Tag Archives: pandemic

PM’s pandemic hit squad forgets prevention need

Skeptical woman
Pretty impressive – but a bit like bolting the stable door after the horse has scarpered

Nice one, Dave.

Yes, the next pandemic is going to be worse than Ebola, and probably some kind of flu-based virus.

MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is a good candidate – already running amok in South Korea after an opening zoonotic hop from camels in Saudi Arabia.

The plague is coming

But we can’t wash our hands of the fact that these hit squads medics won’t stop pandemic pandemonium – fantastic and state-of-the-art though they might be.

The clue is “wash hands” – and we’re none of us very good at it.Wash Hands Logo

But that’s exactly how any new virus is most likely to accelerate into a pandemic. Through sloppy hygiene and poor standards of personal cleanliness.

Direct contact is how Ebola did it – touching victims out of care and love – or contamination from their bodily fluids.

And yes, you’re right Prime Minister – if the next super-bogey is flu-based, it’s likely to be airborne. “Coughs and sneezes spread diseases” territory – spiralling out of the air around us, just waiting to be breathed in.

Sloppy hygiene

And yes, it’s going to be seriously bad – until we get our hand-washing act together. Plus defend our environment against airborne invaders.

Fact: 95% of us don’t wash our hands properly. Five seconds shaking them under the tap won’t stop any self-respecting coronavirus.

A lot of us are also super-yuckists – because Fact: 62% of men and 40% of women don’t wash their hands at all after going to the loo. (Tweet this)

Five minutes later, they might be eating. Or scribbling notes while they’re on the phone. The germs from their bum are on their food – or on the pen they’re chewing while they think. Usually they wind up with norovirus, the usual Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.

But pandemic pandemonium is more serious, right?

Self-infecting

Which is why we’ll need the hit squads, Mr PM sir – these super-yuckists are sending a message direct to germ headquarters – INFECT ME NOW. When your super-virus actually hits, we’ll be going down like flies all over.

Because – Fact again – most of us touch our faces 3,000 times a day – most germs’ favourite way into the body, through the soft tissue openings of the eyes, nose and mouth.

Our own stupid carelessness, not so? Actually sitting up and asking for illness because we’re too lazy or forgetful to take the right precautions.

Because you watch, when the panic starts stampeding us, how many will there be running round with surgical facemasks, completely neglecting that our hands have traces of poo all over them? Suddenly, our Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease has notched itself up to a whole new level.

Cruise ship virus

Yup, Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease – a.k.a. norovirus.

That’s the one that keeps popping up on cruise ships – a bad place to have a virus going round. Lots of people living close together, sharing the same food and hygiene facilities, in direct contact with each other and breathing each other’s air.

No wonder it spreads like wild-fire.Rediscover Hygiene logo

Which is what our new super-virus is likely to do too, because that’s exactly how we live day-to-day, isn’t it? Particularly in the colder countries – indoors in the central heating, sharing the same space – at the office, wherever we eat, on buses and trains, in schools, sitting together watching a show.

All those unwashed hands, applauding together – what kind of chance do we have?

Double defence

Actually, better than we might think. Because though we might be at hazard all clustered together by our lifestyle, we can sterilise these communal spaces before we enter them. Ensuring all viruses and bacteria are gone before we set foot in the place.

Conventional cleaning and disinfecting though, is not going to crack it. We can rub and scrub all we like, treating surfaces is not good enough, we’re expecting an airborne virus, remember? And normal procedures do not touch the air, even though it’s 80% of our enclosed living space.

To do the whole lot, we need a Hypersteriliser – about the size of a small wheelie-bin – the one sure way to destroy all viruses and bacteria in any room space completely.

This clever gadget works by misting up the entire room with ionised hydrogen peroxide. This causes the mist molecules to repel each other – driving them as far away as possible, hard up against walls, ceiling, floor and everything in the room – and of course, deep into any cracks and crevices.

At the same time, those charged particles actively reach out and grab at viruses and bacteria, attracted by the same magnetic charge. On contact, oxygen atoms, hydroxyl radicals and even ozone is released, oxidising all germs to destruction – on surfaces; under, over and behind things; and everywhere throughout the air.

High-level hygiene saves us all

Together with careful and consistent hand-washing, these two defences should keep us safe from pretty well any harmful pathogens, the super-virus as well . Fewer of us to catch the bug – less of a pandemic – more like isolated outbreaks, a more controllable size for the PM’s hit squads to handle.

A real pandemic of course, would swamp them entirely. So it’s up to us to make sure we’re properly protected – prevention being better than cure. Thanks, Prime Minister, we’ll take it from here.

Yup, you guessed it – it’s wash-your-hands time.

Originally posted 2015-06-08 14:11:55.

Red-faced Rudolf forced to take a rain check

Sneezing Santa
Christmas emergency: a serious infection alert has cancelled this year’s traditional delivery

Sorry folks, that famous and long-awaited sleigh ride won’t be happening this year.

Seems that red nose of Rudolph’s is causing major ructions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Alarm bells are going off that it’s a warning symptom of H5N1 or other avian flu – one of the nasty ones.

Pandemic alert

With only days to this year’s round-the-world distribution trip, the whole delivery team – Rudolph, Santa and all the helpers – are under lockdown. Strict quarantine against any new pandemic breaking loose.

Despite high expectations and the world-famous nature of the trip, looks like the CDC has had Santa and Rudolph under surveillance for a long time.

Germ-spreading fomites

High on the list of worries is the huge sack of fomites – objects or substances which are capable of carrying infectious organisms from one individual to another.

Though each is individually gift-wrapped and addressed, there are no facilities aboard the sleigh to ensure they are properly disinfected and pathogen-free.

The lack of washing facilities aboard is also identified as a major health risk.

Asked for comment, Santa was overcome by a coughing fit, but did manage to identify that a back-up system was in place.

UV protection

Prior to departure, presents will be sterilised by longer than usual exposure to the Aurora Borealis at the North Pole. The ultra violet light present in the phenomenon will ensure all viruses and bacteria are removed before take-off.

Actual delivery will be by a fleet of high altitude NASA Global Hawk drones. For Santa watchers, high intensity white strobe lights will substitute for Rudolph’s more familiar red glow.

The whole journey can be tracked as normal via the official NORAD Santa Tracker website.

Hike hygiene levels high

Advice from the Santa Corporation is that children should be sure to wash their hands thoroughly before eating or opening presents – and be sure to follow proper hygiene when going to the toilet.

An upgraded delivery system is already in preparation for next year.

Merry Christmas everyone – and keep well!

Originally posted 2014-12-23 14:54:33.

Why taking antibiotics is like chopping off your leg

Crazy girl with knife
Without knowing it, we’re doing ourselves more harm than good

Crazy, right? Round the twist. Who in their right mind would want to chop their leg off?

But that’s how crazy we are when we take antibiotics.

We don’t think so, of course.  But without knowing it, we’re doing ourselves serious harm.

Because antibiotics are prescribed to do one thing – kill bacteria.

Killers as life-savers?

And surprise, surprise, though none of us ever realise it – our own bodies are more bacteria than human, our cells outnumbered by more than 10 to 1.

Seems impossible and about-face, but that’s actually a good thing.

Bacteria are one of the longest-lasting life forms on Earth. Amazing survivors too. Capable of withstanding fierce high temperatures. Triple-figure sub-zero freezing temperatures. Even living and breeding in acid.

Our bodies are colonised by hundreds of trillions of these remarkable creatures. They’re vitally necessary to handle our digestion, produce proteins and manage our immune systems – among thousands of other functions. They live with our human cells in harmony – and we could not exist without them.

So yeah, we take antibiotics to kill bacteria that are harming us. The WRONG bacteria in the WRONG place, running amok among the RIGHT bacteria that are who we are.

Oh dear – chop, chop, chop.

A bomb in the guts

Because in targeting harmful bacteria, those same antibiotics inevitably kill some of our good bacteria too. Their killer action is spread wide to be sure of effectiveness. So our own systems take a hit – though we may not know it at the time.

The bacteria inside us know it though, particularly in our gut. To the trillions and trillions that live in our insides, a dose of antibiotics is like exploding a hydrogen bomb.  Millions get the chop.

Sure some of them regrow, reproducing themselves sometimes in as little as 20 minutes. But not all. Some are damaged and can’t do their job. Others –  the rarer ones – might be lost altogether. Our gut population depleted, our bio-diversity gone.

We might feel the same when our illness passes – back to normal and our usual selves.

But we’re not.

Biggest of the known side effects of antibiotics is growth promotion. The body bulks up very rapidly, putting on weight overnight . Damaged or missing bacteria cause the metabolism to gorge on food more than normal. And to extract a higher proportion of nutrients, directly accelerating the body’s over-development.

Fatter and fatter

See what happens with kids aged two, put on antibiotics. By the time they get to five they’re already overweight, well on their way to increasingly chubby childhood.

It’s this quality that has revolutionised the food industry, enabling factory farms to pump out THREE times the world’s meat and plant crop output in little more than 20 years.

Such weight gain doesn’t happen to everybody.

But it’s already a fact of life – and a key reason why two-thirds of adults are already overweight or obese.  Not just from medical treatments – frighteningly made worse by one third of all prescribed antibiotics being completely unnecessary – but from daily exposure through our FOOD.

You see, spectacular growth boosting in food production has exploded antibiotics use all over the world. Currently 240,000 tonnes annually and rocketing.

That means that through direct dosing with feedstuffs – and even more through indirect absorption of manure used to fertilise, enriching all plant life and those same feedstuffs – all of us receive a small daily intake of antibiotics with every meal we eat. Exactly the way to make us bulk up fast.

Fatter and sicker

Animals and plants quickly get eaten, so their life expectancy is not very high – a few years at most. But we go on for decades, getting steadily fatter, deeper into obesity. More prone to illnesses that obesity brings – diabetes, heart disease, cancer and many others. All long goodbyes.

Not the same as chopping off a leg – but equally unpleasant. And a lot more life-threatening.

Nor is it just getting fat that antibiotics threaten us with.

Damaged or missing bacteria deny us any immunity to serious illness we may have inherited from our parents. Our kids are denied them for the same reason, they’re no longer there to be passed on.

Worse, our bodies start reacting to conditions that aren’t there. Misreading normal signals as hostile, confusing everyday reality with phantom attacks against us.

Which is how, out of nowhere, we develop allergies. Hay fever, eczema or asthma. Or how about urticaria, anaphylactic shock or gluten reactions? People never had them 20 years ago –not in the snowballing number we have now.

Superbugs rule

And then of course – really chopping off our own leg – our undisciplined and wild overuse of antibiotics has triggered the development of superbugs.

Our cure-all miracle drugs are starting not to work any more because bacteria have become immune to them. Antimicrobial resistance.

Yes, well – we wanted to kill off bacteria, But nobody thought we were chopping off bits of ourselves.

So now we sit with life-savers that don’t work, medical surgery brought to a standstill, and all of us steadily getting fatter.

Not a survivable future

Though count on it, the bacteria that brought us down will still be around, long after we’re gone.

Oh yeah, and that antibiotic resistance superbug thing?

Wait till that runs riot across factory farms. Flash pandemics among livestock. No more food for most of us. Death by hunger is not a nice way to go – and we’re probably already too late to stop it.

Chopping off a leg, huh? Looks like we’ve already done it.

Time to reverse this antibiotics debacle now, to get off the train and find alternatives. Other solutions like bacteriophages – something, anything.

Either that, chop, chop – or we’re limping towards a future that doesn’t exist.

Picture Copyright: vatikaki / 123RF Stock Photo

30 million deaths every year – our next pandemic is already here

Large and lonely
It’s not fair – getting fat without eating more – and it’s going to be the death of you

30 million deaths – almost half the population of Britain. With a waiting list of 1.4 billion. That’s a pandemic alright.

All driven by the one thing we know about, but prefer not to think about – our rapidly expending waistlines.

Unwanted obesity

Bigger tummies, fatter figures, unstoppable obesity.

We never used to be like this, but we are now.

In the UK, fully two thirds of us are already clinically overweight or obese – 1.4 billion worldwide. Already on the downhill slope to serious health complications – heart disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma. Known killers with a combined death rate of 30 million a year worldwide – and rapidly accelerating.

How did this happen? We’re not stupid, we’re not irresponsible.

Damn it, we’re not even confirmed gluttons, for goodness sake. Sure, some fat people eat like there’s no tomorrow – but most of us are miserable with our weight and eat like birds.

It’s as if we’re cursed.

Oh yes, indeed – there’s a curse alright. For far too many of us, obesity is a long and lasting illness ending in a death sentence.

We can play around with diets, we can delude ourselves with exercise – and for a lucky and very determined few, maybe that will work.

For the rest of us, there is no escape. Like it or not, at some time in the future we’ll be going to hospital more and more often – closer and closer to our one-way ticket with destiny.

The curse of antibiotics

Most unpalatable of all is the truth of how we got here.

“It is impossible to be obese unless one is eating too many calories,” said Lord McColl, emeritus professor of surgery at Guys Hospital, in an address to the House of Lords last week.

Yeah right, we’re dying of hunger and ridiculed as fatties, what the hell’s going on?

The real curse is antibiotics.

Miracle lifesavers in the medical field, miracle money-makers in agriculture.

Because antibiotics are champion growth promoters bar none. Added to livestock feed in small doses every day, they boost growth like crazy, accelerate development up to four times faster.  From egg to full-grown roasting chicken in 6 weeks. From calf to Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak in 16 months instead of four years.

And the same thing is happening to us.

We eat them, so small traces of antibiotics get through in our diet with every meal we eat. Either directly from their meat, or indirectly from the manure they produce – laced through with antibiotics that fertilise every kind of vegetable and fruit crop.

Just like the animals, the antibiotics make our bodies resistant to the hormone that tells us when we’ve had enough to eat – leptin resistance – we keep eating unconsciously. As Lord McColl says, ” Obesity is a hormonal disorder leading to abnormal energy partitioning, which cannot be solely fixed by increasing exercise.”

Growth promoters – the fat makers

Unfortunately, that’s not all that antibiotics do. As champion growth promoters, they make us more efficient at absorbing the nutrients we do consume. Even if we’re not eating more, we’re EXTRACTING more – squeezing out more calories than normal people are capable of.

Not difficult when you think how digestive systems work. As part of Nature’s wonderful cycle that interrelates everything to everything else, most livestock only digest 80-90% of what they eat, the rest is excreted as waste. That’s where the manure comes from that fertilises almost all commercial plant life – and where we get our daily dose of antibiotics from, pooed out with other nutrients.

But antibiotics cause animals to grab a whole chunk more nosh value than just 10%. Squeezing more calories out, they beef up bigger and faster – and we do exactly the same. Instead of passing through 80%, we might pass through 60% or even 50%. Without our knowing it, we’re absorbing the equivalent of two meals instead of one, every time we eat.

No wonder we’re the size of a house without any effort!

And all the rest

Which is how come we’re obese – and how come we’ve developed all those other disorders that have crept up on us since bacteria-killing antibiotics started messing with the delicate balance of our own internal gut bacteria. Allergies, immune system deficiencies – phantom disorders that feel very real, making our bodies react to conditions that just aren’t there.

Is there anything that can be done about it?

Not a lot.

We all have to eat – but round the world, our food production process is a gigantic machine almost impossible to stop.

We could try to eat less – deliberately try to bring our calorie count down. Going serious cold turkey, like giving up smoking. Very, very hard if you’ve never tried. But we NEED those nutrients to keep our systems ticking over. Starving ourselves is dicey and unlikely to be healthy.

Or we can change our food source. Get off the antibiotics and hope that by removing our daily fix, we can reverse some of the damage they’ve done. Which means organic foods, growing our own at home without fertilisers – and eating fish that’s only deep sea fresh, none of the farmed stuff.

Ways of winning

Which leaves exercise. We’re small eaters already, shamed by our bodies – so with antibiotics off the menu together with some sensible workouts, maybe expending energy will be a little less like pushing water uphill.

There is hope. Reducing even a teaspoon of fat from around our pancreas can have the effect of reversing type 2 diabetes.

One down, fewer to go.

With luck you’ll lose more of the right kind of weight before any of the other big hitters kick in.

Picture Copyright: iahulbak / 123RF Stock Photo

Not washing hands more dangerous than terrorism

Man with AK
Deadlier than you know.
His gun might jam, he could miss altogether – but a virus won’t

Read the headlines, and the world is a scary place.

Not as scary as everyday living though – and a lot more dangerous than we might like to think.

Yes, terrorism is awful – and yes, it is deadly. Last year it claimed the lives of 32,727 people worldwide.

Bad & badder

But no lesser person than President Obama claims that global warming is MORE dangerous. Well yes, if you think in natural calamities like hurricanes and tsunamis – the jury is still out long-term.

Closer to home, European statistics put road accident deaths at 25,700 last year – not far off the total for UK deaths from sepsis, a form of blood poisoning that nobody’s heard of, but which is a major killer just the same.

Scary, scary.

But still chicken-feed against what COULD happen. Even obesity is scarier – like two-thirds of adults and a quarter of children.

Look no further than the government’s National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.

Top of the list is not terrorism, war, or even natural catastrophe. It’s pandemic influenza – the same killer that wiped out 50 million people in 1918 – more than all fatalities in the whole of World War One.

Our worst nightmare

And it could happen tomorrow.

Lesser outbreaks have already shown how such viruses can spread around the world.

Bird flu, Hong Kong flu, MERS – they just hop on a Boeing, courtesy of some unsuspecting traveller – and they’re there in eight hours, twelve tops.

And beware. As we already know flu viruses are super-CONTAGIOUS.

Yeah, yeah – you know all that stuff about coughs and sneezes.

About the handkerchief to – and trapping germs in your tissue.

But that still leaves your hands – which handle the tissue and dispose of it.

And do everything else for you as well – feed yourself, do things, get you through the day. Including touch your face maybe 2,000 or 3,000 times.

Which is where the pandemic bit really starts – from the shocking facts of life that:

Kind of inevitable, no?

Uh huh.

The ultimate killer

Slightly more menacing than a crazy with an AK47.

And the world has got bigger since 1918. When the world population was 1.8 billion and flu knocked out 1 billion, killing a third of the world’s population – all within the space of 8 weeks.

Now, today, nearly 100 years later, we’re 7.5 billion and counting – do the math.

Better get the soap. It’s a lot easier – and safer – than chasing bad guys.

El Nino freezeups coming: brace for superflu threat

All frosted up
Don’t worry, superflu can’t get you –
as long as you can protect yourself

Brr!

The way this winter is already shaping up, get ready for superflu.

No, no, not the German pop group, you’ll find them here.

National Danger

We mean pandemic superflu – 30 million of us out of action and 80,000 dead. Listed as the UK’s biggest danger after “catastrophic terrorist attacks” in the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.

Certainly looks like we’re getting the weather for it. The El Nino effect is already happening in the Pacific – which means super-cold winter like we saw in 2010.

What makes it a superflu?

However hard medics and researchers try to second guess it, we’re just never ready. For either a superflu virus, or any other kind of fast-spreading superbug.

Yes, we can clobber existing strains – this year’s vaccine protects against the H1N1 “swine flu” virus that struck in 2009, plus two other predicted variants.

Deadly mutants

But the trouble is, viruses keep mutating all the time. As fast as we come up with the vaccines to throw at them, they develop resistance and start again.

And there are lots of strains. For instance, H5N1 is a deadly virulent bird flu that originated in Asia. It’s rare, but 60% of the people who catch it die.

To make things worse – like the common cold – all flu types spread rapidly. Which is why a pandemic is top of the hit list for natural disasters. When a new flu strain strikes, it takes six months to develop a new vaccine against it.

During that time of course, everyone is exposed. Unprotected except for their own daily hygiene habits. Which is where the worst-case scenario figures come from – 30 million infected, 80,000 dead.

Uh huh.

So we’re not just going to be cold, we have to be prepared.

To up our daily hygiene habits and keep those germs at bay.

Get ready

It starts with soap and water. And now it’s deadly serious. Not just a rinse under the tap, but a proper rub and scrub every time we put ourselves at risk.

Always before meals – and always after the loo. Because this winter, our lives could depend on it.

Our surroundings need anti-germ treatment too. We spend winter all closed up and indoors – sharing the same space, breathing the same air. Any germs in that lot and we’re in for it.

Best is a Hypersteriliser.

Mist up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide and no viruses or bacteria stand a chance. In just forty minutes, they’re oxidised to nothing and the room is totally sterilised, safe.

All germs are gone – to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6. That’s 99.9999% destroyed, or 1 in a million.

OK, so the germs are coming.

But they always are.

So it’s not just superflu we’re protecting ourselves against, it’s all the other bugs as well. Especially the superbugs – the nasty ones that have become resistant to antibiotics and other medicines.

MRSA, c.difficile – that other winter misery-guts, norovirus – and all the others.

Vaccine or not, our own hygiene can protect us – come what may.

But don’t forget to rug up well.

It’s going to be cold out there.