How a microscopic bug from the Middle Ages can rubbish your productivity in 24 hours

Plague at work
Last seen 700 years ago and now only at the other end of the world – not a threat till a colleague comes back from holiday with it

Only 0.0015mm long, it’s a devastating killer.

Claiming the lives of 25 million people in the Middle Ages.

Today it’s back – and already 120 are dead.

Cut down in less than a day by a bug they breathed in.

Black Death – otherwise known as The Plague.

Back with a vengeance – from the Middle Ages

Right now it’s running riot in Toamasina and Antananarivo, both cities on the popular holiday island of Madagascar. It’s spread to the nearby Seychelles islands too – triggering alarm bells in neighbouring Reunion, Mauritius and Comoros.

Also at risk are the mainland countries of  Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa – all of which have received alerts from the World Health Organization.

And this time it’s not the bubonic version, which rode into Middle Ages Europe carried by fleas on the backs of rats. This is the more virulent and airborne pneumonic type, spread by coughs and sneezes and simply breathing in infected air.

A plague outbreak in faraway Africa – the other end of the world.

Can it happen here?

Can’t affect us here, can it? Nothing to worry about.

Until you realise that an Airbus A340 can get here from Nairobi in 8 hours and 50 minutes with 14 flights a day. Or from Cape Town in 11 hours and 35 minutes with 25 flights. Or from Johannesburg in 11 hours with 30 flights.  Or from Dar es Salaam in …

You get the picture.

All places a lot of Brits have just come from after the half term break.

Possibly colleagues in the same office – or their friends.

Sneezing and coughing like always after a long flight. Dried out sinuses, “aeroplane flu” or something more serious?

Thing is, the pneumonic form of Yersinia pestis (as The Plague is properly known) comes on so fast you could be seriously ill by the time you’ve swallowed your first paracetamol.  Yes, antibiotics can stop it – the Doc will probably put you on tetracycline or doxycycline and you should be OK.

Colleagues at risk

But until you’re isolated, you’re contagious. Breathing the same air as your colleagues – exposing them to the same 670-year-old killer that took out a third of the population of London. Not nice, the Middle Ages.

And you don’t have to cough or sneeze to spread it. Every exhale is sucked up and swirled around by the office HVAC system – now cranked up as the days get colder, spreading to everyone.

Don’t think that the system’s HEPA filter will take out the bug either. High Efficiency Particulate Air filters are only efficient down to 3 microns – and at 1.5 by 0.75 microns, Yersinia pestis is only half that.

Sickies linkSo if you’re one of those company heroes who insist on coming to work even though you’ve got a cold, you could be putting the whole office at risk. Even cause it to shut down before the end of the day tomorrow. Productivity zero.

Just as it would be if the office came down with any other bug. Mild ones like colds and ordinary flu. Or serious threats like the Aussie A (H3N2) virus, MERS, SARS, e.coli – or any one of a thousand lethal hazards all the way to cholera and typhoid.

Unless you deploy a defence. Send home anyone who looks suspect immediately – because all the symptoms look the same ion the early stages. Then protect the whole office from ALL germs altogether.

Fighting back – effective protection

Sterilising the office is the easiest way. Misting the place up after work with ionised hydrogen peroxide that reaches everywhere and oxidises all germs to nothing.

Next morning, the whole place is sterile. No germs anywhere except what people bring in on their skin sand clothing. A germ-free clean sheet to start the day – with a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level.

Worth doing anyway on a nightly basis – we’re all of us off-colour with some minor bug or other every 3 days. And with so many of us working on top of each other all grouped together, the office is a sure place to pick them up.

Off our phones, keyboards, light switches, door handles, and lift buttons – or simply from the documents we keep handing around.

Plus on our desks and coffee cups – while we work through our lunch break. Chomping away on a chicken salad wrap, oblivious to the germs in the grit and dust bunnies we don’t always wipe off before we start noshing.

Restoring full productivity

A long way from the Middle Ages, yes.

But with Twenty-First Century protection like hydrogen peroxide, we can afford to be.

Our full 100% selves all of the time – not out of it 57.5 days a year like we usually are, sitting at our desks and struggling with yet another bug.

Productivity plus – with the feelgood that goes with it.

You can’t get much more efficient than that.