Some nasty bug – a killer variant of cholera – spread by contaminated food.
Not from your five-star beach hotel of course.
But from your fingers.
Hidden dangers – unaware
Because of the crack-of-dawn start to your sight-seeing tour. A mad dash to the loo before you held the coach up. The market, the temple, the boat-trip, the beach barbie. An amazing day – but without one chance to wash your hands. Or even think about it.
A sizzling plate of food and you’re about to dive in – until you check the grubby fingerprints on your water glass.
Ew, that was you! A whole day’s yuck on your hands – which you don’t even see because germs are too small.
But you excuse yourself anyway and head for the bathroom – all glitter and glass and wafting incense. And luckily for you, a good sensible soap and running hot water.
Grubby fingerprints gone. Gunge from the handrails, manky stuff in the street, don’t-ask from the funny place – and yes, you’re not even aware of it, but faecal residue as well – poo from the loo.
Back home of course, you might get away with it. At worst a touch of norovirus and gone. Not nice while it happens, but you’ll survive. A reminder to ALWAYS wash your hands.
Not quite the same on holiday, especially in hot countries. Germs breed easier, transfer easier – and are very often more deadly. Not worth the risk. And totally avoidable if you wash your hands.
Of course that’s our problem isn’t it?
Our hands don’t LOOK dirty, so we think they’re clean. We’re just not dirt-aware enough to keep remembering. But who wants norovirus – or worse, to come home from their holiday in a box?
Keeping them clean is a schlep too, because germs are everywhere – billions and billions of viruses and bacteria – on every surface, in the air, on our own skin except where we’ve washed our hands. Everything might look harmless, but in reality is a potential nightmare, especially at the office.
OK, we can’t do much about germs surrounding us outside in the open, but we can do something about them in our living space. And the way we are with out modern lifestyles, we spend 90% of our time indoors anyway.
Uh huh. Not exactly the healthiest. WE might be harmless to ourselves, but indoors is a space we share with lots of others – school, work, eating out, entertainment.
Personal germ clouds
And every single one of us carries around our own swirling cloud of hidden bacteria – so uniquely distinct to each of us that cops in the near future will be able to ID we were there – just by reading our lingering germ-sign.
Which adds up to germs on everything around us – and clouds of germs towed around by others surrounding us. So easy to pick up – by breathing or touching something – and then absently touching our mouth or eyes.
What could it be? Norovirus, salmonella, campylobacter, or escherichia coli? Enough to hospitalise us if they’re bad, or finish us off if we’re unlucky. Or sometimes even worse. How about that cholera variant you had that close call with – from other colleagues back from holiday?
But like soap and water takes germs off your hands, you can take away the germs surrounding you too. Kinda important if you have an underlying medical condition that maybe even you don’t know about. Or one of your colleagues does – and a simple infection triggers a whole life-threatening experience.
Safe and sterile
Which is why all kinds of places are using ionised hydrogen peroxide – misting up their rooms to take down all viruses and bacteria. Safe and sterile every morning, in addition to clean floors and empty waste bins. No smells, no germs, no health problems.
Lucky escapes every day. And you never have to worry about them.
Because we’re at the point where antibiotics are beginning not to work any more – and modern medicine is going critical. Straighten up and fly right, or dire things will happen.
Out with the big guns
We’d better believe it. According to our top-level heavyweights, it’s time to get tough. With big-stick tactics for getting it wrong.
Like naughty GPs, prescribing antibiotics without verifying there’s a need. Or naughty farmers, dosing livestock with antibiotics, just to fatten them up.
Haven’t they heard of antimicrobial resistance (AMR)? Don’t they realise that they’re helping dangerous bacteria develop immunity to the drugs we treat them with? That superbugs will soon be untouchable and antibiotics will be useless?
Yeah, some Plan B. Not really a plan at all.
Because it’s a fact of life that BACTERIA ALWAYS SURVIVE – and have done successfully for billions and billions of years. Which is why they’re possibly the most successful life-forms on the planet – able to withstand super-hot and super-cold, super-acid, super-dry, super-salty and super-pressure.
And we dare to think an itty-bitty antibiotic designed by humans is going to stop them.
Maybe hold them back for a few years, lulling us into a sense of false security.
Like hey, remember penicillin?
The original miracle wonder-drug. It saved lives for 12 years before the superbugs got wise to it. Staphylococcus in 1940 – cousin and relative of today’s superbug, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which itself took just 2 years to get in on the act.
But like we said, BACTERIA ALWAYS SURVIVE. They might take a few generations to do it – twenty minutes at a time – so for penicillin, that’s 315,360 generations. Zap – you can’t beat the numbers.
Because, surprise, surprise – among other skills, bacteria are actually able to “teach” each other immunity, passing on their resistance skills to even unrelated types
Yeah? And we think we’re so smart. Because while they’re doing it, the rest of our wonder-drugs store cupboard is rapidly emptying. We don’t wise up, do we?
Antibiotics: crashed and burned
Tetracycline lasted 9 years, until 1959; erythromycin 15 years; gentamycin 12 years; vancomycin 16 years; ceftazidime 2 years; levofloxacin not even 1 year; and ceftaroline the same.
And now colistin, our antibiotic of last resort – the one we turn to when all others have failed – can be resisted by bacteria too.
Get the message? The cupboard is bare.
Which means within our lifetime, without being able to control infection using antibiotics, even routine medical procedures such as caesarean births, hip replacements and heart bypasses will become impossible.
Which is why Lord Jim O’Neill, AMR Review chairman for the Prime Minister, insists that doctors should only issue antibiotics against medically verified proof that they are necessary.
Lord Jim also advocates that drug companies should be strong-armed into developing new antibiotics, to keep ahead of the rising tide of resistance, with cash money incentives if necessary.
Yeah, that would be good.
Mega-buck drugs companies
Especially when Lord Jim’s own review paper identifies that drug companies are currently producing up to 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics a year. Something must be wrong with their pricing structure if they can’t finance new product development out of volumes like that.
OK, so from Lord Jim’s perspective, unless we come up with an alternative, antibiotics will stop working altogether and we’re all going to die. Antibiotics Armageddon.
And that’s just for humans.
Except around 70% of antibiotics world-wide are used to support high intensity factory farming of animals – livestock for food production. 240,000 tonnes, remember?
Now ask yourself, so antibiotic resistance is dangerous to us humans, right? But the animals are only bred for food, their lifespans are very short, not really a problem, hey?
Wrong, big time.
Those animals are farmed so intensively, antibiotics are essential to keeping them alive at all. Stressful, over- crowded quarters, unsanitary conditions – in astronomically unbelievable numbers now vital to support the three-fold population explosion of humans since antibiotics were first discovered.
Food for 3 times as many humans – OFF THE SAME AVAILABLE LAND AREA – in just 50 years.
So what happens if antibiotic resistance hits the animals?
Well, exactly like us, they can’t survive either. Nor can they breed successfully to produce more.
Which very quickly means no more food, no more manure for intensive plant crops – a massive shortfall to bring famine to at least 5 billion people – the difference between the 2½ billion we were 50 years ago and the 7½ billion we are today.
You see, the big thing about antibiotics in food production is they fatten animals up fast. Four years of growth is telescoped into six months – which is how come farmers are able to feed 3 times as many humans – OFF THE SAME AVAILABLE LAND AREA in just 50 years.
And we eat those same animals, so we consume the same antibiotics they do in the food they provide – either directly through daily dosing feedstuffs, or picked up from their manure by plants fed to them as basic forage.
Uh huh. Which means we get fat too – the antibiotics do the same thing to us. Take a look around – yup, now you know why two thirds of all adults are overweight or obese.
Except our lifespans are not the same as theirs – two years and slaughtered, ready for market.
We go on for decades and decades. Getting fatter and fatter – coming down with all the ailments that obesity triggers – diabetes, heart disease, cancer, asthma. All of them massive killers, accounting for way more than the 50,000 a year in the US and UK who currently die of antibiotic-resistant superbugs – like close on 30 million.
You begin to get the picture?
Billions of deaths
Either directly or indirectly, our miracle wonder-drugs are going to be responsible for BILLIONS of deaths. And they are already doing it NOW.
A, we conk out now from some horrible resistant superbug. Or B, we take thirty years to die, getting worse every day from cancer or heart disease.
Thank you, antibiotics! Our killer lifesavers. Like smoking, only worse.
And bacteria are only one type of pathogenic microbes. AMR means antimicrobial resistance, right? All microbe types. So where’s our plan for viruses, fungi, archaea, protozoa, or algae?
Well the heck with Lord Jim, the best plan is right in our bathrooms.
Soap and water. To wash the bugs off our hands – their easiest way into our bodies – through the sensitive tissue of our eyes, nose and mouth.
Clean hands, no germs.
Kinda important when you consider that unconsciously, we touch our faces 2,000 – 3,000 times a day.
Clean hands, good.
Except now, don’t touch anything, because every single thing around us – including the air – is full of viruses and bacteria.
Shock, horror! At any second, we could be exposed to life-threatening pathogens that could be the end of us. Even a paper cut could lead to sepsis – and that’s the end of us.
Except we do have a second line of defence beyond soap and water – and pretty soon you’re going to see it in operation everywhere.
Ionised hydrogen peroxide. Misted up into the air from a mobile Hypersteriliser machine. A mild eco-friendly all-natural chemical – the body makes its own for germ-fighting – composed of only water and oxygen. Dynamically dispersed in all directions by electrostatic charge – the same charge that actively reaches out to grab viruses and bacteria, oxidising them to nothing.
No germs, the place is sterile.
No need for antibiotics, you’re not exposed to anything.
Prevention is better than cure.
Not exactly a Plan B, because it won’t fight infections already in the body – Lord Jim & Co need to focus on that.
Which means a whole attitude change to everything we do. And a level of watchfulness we’re not even close to right now.
Take personal hygiene. Keeping ourselves clean as much as possible, so germs don’t get a chance. Hands especially, the easiest way for germs to enter our mouths, or our eyes. Kinda basic, but just suppose your life depended on it – because it does.
If antibiotics don’t work – and ask any Doc, we’re getting close to that – any germ you catch is free to run riot inside your body. Unstoppable, unless you avoid it in the first place.
Duh, soap and water is not rocket science.
Same principle applies to anything you eat. Is it fresh, is it clean, is it germ-free? Don’t eat it if it’s not – because again, if you get sick, antibiotics won’t save you.
Same thing, even if you’re just walking down the street. Be careful, avoid accidents.
If a bus hits you and you need surgery, antibiotics won’t stop infection. The bugs are resistant and you’re a goner – unless your Doc has a brilliant Plan B.
So be super-observant, all the time. Watch what you’re doing. Avoid accidents. So you don’t get cuts, you don’t get bruised, you don’t break a leg – and you don’t needlessly breathe in someone else’s germs.
Takes all the fun out of life, huh? Or kinda demonstrates how careless we normally are.
Because pretty well every ailment or accident that happens to us is preventable – if we see it coming in the first place and avoid it.
Exactly what we must learn to do, if we are to survive without antibiotics.
And yes, we’re going to have to.
Because bacteria keep evolving all the time – have done so successfully for billions of years. So even if medical science comes up with the most amazing antibiotic yet, give it five years and bacteria will always find a way to become immune to it.
Which applies to all our drugs now, and any new ones we might develop in the future – fighting off bacteria is a never-ending battle against a constantly moving target.
Ah, but antibiotics are not the only way to kill bacteria.
They might be the most effective INSIDE your body, but OUTSIDE there are options.
The super germ-killer
And OUTSIDE is where we can get to them before they get to us.
About the most effective way is to oxidise them. Shove oxygen atoms at them that rip their cell structure apart and destroy their DNA.
Which is what hydrogen peroxide does – particularly airborne IONISED hydrogen peroxide.
Composed only of oxygen and water, hydrogen peroxide is the same all-natural germ fighter the body makes for itself. And the concentration we’re talking about is a low, non-toxic and non-corrosive 6%, the same as you can buy in the chemist for bleaching your hair – though the way we use it makes it way more potent.
It’s therefore a good idea to vacate any room being treated – though it’s environmentally friendy, the stuff can cause irritation to the eyes and throat.
Why ionise? Because that enables a very mild solution, AND changes a mild and harmless solution into a super-performing giant.
Remember the three states of matter: solid, liquid, gas?
Well, ionising a dry mist of hydrogen peroxide metamorphoses it to a fourth state – from a gas to a plasma. This charges it electrostatically, so that all the particles physically repel each other – they spread actively in all directions, forcing themselves to fill the airspace, hard up against every surface, and deep into every crack and crevice. Complete and penetrating dispersal everywhere.
The change to a plasma also releases MORE antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone (a more voracious oxidiser than hydrogen peroxide), and ultraviolet.
The negatively charged hydrogen particles reach out and grab positively charged viruses and bacteria like a magnet grabs iron filings. Locked together, contact time needs only to be a few seconds and the deed is done. ALL viruses and bacteria are destroyed to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.
Uh huh. You’ve taken precautions to protect yourself, the hydrogen peroxide protects your surroundings – the room you’re in is now completely sterile. All with just one button push on a Hypersteriliser machine.
Rescued, safe, healthy
Hang on to your hat, because it’s going to be. Already the medical heavies reckon we could be only months away from total antibiotics failure.
Except we’re ahead of the game, right? Forewarned is fore-armed.
So no, we’re not dead yet. We’re going to get clean away with it.
Frightening prospect, germ war. And it’s nearer than we think.
Right at our fingertips. Which puts us on the edge of suicide.
Well we wouldn’t step in front of a bus, would we? Or a train. Or step into an open lift-shaft.
But that’s the chance we’re taking every time we forget to wash our hands.
To clean away the germs lurking there, just waiting to find ways to invade our body.
Not always our fault of course – unless we deliberately avoid it.
We use our hands for everything – touching, holding, carrying, smoothing, squeezing, grabbing, pushing, pulling – our physical contact with the world. And every single action involves germs – on every surface around us, in the air, already on our own skin.
Most of these germs are harmless. We have our own germs to protect us – bacteria outside and inside our bodies that keep harmful invaders away by crowding them out. Our own personal germ war.
A single germ cell can’t do very much. But ganged up with others they can invade very quickly. It only takes 10 cells of norovirus to trigger a miserable stomach upset – and 10 of these tiny microscopic cells are easily scraped together by our fingers moving over something.
Next thing we touch our face and a seriously unpleasant experience becomes inevitable.
Which means washing our hands – particularly before touching our face – is our most effective way of avoiding suicide. A germ war we can win.
We look both ways before crossing the road – soap and water does the same thing. We avoid being hit by a bus – and we avoid being hit by typhoid, both of them likely to be terminal experiences.
Yeah sure, we can take a chance – and cross the road anyway. But that’s the thing about suicide, you only have to do it once.
And it’s a dangerous world out there to take chances.
You may have read recently that modern modern medicine is on the edge of collapse because our wonder-drug life-saving antibiotics are beginning not to work any more. Superbug bacteria are developing that are totally resistant, our miracle medicines do nothing.
Put that together with the rise of unexpected allergies and other disorders – and suddenly the road we’re trying to cross isn’t a quiet suburban street any more – it’s a high-speed 8-lane motorway.
Keep putting off washing your hands – and sooner or later you WILL get hit.
You might be lucky, a minor blow like norovirus or a common cold. Or you might be flattened by a pantechnicon – a small cut at first, that suddenly becomes the hulking eighteen-wheeler of sepsis – full on shut-down of the body as the immune system attacks itself, and the only way out is feet first.
So practice your kerb drill. Always wash your hands before eating food – and after going to the loo. Better still, never touch your face unless you know your hands are clean.
Just because you can’t see germs doesn’t mean they’re no there. They certainly are – and a way more unpleasant at doing yourself in than jumping into the Thames. They take time, they hurt, they destroy the person that you are – until you pass away, a sorry shadow of suffering and misery.
So yeah, it’s a germ war. And yeah, it’s going on all the time.
Sure you can get unlucky. But when it’s so easy to be a smiling survivor, why put yourself at risk? Why wait for cholera, TB or pneumonia to come busting in with a gun to your head – and your whole world goes for a loop?
Rediscover hygiene, wash your hands thoroughly, keep yourself clean – and live to a ripe old age.
Eating meat — bacteria in meat is increasingly resistant to antibiotics and can kill us.
A cut or scratch — before penicillin, 1 in 9 skin infections killed.
Any surgical cut or incision — openings for even minor ops leave us open to infection.
Dialysis or blood transfusion — any open blood vessel is susceptible to sepsis.
Insect bites — especially the itchy ones, leading to infections from scratching.
Colds or flu — even mild infections cause pneumonia. Without antibiotics, 30% of cases kill.
Childbirth — which used to kill 5 mothers out of 1000, and more by Caesarean.
Any cannula, ventilator or catheter.
Surgical implants like artificial hips or pacemakers.
Burns of any kind —the most infection-prone type of wound.
Cosmetic surgery — without antibiotics, even Botox injections is no longer risk free.
Tattoos — even the slightest skin blemish is open to infection.
So if anything happens to us, anything physical that is, about the only thing we’ll be able to do is wash it clean with soap and water. And properly, not just waggling around under the tap. Because if we’re suddenly socked by bacteria threatening enough to need antibiotics and soap and water is our defence, we’ve got to relearn everything there is about proper hygiene.
Make no mistake either, it’s ONLY soap and water that will do the job.
Why wipes wipe out
Antibacterial wipes are out of it – for the simple reason that bacteria are able to resist them too, as researchers at Cardiff University have recently demonstrated. And if MRSA, clostridium difficile and acinetobacter are able develop antimicrobial resistance (AMR), so can others. Worse, the wipes transfer resistant bacteria from one place to another, SPREADING contamination further.
Antibacterial soap suffers the same defect.
The triclosan ingredient mostly widely used to deter bacteria is shown by the US Centers for Disease Control to be itself prone to AMR, to the extent that major manufacturers are voluntarily withdrawing it and hunting for alternatives.
How about antibacterial gel?
Same only different. The active ingredient is alcohol, which breaks down the proteins of bacteria and some viruses, but not all of them. And without antibiotics to protect us, we don’t want something which does half the job.
Low tech and easy
Which brings us back to soap and water. Low tech, yes, but maybe cleverer than we think.
For one thing, most bacteria are either harmless or benign. So although we’re surrounded by them, we don’t want to wash off all of them – some of our usually resident “citizens” might actually be doing us some good. Soap and water action lets us keep these guys, but gets rid of the toxic “tourists” who might be threatening us.
Yeah, so rediscovering hygiene is not exactly going to kill us. Quite the opposite.
And as we’ve probably heard endlessly from our grandmothers, a little soap and water never hurt anyone.
First the heart attack, then the operation. Everyone was worried you would make it.
Touch and go now though. Even though you’re out of ICU.
Carelessness costs lives
Friends, see. Well-meaning but deadly.
Hey, hiya, how are you? Kiss, kiss, looking good.
Two of them, straight in off the street, on their way tea at the Ritz.
Alright for some. They can get away without washing their hands, they’re not stuck in bed rigged up with wires and tubes. Healthy, up and going, chances are good they’ll throw off any bug. Not like you – cannula, sutures, open body apertures and vulnerable.
Out of sight, out of mind
They could have used the antiseptic gel at reception, but breezed straight in. Or the gel at the entrance to the ward, but this is a quick visit. Or the gel in the squidge-bottle at the end of your bed.
All a bit of a rush, though. Kids to school, morning coffee, the supermarket schlep, usual stint at the charity shop, then straight here. Can’t bring flowers, they don’t allow it – pollen hazard to other patients. Choccies are good though – and this is a big box.
Kiss, kiss, hold hands.
Ooh, not so much of that. Hands LOOK clean, but they’ve been on the steering wheel – and remember that panic session with Julia’s little one yesterday? Emergency nappy change, right there on the driver’s seat. Poo everywhere.
Yeah, yeah, nice to see you. Nice when you’re gone too, too waggy dog for a convalescent.
And the damage is done, isn’t it?
Norovirus at the worst possible time. From hands that look clean but aren’t. They never are, straight in off the street. Which is why all the gel bottles.
Highly contagious, invisible transfer
Six hours later it’s you that gets the price tag. Violent upchucks that rip your sutures apart. A run to the loo because the night nurse isn’t quick enough with a bedpan. Drip-stand, wires and everything trailing behind you. Crash to the floor, you can’t move your arm and it feels like a fractured cheek.
And of course, the norovirus signature – poo everywhere.
A bad one this, the duty doctor’s called the crash cart. You’re going into arrest from all the convulsions and they can’t take chances. Code Blue, shut the ward, de-fib on the floor in a pool of poo. Double-plus super not hygienic.
1,000 volts, right through you. Back splatter from electrified poo – going to be a few medics with the runs and upchucks too.
Not working, you’re gone. No heavenly lights or anything, just black.
No breathing in the black, no anything, just a ringing sound.
Oh, that smell! You’re back and everything hurts, your worst experience ever. And heaving too. That’s not 1,000 volts, that’s you.
The end of the world – almost. All from beautifully manicured hands that LOOK super-clean.
Except you can’t see germs – ever. That invisible super-thin layer that gathers on all of us every second of the day. No trace of dirt, not even of micro-dirt. This is NANO-DIRT, so fine you need a microscope to see anything – and even then you could miss it.
Yeah, norovirus. Always around, highly contagious, just waiting for an unguarded moment. Transferred from things you touch – everyday stuff, supermarket trollies, door handles, your phone. And all it takes is 10 tiny particles – less than half the next most potent bug, flu-virus.
From your hands to the biscuit with your coffee – or the soft part next to your eye because you rub it when it waters. So easy, so quick.
And totally preventable with soap and water or antiseptic gel.
Yeah, norovirus – with complications, you could die. And people do, around 80 a year in the UK. But it’s not hospitals that give it to you – you watched them closely, lying there – these places are rub and scrub, 24/7.
No, no, not hospitals – the real cause is careless friends and family. People who would be horrified if it ever occurred to them. But it never does when hands LOOK clean, does it?
Wash, wash, wash
Soap and water before and after doing anything – or pay the price. Otherwise, sooner or later, it’s gonna get you. Before food and after loo, always – or else.
And not just you, but everything around you too. Norovirus transfers from things you touch – from thing other people have touched. Floats around even on the air itself – sure it does, it’s smaller than dust, smaller than smoke, smaller than perfume particles, why ever not?
Which is why norovirus is so impossible to get rid of. It’s a survivor. And in densely-packed places like schools, offices, restaurants, hospitals – and of course, cruise ships – it collects victims like wildfire.
And yeah, sure enough, right now there’s another cruise holiday ruined for thousands – Anthem of the Seas, turned back for the second time in weeks – the first time by a full-blown live hurricane, the second by a grinding hurricane in passengers’ tummies.
Good luck with fixing that – norovirus spreads everywhere. That’s why it’s so violent – to spread its awful discharge of puke and poo as far and wide as possible. Unless a clean-up reaches into every crack and crevice, it’ll be back, again and again – repeat performances are its party trick.
An end to it all
Which makes you glad there’s a Hypersteriliser. The fine mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide it puts out is electrostatically charged. Super-fine oxidising molecules of H2O2 jostle to get away from each other, almost lighter than air, pushing against walls ceilings and all surfaces, penetrating deep into every nook and cranny.
Forty minutes, an hour – and the whole place is sterilised. Germ free and secure for you, back from the dead for a second time. Saved yet again, to live another day.
Of course it’s your fault, you’re not doing anything.
Nothing for your customers, nothing for your staff.
They’re getting themselves infected and you’re just letting them.
Get ready to be the victim
Which means any minute now, they’re going to clobber you.
Duty of care or some such… you didn’t stop them.
So now they’ve got sick in your place, so of course it must be your fault. Give them a chance and they’ll sue you down to the ground for generations to come.
After all, you let them walk in with unwashed hands and didn’t make a fuss. You didn’t nanny them into using soap and water, giving themselves a good scrub. You just let them sit there at your restaurant table or office desk and carry on regardless.
And how do you know where they might have been?
Clutching handrails on the bus or supermarket trolley. Those grubby railings out in the street. Not forgetting the escalator, or the touchscreen on their phones – all kinds of germs out there, heaving on everything.
Who knows what they might have picked up? E.coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, the superbug MRSA, flu viruses and norovirus are usual suspects. Any one of which could give them collywobbles, or something more serious.
Don’t believe it?
Just ask yourself – out and about, doing things in the city, when was the last time you washed your own hands?
Can’t remember? Neither can most of us – because we don’t think of it. Which means most of the time, our personal hand hygiene is non-existent. Most of us don’t wash our hands at all, so there’s all kinds of bugs crawling on there – including poo from the loo for at least 28% of us.
So check out these people – what are they doing? Tucking into your menu specials? Using a knife and fork, or their fingers?
Oops, there you go, a piece of bread roll straight out of their hand. Bread, butter – and norovirus – down the hatch. It only takes 10 norovirus particles to be infected – and there’s probably several thousand in each mouthful.
Give it 24 hours and the phone’s going to go. Cramps, vomiting and the world’s worst diarrhoea – after eating at your place and they’re calling their lawyers.
And you did nothing.
Nothing to cause them being ill – but nothing to stop them either. So now you’re going to get it.
Guilty because you’re innocent
Same thing if they’re working in your office. Unwashed fingers on the keyboard, then touching themselves round the eyes and mouth. Or eating a sarnie at their desk, just to make sure.
Not at work tomorrow. Sick as a dog and unable to move. But they’re onto the union rep about work-place germs – how dare you run an unhealthy environment!
Your fault again for doing nothing. Not rescuing them from themselves.
So what to do?
You can’t force people to wash their hands. They’ll get offended and give you more grief than you already have. And their sloppy hygiene could cost you plenty.
Not fair, is it? You already provide washrooms and loos – your place is always spic and span. Yet it’s you that gets hit for THEIR negligence.
Time to do something to protect yourself – duty of care – duty of bottom line.
By making hygiene much more assertive.
Because at the moment, it’s just passive, isn’t it? If they don’t wash their hands after the loo, that’s their indaba – but it’s you that gets it in the neck.
So put a bottle of hand sanitising gel on their desks – or offer them each individually packaged antiseptic wipes.
It’s a courtesy, right? How are they going to refuse you?
And how many are likely to think about suing you if they STILL come down with some bug? You’ve visibly demonstrated you care for their well-being. Yeah they’re still suffering, but more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.
OK – and you can take it a stage further too. Not just sanitise their hands, but sterilise the whole place – get rid of the residual germs in the air or on surfaces, some of which can survive for up to two weeks or more.
Duty of care – duty of bottom line. Because what is the cost if they sue? Or the down time if they’re not working? The loss of trade? The loss of goodwill? The loss of reputation?
Norovirus alone costs the NHS £100 million a year. Get unlucky and it could put you out of business.
Yeah, look after your people – and protect yourself too – belt and braces.
All it takes is a Hypersteriliser – and around 40 minutes every night, part of your normal cleaning operations.
Press a button and it mists up deserted rooms with ionised hydrogen peroxide – which spreads everywhere through the air and into cracks and crevices, oxidising germs to nothing on the fly.
The result? A Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6 – in non-medic speak, that’s 99.9999% of all viruses and bacteria gone.
The deeply crimped pastry edge down the side of the pasty allows you to snatch it up with poisoned fingers without touching the meaty middle.
High-tech Cornish cooking – Thirteenth Century style.
You eat your fill of the middle and throw the pastry crust away. It’s your gift to the Knockers – the little folk who live in the mine and make mischief if they’re forgotten – like a rock-fall on a man’s leg.
You get the message.
Eight hundred years ago we already knew that eating with dirty hands could be fatal. And our thanks to the Cornish pasty experts at Ginsters for bringing this to our attention.
Doesn’t look like we’ve learned though. Just about everything we count as a favourite is finger-food today – burgers, pizzas, pies, rolls, wraps, sandwiches, fish and chips.
And believe it or not, 95% of us don’t even wash our hands properly.
Try that in old Cornwall and you’d be dead.
Because how many other fast foods are smart enough to have grab handles, so you can eat them with polluted paws and not come unstuck? Or are you going to tell us you sit at your iPad and actually eat with a knife and fork?
Yeah, pull the other one. We’re quick enough to point the finger and say “food poisoning” – when all the time we’re probably the victims of our own carelessness.
OK, norovirus is not arsenic – but it CAN kill. And there’s plenty of other nasties out there that can do the same.
Campylobacter for instance, next stop irritable bowel syndrome – and a life-time of embarrassing discomfort. Or salmonella, with high expectations of diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure and high blood pressure.
Yeah, enjoy your meal!
But if you’re not going to poison yourself, you might want scrub up first.
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.
They don’t show it because they’re too professional.
But they know and they’re scared. That deep-down gut-twisting fear that things are wrong.
It’s about antibiotics.
Antibiotics and germs.
Once upon a time antibiotics were thought to fix just about anything. Not viruses of course, they’re physically even more difficult. But certainly bacteria. Any risk of infection, bung in antibiotics – the miracle drugs that have made modern medicine the wonder that it is.
Which means any kind of routine surgery – from gallstone removal to a simple bypass – is no longer as safe as it was. Infection is less easy to control. Complications are more likely to set in. Pretty well the only thing between success and disaster is the level of hygiene.
Exactly why doctors are hearing alarm bells.
Because there’s one massive difference between a surgical incision protected by antibiotics – and one not protected at all.
At all? Surely not.
Better believe it. Look at the lengths medics go to in isolating dread diseases. Hazmat clothing for all personnel. Isolation tent with built-in sleeves and gloves for patient care without touching. Like Ebola tents – we’ve all seen the pictures in the media. Just imagine if EVERY case was like this.
Because if antibiotics don’t work, they already are.
Staph infections, TB, c.difficile, gonorrhoea, e.coli – they’re all immune and have-a-go – often present but inactive in our own bodies. Waiting for just one opening, one simple little cut…
External germs are an even bigger headache. They’re everywhere, on every surface, swirling and teeming in the air.
See for yourself
Want a demonstration? Grab a handful of glitter and throw it in the air. Better still, throw it in front of a fan, because all microbes can float on the slightest breeze.
The stuff goes everywhere, right? On your clothes, in your hair, all over your face. And see how difficult it is to wash off. See how it keeps twisting and fluttering in the air – be a couple of hours before that’s finished settling.
But at least you can SEE glitter. Germs are smaller and you can’t see them at all. But they’re there alright – like there’s already 6 billion right inside your own mouth.
OK, maybe glitter is a bit radical – but at least it shows how difficult the problem is.
A better example is Glo Germ, a harmless liquid or powder of fake germs – invisible and no more than 5 microns across, exactly like real. Like germs, it spreads all over the place and can’t be seen.
Not in the air unfortunately, but certainly on surfaces like food preparation areas – a tell-tale to show when areas HAVE NOT been cleaned effectively.
Shine an ultraviolet light on the treated area and uncleaned parts immediately show up – like TV’s fancy CSI-goo for detecting blood stains.
Hey Fred, this thing’s filthy – watch your six, or you’re gonna get it!
Yeah, OK. So our antibiotics have packed up and there’s billions of germs around that we can’t see. Should we give up and cry?
Start with soap and water
Not unless you want to be dead – which is what germs do, given half a chance – make you dead. The bad ones that is – inside every one of us, there’s more than 100 trillion good bacteria of our own.
Which means the best thing is show bad germs where to get off. With soap and water for example – washing our hands at least before and after every meal – and very definitely going to the loo.
Of course doctors and nurses do this already, scrubbing up before every procedure. They know the odds – and nobody wants to lose a patient on THEIR watch.
They’re still scared.
Washing hands, sterilising instruments, swabbing everything down – none of it gets rid of microorganisms in the air. And gut-feel tells the Docs those germs are up there. ALL germs are airborne, it’s a physical impossibility that they’re not. At 5 microns across or less, that’s 100th the size of coffee fumes!
Only one thing for it. Some kind of spray to take out the airborne jobs. If they can fumigate a whole house for insects, then surely they can do the same thing for superbugs.
Hello, hydrogen peroxide
Very definitely yes. And nowhere near as toxic.
The spray is hydrogen peroxide, exactly the same as the body produces for its own germ-fighting – in a mild 6% solution – the same as you might use as for minor cuts and abrasions, or as a mouth wash.
Underpowered? Not a bit of it. Hydrogen peroxide kills germs by oxidising them – shoving oxygen atoms at them that tear apart their cell structure. There’s no germs coming back from that.
Plus, because it’s ionised as it’s sprayed, the hydrogen peroxide is cranked up to warp speed as it leaves its Hypersteriliser dispenser – a slick, handy unit about the size of a small wheelie-bin.
Remember your states of matter? Solid, liquid, gas, right?
Well ionising a gas, which is what vaporised hydrogen peroxide is, changes its state again. From a gas to a plasma – a kind of supergas in which all the molecules are charged.
And which releases a whole slew of other antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone (a more voracious oxidiser than hydrogen peroxide), and ultraviolet.
Germs to oblivion
Yeah, World War Three in microcosm. But it still takes time to happen. The hydrogen peroxide has to disperse and fill the room space – a rapid action because the molecules all carry the same charge.
They are actively and desperately trying to get away from each other. Which forces the plasma through the air, equally in all directions – fetching hard up against all surfaces, including walls and ceilings – and pushing deep into every crack and crevice, exactly the places wipe-down disinfecting cannot reach.
Filling the air and making sure the stuff works takes around 40 minutes for the average room. After that, the place is sterile. No germs, no bacteria – just oxygen and water which evaporates before it touches anything.
OK, doctors are still scared. There’s still no replacement to do what antibiotics do.