. Except men tough it out more often – increasing the opportunity for mistakes and oversights. Women know better.

Which makes paying for sick leave the easy bit.

Nobody imagines picking up the tab for a string of omissions, errors or misdeals. But that’s what most businesses do, every day of the year. Written off as inevitable – when it’s unthinking management that is really to blame.

Pilots and bus drivers aren’t allowed to fly or drive drunk. But that’s what staff do when they try to function while ill at work. And management encourage it instead of sending them home.

Paying for mistakes, how smart is that?

OK, so the business may not crash and burn like a 747. But unaware and unseen, profitability takes a hit out of all proportion to the perceived economy of insisting staff are all at work all the time.

Especially with women.

Naturally more caring and sympathetic than men – more customer responsive and sensitive to needs. Biologically built that way.

And management wants to pay them less?

AND penalise them for days off because of who they are?

Like we said, a misogynists’ bean-feast.

Lets hope for sake of all of us that more women get through that glass ceiling soon.