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.
But still chicken-feed against what COULD happen. Even obesity is scarier – like two-thirds of adults and a quarter of children.
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.
Whether you got away without washing your hands or not.
Not that you really think about it when you’re having fun. You’re on a roll – grab a burger and go, go, go! Why not, it’s summer. Party time!
Until your four hours are up.
Paying the price
That’s how long the collywobbles usually take.
Cramps, nausea – the price you pay for forgetting soap and water.
Not nice, but it could be worse.
Like full-on norovirus – the super-puke nasty. All happy-happy for up to three days before it kicks in.
Then the cramps.
And the nausea, so bad you think you might die. And the vomiting, so bad you’re terrified that you won’t.
Oh yes, and the diarrhoea – all of your insides suddenly outside and burning like hell – over and over again. Up to four days of it if you’re unlucky.
Serious dehydration and up to a million hospital cases every year in the UK. And the lurking reality that 80 people a year actually die from it.
One hell of a price to pay for a burger.
Down and dirty
Because that’s where it starts. Right there at your fingertips. Or more accurately, ON your fingertips.
You see, we reckon we’re so safe and invincible most of the time, hand hygiene never even occurs to us. This is good old Britain, it can’t happen to us. It’s not like we’re in darkest Africa – underdeveloped, underfunded and forgotten, with disease round every corner.
So it’s highly likely we can go through a WHOLE DAY without washing our hands even once. Touching handles, keypads, phones – and then our faces, where germs are most likely to get in.
Not everything we touch is clean either – so there’s dirt and crud and other stuff, even poo.
And how about those nappy changes on the back seat of the car, which only gets cleaned maybe once a month? Do you always use wet wipes? Do you even carry a gel?
Fact is, 95% of us don’t wash our hands properly even when we do. A five-second rinse under the tap does nothing – or makes it even worse if you dry your hands on your clothes. Germs thrive on dirty wet.
Five minutes of easy effort to avoid the death of us – and still we don’t do it. That’s why we call it the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.
Because nine times out of ten, all those food poisoning stories you hear are self-inflicted.
Dodgy dinner ingredients or scruffy staff?
You might want to rethink that. Because even the poshest of us never thinks to wash our hands before sitting down to splurge in a five-star restaurant.
And the germs on the door handle of a Mercedes ML 450 are just as potent as those on the strap-handles of the Bakerloo Line.
Far and wide
Worse, because of the incubation period, it spreads to everyone we have contact with and we’re none of us any the wiser. Everyone we meet, touch, hug, shake hands with, kiss.
And norovirus is possibly the most contagious of all time. More than the common cold. So transfer is inevitable. Everyone can get it and does – the ultimate cruise ship souvenir.
Plus, you’ve got to remember it’s a virus. A half-alive organism that can last active and awake for days and weeks without sustenance. Or survive dormant for years if necessary, waiting for your live body cells to give it power and energy.
So it’s not the burger that gives you cramps.
It’s unwashed hands. Forgetfulness. Unintended negligence that could cost you your life.
Five minutes with soap and water, that’s all.
A good burger from McDonalds is less than a quid, surely you’re worth more than that?
“Deadly manflu virus,” Simon Gregson called it – already signed off for a week as Steve McDonald in TV’s popular soap.
A possible disaster for TV viewers as their favourite programme falters.
Seems the rest of the cast and crew are flaking too, as this mystery illness takes hold in one after another.
Favourite soap in jeopardy?
Will cameras stop?
Not if producer Stuart Blackburn can help it. There are always contingency plans. But so far they stop short of everyone on the Street coughing and spluttering on camera.
Not surprising that it’s spread so fast though.
Sending sick actors off to bed doesn’t take the germs away, whatever they are. Especially on the interior sets – inside the Rover’s Return and everywhere else there’s plenty of places for viruses to hide.
They’re survivors too. Unlike the poor cast. Some types can last for a week or more, clinging to sets and scenery. Microscopically small no-one can see them.
But cough, choke, gag, sneeze – everyone knows they’re there soon enough.
A real headache for the production team. Because lurking germs continue to infect other cast members, even though the first lot are booked off and safe in bed.
A giant-sized job
And can you imagine disinfecting a warehouse-sized building full of intricate nooks and crannies – making sure there’s no germs anywhere on any surface?
Especially up high in the lighting grid. Or round the back of those impressive and convincing scenery walls.
All that electricity. Getting up there with wipe-clean disinfecting liquids is asking for trouble. A sure risk to life and limb too.
Right, it can’t be done.
Not so anyone can be sure.
So is life on the cobbles going to be sniff, splutter for the next few months while this “deadly manflu” does the rounds?
It doesn’t have to be.
A TV studio might be impossible to disinfect by wipe-clean. (Tweet this)
Technology to the rescue
But it’s a breeze with a good fogging system. And a sure-fire way to sterilise the entire place to hospital operating-theatre standards – no viruses or bacteria anywhere. Safe and gone.
It might take a while though. Big studio, lots of space. A couple of hours overnight when everyone’s grabbing some shuteye.
Time enough for a couple of Hypersterilisers to mist up the place and let their magic reach everywhere. A studio is a massive place to treat when you get behind the scenes.
Don’t worry though. Corrie people can be sure it will work.
The mist is hydrogen peroxide, one of the most powerful antimicrobials around.
And it gets everywhere because it’s ionised – a treatment that makes it more like a super-gas – actually a plasma, charged with electrons that get everywhere by physically trying to escape from each other – but grab hold of oppositely charged viruses and bacteria and oxidise them to oblivion.
Sterilised, safe and secure
A one-way ticket if you’re any kind of germ.
But a totally sterilised studio to work in if you’re an actor or camera crew.
99.9999% germ-free. Safe as houses.
Not just the studio either. But dressing rooms, wardrobe, make-up and other work areas – the whole shooting match.
Sure, it might be a few days before Steve and Liz McDonald, Sally Ann and a few others are fully back to normal.
But at least nobody else should come down with it – or anything else. And Kal Nazir can leave the Street without any unhappy lasting experiences.
Instead of just spraying willy-nilly – an iffy and very watery fogging method that needs strong concentrations of hydrogen peroxide to work – it mists up the place with an ultra-fine spray that is finer than water vapour.
Ionised into plasma
Finer than just about anything, because it’s ionised.
More eco-friendly too because it allows lighter concentrations – just 6%, the same as you buy in the chemist for disinfecting cuts and scrapes.
But with a massive difference.
Ionising the hydrogen peroxide changes its state to more like a gas, actually behaving like a plasma. Every molecule acquires an electrical charge, buzzing with energy.
As the micro-mist leaves the nozzle, these molecules jump to escape from each other – two objects with the same charge repel each other, remember your O Level science?
That means they disperse quickly, as far away from each other as they possibly can. But contained by the walls and ceiling of the room, so they pile in wherever they can get. On every surface, horizontal or vertical. Underneath them, behind them, and into every crack and crevice.
All the places that normal wipe cleaning – and disinfection – can’t reach.
It’s a dry mist too. Safe with electrical connections – especially sensitive health-care machines. Tiny voltages are unaffected, there’s no moisture around keyboards or input sockets.
The killer charge
That same charge though, attracts the stuff to every opposite-charged object – tables, work surfaces, instruments, machines, floors, walls, ceilings.
Everything floating in the air too. Like microscopically invisible pathogens – viruses and bacteria swarming around to infect things.
The charged hydrogen peroxide is attracted like a magnet – actively reaching out and grabbing hold.
The writing is on the wall, folks. In letters larger than life.
Two alarm bell happenings this week underline it.
The return to UK of a British Army nurse who contracted Ebola on the mercy mission in Sierra Leone and her admission to the Royal Free Hospital.
And the latest “Antibiotic Apocalypse” update that mutating bacteria are making our medicines useless – a potentially greater threat than Ebola.
Chief Medic warning
This warning comes from no less than Professor Dame Sally Davies herself – Chief Medical Officer for England – that we need to up our game in hygiene, or risk killing ourselves by carelessness.
Actually, Dame Sally’s main thrust is for drug companies to get back into research developing new antibiotics – a new super-class to take on the superbugs.
No new antibiotic has hit the market since 1987. And it’s unlikely to. There’s more money to be made manufacturing pills that patients need to take several times a day for the rest of their life – than meeting the cost of a drug that may only be used in emergencies.
Which spotlights the scary elephant in the room – that medicines don’t work anymore.
“Half of men don’t wash their hands when they go to the lavatory – which takes the bugs from the bum, or the prick, to the tap – to the door handle – and then out potentially to food and friends. We have to take this seriously.”
Washing hands saves lives
Yes, washing hands is again the issue. Because prevention is better than cure.
So is washing and disinfecting everything that gets used in hospitals – beds, instruments, equipment, furniture, everything.
And did we mention the walls, ceiling and floor?
That too – even the airspace that fills most of any hospital room – which never gets cleaned because you can’t hand-wipe empty nothing.
Truth is – like antibiotics themselves – wipe cleaning is no longer up to the job.
If we’re going to rediscover hygiene, we’ve got to take on those killer bugs everywhere we can. Which means not just out in the open – but underneath, behind and on top of things – plus the cracks and crevices in between.
That sexy coil of wire for the blood pressure machine? It gets handled 20 times a day and what is it cleaned with? Formaldehyde is banned as a carcinogen, bleach attacks the plastic insulation – and anyway, to wipe that cable after every use would pull its soldered ends apart in weeks.
OK, how about UV? There’s this American company jumping up and down about the UV robots it has supplied to Sierra Leone which zaps germs in minutes, sterilising everything including Ebola.
It’s a nifty machine and a real step forward (something like this). No viruses, no bacteria – pretty well sterile. But it’s not too good getting underneath, behind or on top of things, because you can’t bend light rays. You need to keep shifting it around to be effective.
So? Fog the place up with hydrogen peroxide. It attacks germs by oxidising them, job done. Like no virus or bacteria survives being ripped apart by oxygen atoms tearing through it.
Especially if you go the whole hog.
All germs – gone
Don’t just spray the stuff in the air – ionise it in a Hypersteriliser, so it disperses faster, finer than water droplets, almost like a plasma. So it actively reaches out and grabs pathogens on the fly, destroying them in mid-air.
So it’s electrostatically attracted deep into cracks and crevices, where hand wipes cannot reach.
So it sterilises the air, where most germs normally are. You’ve seen grains of dust fly around – every bug in the universe is microscopically smaller than that – so don’t let anyone tell you that germs aren’t airborne all the time.
So it’s dry and in a mild concentration, that doesn’t attack surfaces or harm electrical connections – plugs, sockets, keyboards and stuff.
So it decomposes into nothing afterwards, just water and oxygen.
Oh yes, and boost it with colloidal silver while you’re doing all this – so it performs three times better. So that an ultra thin residue of silver is left on all surfaces afterwards, an antibacterial barrier for ongoing protection.
Is that rediscovering enough?
You can destroy all pathogens right now, just by pressing a button – in as little as forty minutes, depending on room size. (Tweet this)
And it makes the place sterile to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6 –that is, 99.9999% germ-free. Safe, sterile and secure.
It won’t stop superbugs having a go at you if they get inside your body.
But sure as heck, it will prevent them getting to you in the first place.
Yes, we choose our own directions – and yes, we drive ourselves at our own pace. It’s by our own efforts, or not at all.
But pretty well none of it is possible without hands. They are the do-ers that make things happen – that turn ideas into reality.
Amazing things, really. They do everything, go everywhere.
And that’s the problem.
Because the things they touch are seldom pure. Like everything else in this world, they’re covered in bacteria – some good, some bad. Many transferred on contact to our fingertips or palms.
Germs, right? Invisible microorganisms that can make you very ill or kill you. Impossible to avoid and a continual mission to get rid of. Which effectively means you’re at hazard all of the time.
Well, sort of.
World’s smallest killers
To a virus or bacteria that’s barely a thousandth of a micron across, your hand is an armour-plated tank. Tough and chemically hostile, it offers no way in to the body – an impenetrable no-go barrier to infecting a meal-ticket host.
Ain’t nothing to do with a surface like that except hang on. Which plenty of germs do – upwards of three million of them, around us like an aura every day.
Because it’s what our hands do next that matters.
Touching other stuff.
Keyboard, phone, door-handle, document, money, clothing, loo seat, poo, wee, Coke bottle, chips, tomato sauce – these are all what are called “fomites”, made famous by Kate Winslet’s character Dr. Erin Mears in the movie Contagion.
Fomites are substances or objects that can transfer germs – your handbag, keys, scarf, watch-strap – triggering a whole roller-coaster ride of infection – where germs get to meet other germs, and gang up together for fun, fun, fun.
Spot the missing touch?
You got it. Your face. Otherwise known as germ heaven. The guaranteed way in for infection – through your mouth, up your nose, in the sensitive bits round your eyes, even your ears.
And without thinking of it, we touch our faces two or three times a minute – that’s up to three thousand times a day! Three thousand germ-entry opportunities every day of your life.
The missing obsession
Which kind of emphasises the other missing touch – soap and water.
Most of the time we’re so full of ourselves rushing around, we don’t really think of washing hands. Yet if you think of the fomites we encounter doing that, we’re at hazard all the time.
Yes, it is possible to get some protection. Wash everything – tables, plates, knives, forks. Disinfect everything – loos, wash basins, kitchen sinks. All the schlep of daily life.
It’s even possible to sterilise all around us. A dose of UV radiation or misting up the place with hydrogen peroxide will clobber all viruses and bacteria down to nothing – even killers like bubonic plague and Ebola.
But it’s all kind of useless if we traipse into our specially sterilised room and shake hands for an interview straight after a nervous but necessary dash to the WC.
At your peril
Washed your hands?
Er, yes, but that quick rinse under the tap doesn’t crack it. And using the pull-down towel doesn’t help. When the roll is finished, everybody’s germs all wind up on the same piece of cotton.
Ask any medic, and they’ll tell you that a proper scrub-up to get rid of germs takes at least five minutes. And that’s a schlep too – seriously hot water, scouring underneath and scrubbing your nails, getting right down between your fingers – then disposable towels or an air dryer.
And it all needs to be done again as soon as you touch something!
So the Hand Hygiene brigade are not so paranoid after all. This is the flu season, with all kinds of other nasties lurking out there as well – norovirus, salmonella, campylobacter. You can blame other circumstances just so far, but you’ve got to come to the party as well.
Just like everything in life, isn’t it? Keep your hands clean, or it will come back to bite you.
Because it’s pretty silly to die for something that isn’t necessary.
Pretend you’re a germ in a professional kitchen – one of those high-performance, quick-acting norovirus types – a food poisoning nightmare – where would you hide?
There’s no time limit, you start airborne, coming in on some posh lady’s red Christian Dior coat. Through-draft from the HVAC system wafts you across the dining room and the rubber seal on the kitchen door sucks you in. The kitchen, whoo-hoo!
It’s moist in here and warm, all those pots boiling and bubbling. You’re airborne, somewhere near the hood over the stove area. There’s prep stations on both sides, two big bain maries, and a massive deep tray of cooked vegetables. Take your choice.
A word of warning. Most places, they’ll come at you with professional cleaning liquids – spray surfactants that also disinfect. They’ll go at work tops and counters every few minutes – and the floor gets done four times a day. Tricky.
Or not. Clever thinking puts you on the underside of a prep station – basically a metal table top against one of the walls. It has a quick wipe-down surface and shows dirt instantly. But you’re right, nobody thinks about the underside – and sometimes they even put black rubbish bags down there.
Under the sink’s good too. You might like the moisture. They’re always washing in this place and ripples of water slop over all the time. Yes, it’s often got detergent but that never deterred you did it? Ha, ha. Moisture makes you grow!
Oh, you’ve gone for somewhere else – the ceiling! Good thinking, they’ll never get you there. Everything all gets wiped down and disinfected, but only the work surfaces. Nobody thinks of the air itself – that’s 80% of the room space – or those places normally out of reach.
But when you’re only 2 microns across, you can ride the air currents to wherever you like. The updraft from that pot of boiling courgettes should do fine. And you’re right in the middle, above all the action. Perfect.
Safe to breed and multiply. Ready for your future generations to drop down and ride to wherever. One of those house specials, for instance. Into the middle of that “terrine of foie gras and suffolk chicken, damson, celeriac hazelnut and toasted brioche”. Ever so posh.
That full-of-himself bloke in the Brunello Cucinelli wool suit, rabbiting on with “Anything but Chardonnay” is going to love you. The up-chucks and the runs. All that sitting on the loo. How many days will you give it? Five? Like your thinking. That’ll teach him to shoot his mouth off.
But oh, oh. There’s a problem. They’ve shut the kitchen down for the night and just rolled in this thing like an electronic wheelie bin. Some kind of sprayer, from the looks of it. Let them try. Up here on the ceiling you should be jake. Just keep doing what you’re doing.
Except it isn’t going to work is it? That spray-mist it’s putting out is ultra-fine, tiny molecules smaller than droplets of water. See look, it’s ionised, actually reaching out and grabbing hold of your buddies down there. What a way to go, ripped apart by oxygen atoms – these people are monsters.
And whoops! That stuff is rising too, spreading everywhere. It’s reached in under that prep station – thank goodness you didn’t hang out there. Up, up, nobody told you about mist rising, swirling across the ceiling. Better face facts, pal – you’re going to get yours.
Because it’s hydrogen peroxide is why – and no bacteria or virus comes back from exposure to that. And just to be brutal, it’s boosted with colloidal silver. You and your whole dynasty are gone, finished, kaput.
Sure, it’s a horrible death – but you know what? We never liked you anyway.
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?
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.
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.