The awkward truth: why that horrible norovirus just keeps coming back

Scared woman
Unless you get serious, norovirus will always be back

Horrible, yes.

But totally avoidable.

Even though norovirus is about the most virulent bug there is.

Super contagious

It doesn’t have to happen in the first place – and it doesn’t have to happen AGAIN.

Because the real cause, pretty near always, is our own sloppy hygiene.

Even when it’s running riot – tens, or even hundreds of people down at a time – somebody somewhere didn’t clean something, and the germs found their target.

Mind you, this is not a bug to take chances with. It only takes 10 particles of norovirus to transfer from your skin to your mouth or the sensitive tissue round your eye and BING! You’re hit. Way more potent than the common cold of flu, which needs at least 25 particles – and even then, you have to be unlucky.

Not so, norovirus. Just the smallest contact is all it takes. A door handle, a keypad, a handful of change. Inevitable if you then eat something with your fingers – like a slice of pizza at a fairground.

Hit by our own sloppy hygiene

Easy-peasy fast food – easy-peasy infection. Because washing your hands when you’re having fun is not even on the radar, is it? And how many fairgrounds have proper places to wash your hands?

Or, come to that, how many of us remember to carry around antiseptic wipes or gel, to cover the certainty there’ll be no place to wash up? Or even if we do, to pull the stuff out and use it?

Who remembers washing hands AT ALL when you’re having fun? Or even thinks about the possibility you could run into trouble?

Which is how it happens – in a microsecond. The bug is in you and you don’t even know it.

And you won’t for the next four hours – maybe even longer. For some people, it can be next day.

But then, as all of us know, all hell breaks loose. The most unbearable cramps, violent vomiting, and totally uncontrollable diarrhoea.

Something you ate, for sure. It usually is. So you think back. You remember your last meal, whatever it was – and immediately think “food poisoning”. Something was off, the place was unclean, you’re going to sue them to pieces.

Never a thought about sloppy hygiene. Not the slightest recall that you never washed your hands before the time, or even most of the day. You’ve found your scapegoat, the place that served you last. Badmouth them to all your friends, write a rant on TripAdvisor, sue.

You wish.

One finger pointing, three fingers pointing back

Because 9 times out of 10, you’re down with poisoned food, not food poisoning. Food contaminated by the germs you ALREADY HAD on your fingers – from the handrail in the street outside, or the light switch by the door, or any one of a thousand other places.

Much more likely though, from residual poo on your hands last time you hit the loo. A yucky thought, yes – but it’s an awkward truth, most of us don’t bother to wash our hands after the loo. And even if we do, most of us never even do it properly.

Five seconds squishing under the tap – not washing at all, just spreading things around. And germs just love warm, damp skin on which to thrive and multiply. We are our own worst enemies.

Which means all those cramps, upchucks and rocket blasts in the toilet are our own doing. We brought them on ourselves and now we’re paying for it – spreading spew and splatter all over the place.

Norovirus efficiency

There’s a reason for that too. The exploding violence of spew and splatter.

That’s how norovirus spreads itself. Using your own body convulsions to propel itself far and wide, to infect as many other victims as possible. To spread and hide and lie in wait. To multiply and take over, ensuring re-infection is inevitable.

And very efficient with it too. Not even 3 microns across, this microscopic nasty is small enough to get through the HEPA or High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters in most aircraft, hospital and restaurant ventilation systems – riding the air, lighter than smoke or dust, easily spreading EVERYWHERE.

Which is why so many norovirus clean-ups always fail. They never plan for EVERYWHERE, so the virus boomerangs back.

Hello! Remember me? Enjoy the runs and upchucks last time? Here we go again!

The job wasn’t complete, so it has to be done again. And again. And again. Until either people get their act together, or the outbreak runs out of momentum.

In the meantime that highly contagious spreading misery bug is everywhere. The patches on the carpet, in the loo, on the curtains, on skin, on clothing, in hair, and spinning through the air. Spread as far and wide as violent upchucks and squitters can force them. In cracks and crevices, under and behind things. Lurking on every surface anybody touches – most of all, let’s say it again, spinning through the air.

Regular onceovers are never enough

Which means coming along with a mop and bucket full of Cif isn’t going to crack it. Nor even industrial strength Domestos. Because no way anybody is going to reach all those tiny nooks and crannies, or get into all the corners, or reach right up walls and ceilings into the light fittings, or round all the cables of the equipment in the corner.

Dead easy of course for a microscopic bug wafting on the breeze from the door, settling yards away from the nearest upchuck incident, ready to settle on the first raincoat as it’s pulled off, rucking up together with 90 of its mates as the person wipes her face, in to the body round the eye socket… Bingo!

And that’s even if our poor victim DOES wash her hands. Her fingers might be clean, but the bug is picked up from the things she touches. The norovirus secret, laughing at us.

Except we can laugh too.

Because there IS a way to take down norovirus, tenacious though it may be – even from the air around us, even from every tiny crack and crevice.

Total germ destruction

Fact: no germ comes back from treatment with airborne hydrogen peroxide. A few seconds contact and cells are ripped apart, DNA destroyed – all viruses and bacteria are gone.

And the machine that does it is a Hypersteriliser.

Press one button and it generates a fine, dry mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide – electrostatically charged so its molecules penetrate everywhere, repelled by each other and trying to escape from themselves. In doing so they force themselves through the air, hard up against work surfaces, countertops, floors, walls and ceilings, into cracks and crevices.

The lurking norovirus and other germs don’t stand a chance. With an opposite electrostatic charge of their own, the hydrogen peroxide particles are actively drawn to them like a magnet. Forty minutes to allow proper dispersal for the average room and the place is totally sterile.

No more norovirus, no more comebacks – job done.

Hope you start feeling better soon.

Picture Copyright: ostill / 123RF Stock Photo

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

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

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

Originally posted on 4 February 2019 @ 2:59 pm

Originally posted on 4 February 2019 @ 2:59 pm

Campylobacter: playing chicken with your health

Girl with tummy cramps
Forget to wash your hands and you’ll soon know all about it

Nasty, this one.

And one of the main causes of stomach upsets everywhere.

Cramps, fever, diarrhoea, vomiting. You need it like a hole in the head.

Which anyone who catches it probably has, because you get it by being forgetful.

Seriously, yes.

Not always supermarkets

Because you can blame it on the supermarkets, or the poultry farmers who supply them – but ultimately, it’s your own fault. The same as not washing your hands before handling food – carelessness that can make you very ill.

You see, it’s a fact of life that campylobacter lives naturally in the intestines of healthy birds.

Because of that, it’s also found in water, food, soil, or surfaces that have been contaminated with the faeces of these birds or other animals.

It’s highly contagious, so you can get it from other humans too.

Which means not washing your hands explains the hole in your head.

Campylobacter is not a thing to take chances with.

And since it occurs naturally, it’s up to you to take the necessary precautions. (Tweet this)

Safe, if you’re careful

Because as long as you’re careful, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy chicken, turkey or any other kind of poultry. As an affordable source of protein, it’s tasty, easy to prepare, liked by almost everyone and pretty well unbeatable.

First off, it’s safest to assume though that campylobacter is always possible, even likely. So if you have to handle raw poultry at all, ALWAYS wash your hands.

That applies to anything it comes in contact with too – knives, chopping boards, counter-tops. While it’s still raw, it contaminates everything.

It pays to keep it separate from other foods you’re preparing too. Cross-contamination before you’ve cooked anything is all too easy.

Once you’ve cooked things of course, the problem goes away. Just make sure it’s grilled, roasted, boiled, stewed or fried enough to make sure any bacteria cannot survive. Heat kills it, so under-done meat is a hazard.

That said, there IS an onus on the poultry farmer to lessen the risk.

Since campylobacter occurs naturally in healthy birds, removing any risk before sales happen must be part of the cost of doing business.

There are already costs in preparing product for market – often right through to customer-ready finished packaging – so ensuring output is safe to eat lies squarely with the producer.

But supermarkets must accept responsibility too – part of due diligence to ensure ALL foodstuffs conform to regulations and are risk free.

Quality control

Besides, who buys any product without checking it, especially five tons of it at a time?

In fact, knowing that campylobacter is an issue right from the beginning of the supply chain, the food industry and the government should probably have some kind of certification that the product has been officially inspected and is campylobacter-free.

Government, yeah.

As if.

So far they’ve got to the strategy workshop. Expect official action within the next ten years or so.

Either that, or the supermarkets should voluntarily take it on themselves.

What home-maker would not be reassured by a sticker on her purchase that the product has passed all health tests and is guaranteed free from all bacteria? Tesco Product Integrity Checked. Worth paying a little extra for, right?

Which makes it one of those where you pay a little more because you know the quality is better. All supermarkets are price-sensitive, but quality issues are the game-changer.

Safety begins at home

All of which should be in ADDITION to your normal health precautions:

  • Don’t handle raw product
  • Wash your hands if you do
  • Wash all utensils and prep areas
  • Keep poultry separate from other foods
  • Never eat it unless it’s properly cooked

It’s keeping healthy by avoiding germs – the best possible way.

You don’t want to be bent double on the loo, or in hospital with dehydration.

Not playing chicken at all.

And weren’t you brought up never to play with your food?

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

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

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

Originally posted on 8 September 2018 @ 1:35 am

Originally posted on 8 September 2018 @ 1:35 am

Safe hands – are we soft-soaping ourselves?

Hand washing woman
Wipes are better – your antibacterial soap isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Maybe the penny’s beginning to drop.

That we need to keep our hands clean to avoid germs.

Which is kinda important because more and more antibiotics aren’t working against them any more.

Danger, health hazard

So dirty hands mean we’re going to get sick.

Whoops! What do you mean, dirty hands? They look alright don’t they?

Besides, washing your hands all the time is a mission. Most of us skimp on the job – or avoid it all together.

Disagreeable facts

Which kinda underlines a recent report that antibacterial soap isn’t any more effective than your actual El Cheapo from Tesco. Apparently the bio-active goodie in the soap, triclosan, doesn’t kill germs with the usual exposure time most people give it – it actually needs NINE hours.

That’s because ‘Elf & Safety or whoever only allow a very small amount to be in your soap – so its real germ-fighting ability doesn’t amount to a row of beans.

Not that our regular soap is likely to be any better. Most of us hardly ever use it. We shake our hands around for five seconds under the tap – and reckon that’s it. Spreading more germs as we shake our hands afterwards – while the air dryer blasts the rest all over the wash room.

Fact is, we don’t LIKE washing our hands – even though we know it’s necessary.

So yeah, we feel a twinge of conscience if we sit down in a restaurant for a slap-up meal – IF we even think of washing our hands at all.

Too much PT, don’t bother.

The soap and water alternative

Except that some of us have got clever and we’re using gel or wipes – handy for pocket or handbag, we never need to be caught out.

Oh sure, the Parent Police will have a go at us for using them. Shielding our kids from exposure to germs retards their immune systems. At least, that’s the received wisdom.

But let’s be practical. Are your hands going to get clean or not?

The bathroom’s down the hall anyway – away from the action. Far better to use a gel or wipe. They’re instant and now. And at least you take care of the germs.

OK, that’s the soap and water story nailed. So which is it, gel or wipe?

Both have antibacterial action – the real kind. So which should it be?

Horses for courses.

Though for our money, wipes work better.

Easy gel

Yes, with gel, it’s easy-peasy. You put the stuff on, work your hands around, shake ’em about a bit for the stuff to evaporate – job done.

Still prefer wipes. If there’s visible gunge on your hands, you’ve got something to physically wipe it off. As good as a face cloth or a sponge. And the antibacterial job gets done too. No viruses or bacteria, you’re safe and good to go.

Oh right, you still have to get rid of the wipe.

So what are we, helpless? Into the bin – or a bag you can keep it in until you find one. Or your pocket.

Disposable wipes

What do you mean, carrying germs around with you?

You’re not wrong, that’s why the bag. Don’t you keep one handy because the shops all charge for them these days?

We shouldn’t be squeamish either. Back in the day, we’d blow our nose on a hankie and carry that around with, full of gunk. A tissue would get dumped ASAP – and so will a moist-wipe.

Works for us. We HATE washing, so we carry wipes. So we never get caught out – clean hands ALWAYS before meals and after the loo.

End of the grudge habit

It’s not like some secret ritual either. Nobody looks too worried if you’re wiping your hands at table or outside in the passage. Probably even miffed that they didn’t think of it themselves.

Plus it pays off too. No, no, norovirus – the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease – it just doesn’t happen.

And can you remember the time you last had a cold or flu?

Safe hands – yes, of course.

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

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

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

Originally posted on 12 November 2018 @ 4:01 am

Originally posted on 12 November 2018 @ 4:01 am

Wash your hands and you get to live another day

Hip hop dancer
Clean hands! No germs! Another day to celebrate!

Splish, splash, done. Now to have some fun.

Because germs are a real downer.

Feeling good one minute, feeling grim the next.

And you could even wind up dead.

Down the plughole

All because – just once – you missed out on the soap and water.

Nah! It’s never going to happen to you, is it?

You’re pretty clean most of the time anyway.

Check your hands, not a mark on them. Like you wouldn’t eat with dirt on them, would you? And not straight from the loo and down the hatch either.

Ew!

Not healthy. Not sexy.

But we all forget to do it all the time. You’re in a rush, you’re having a good time. And maybe, maybe, you just missed out washing yourself once or twice.

You only live once

Except it only takes once for germs to get a hold. Through your mouth. From wiping your eye. They’re not fussy.

And being dead is not sexy either. Neither is rolling in agony with guts ache. Or your head pounding. Or both. Sometimes so bad that you worry you might NOT die.

Or you might be paralysed, deformed, stuck in a wheelchair, or out of your mind.

A hell of a chance to take, isn’t it?

Yet with 100 trillion bacteria already living INSIDE your body – and trillions and trillions more always all around – those are the odds you’re up against.

An easy choice though, hey?

A proper go with soap and water gets rid of 99.9% of them. Drying off properly even more, because germs thrive on wet surfaces.

As quick as it takes to sing to yourself: Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, may you always live in sunshine, Happy Birthday to you.

Happy Birthday?

All for you

Sure, with no germs on you – no viruses or bacteria – you get to celebrate being alive again.

Another day.

Another one out of 22,000 – which is all most of us get.

Just by washing your hands.

So easy peasy, a child could do it.

Which kind of says – if it isn’t a lifetime habit already, it should be.

So you can enjoy the good times.

Because being sick isn’t fun. Out of it and lying in bed, sometimes for months – depending on what you’ve got. Not like an accident you have no control over. Stuck there because a germ was ALLOWED to find its way into you.

No way, José

Preventable, avoidable, unnecessary.

Just by washing your hands.

Do it now, while you think about it. Always after the loo and before you eat.

Yes, you’ve made it to another day.

Now enjoy it!

Eating out food poisoning: dodgy hygiene culprit exposed

Pizza selfie
Self-inflicted misery – self-accused too. The phone for that selfie has her greasy fingerprints all over it. And mobiles are the most germ-laden of all

Culprit is right.

Dodgy hygiene can kill a restaurant reputation. Somebody screws up and the customers stop coming. So who’s the likeliest suspect in any food poisoning scandal?

We’ll give you a clue.

You’ll find the culprit among whoever hasn’t washed their hands.

The one-sided blame-game

Kinda crucial in the food preparation business.

So it can’t be kitchen staff, they’d get fired if they took that chance. Not the serving staff either, for the same reason.

Which leaves who – the manager? The sweeper-upper? But neither of them ever touches food.

There’s one person who does though. And they seldom if ever wash their hands before handling anything. Yet they’re the ones most likely to squeal if food poisoning strikes.

Cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea – must have been something they ate.

Yep, we mean the customer.  Frequently first to complain, even more often last to accept any blame.

Fingers of suspicion

But look at them. Did they wash their hands when they came in? When they sat down? When they ordered? Or when their food arrived? Plenty of opportunity – and pretty well all restaurant have washrooms.

How about before they got to the place? Out in the street, on the tube or bus?

Or before that. When they left home or parked their car?

How about when they went to the loo?

So is it any surprise they feel a bit queasy after an evening of eating out?

Sure, their cramps are real and horrible. The upchucks and runs aren’t much fun either.

But if you think about it, aren’t their woes more often than not self-inflicted?

There are regulations about restaurants – or any food joint. Bye-laws to follow, standards to keep up, inspections to pass. Yes food poisoning happens, but there’s a lot of safeguards in place deliberately to prevent it.

Not so in the customer’s case. There’s no restrictions at all.

Which makes it doubly dodgy. Bad habits make many a new culprit.

Yet how many restaurants get bad-mouthed for salmonella, norovirus, campylobacter or e. coli? As if there’s staff wilfully using unrefrigerated, out-of-date food prepared with hands steeped in old WD40 and serving it undercooked.

Unaware, unhygienic, unsafe

Unrealistic, right? And not exactly fair.

Hunting a culprit where there most likely isn’t one. Unwilling to accept any personal blame or liability. Falsely accused.

But not out of any maliciousness. It’s just that washing hands and careful hygiene is not on anyone’s radar.

Every restaurant patron knows about germs. But you sit and watch – a whole evening can go by and not one of them will make the effort to wash their hands before eating.

And they’re the ones jumping up and down about food poisoning!

OK, there’s always exceptions. Food joints that get careless – with ropey washrooms you might never want to know about. But the customers still take risks – not washing their hands, evidently trusting that they have cast-iron stomachs.

Finger-lickin’ dicey

It gets iffier still when you consider how many foods are eaten with just fingers – burgers, sarnies, pizzas, chicken, fish and chips – and all varieties of curry.

If nothing else, we owe it to ourselves to carry hand gel or wipes for when we can’t get to facilities. Or to use at table before touching anything. Nobody’s going to mind if you sit there carefully giving your hands the once-over. They might even admire you for it.

Better than being the culprit for an unpleasant experience – knowing or otherwise.

Picture Copyright: ammentorp / 123RF Stock Photo

However sick we are of norovirus, it’s our own careless fault

Depressed exec on bench
Is it worth it? Four days of hell like the end of the world – all from forgetting to wash your hands

Bah, humbug! Food poisoning, that’s what it is. Own careless fault be blowed, it’s those dodgy merchants.

Sure, sure. You’re not wrong about food poisoning. Norovirus pretty well always comes from something we’ve eaten, so can’t fault you there.

Thing is though, how did that food get poisoned in the first place?

Embarrassing reality

Yeah OK, dirt or contamination. You’re not wrong about that  either. But how does the dirt get there?

Tell you what, try a quick comparison. A Tom, Dick or Harriet nine-to-fiver going through a day. And a restaurant chef or kitchen staff member going through the same day – before our Tom, Dick or Harriet sit down to eat at the same place in the evening.

The 9 to 5 day

Start with the alarm at 6.30 (yes, people do get up at that time), hit the loo, wash and polish, cup of instant to get started and gone. The commute is an hour, so it’s newspaper or tablet – depends on whether they’re strap-hanging. The coffee-bar is their kick-start, for a takeaway flat white and Danish – then up in the lift and nosh at their desk while checking out the overnight emails. The rest of the day is computer and meetings, with the odd pop downstairs for a pee-break, and a sarnie from the local greasy spoon. Same drill in the afternoon and they’re done. Meet the other half for a couple of quick ones in the Red Lion and they’re ready. Sitting down and reading menus at just after 8.00.

The “Yes chef” day

More of a shock to the system, our caterer’s day starts at 3.30. Quick shower and black instant – allowing time for fresh produce shopping at New Covent Garden from around 4.30. Ten minutes for a cappuccino and an amaretti, then straight into Smithfield before the main mob arrive, meat-buying all done and dusted before getting to the shop at 8.00. Into the day with scrub-up and prep followed by staff nosh around 10.30, ready for serious head-down for the lunch rush – a whole day of scrubbing, chopping, slicing and dicing, all the time cleaning on the run. A break at 4.00 if all goes good, setting up for the evening and the VIP guest at 8.00.

Now the question in both cases – how many times did anybody wash their hands?

And just to keep things in perspective, here’s the normal behaviour pattern:

Gruesome hygiene facts

Uh, huh. Could just be that a chef or catering staff would have better hygiene habits than that. Dead-cert probability of getting fired otherwise. The slightest risk of food poisoning is the kiss of death – end of business, end of job, end of career. Careless faults are not allowed.

Worked out yet where the norovirus is coming from? Or how the bug got onto the food that got swallowed? Who’s careless fault is that?

The guilty nobody

OK, here’s another scenario. Exactly as before, except our chef is late arriving at the restaurant – buses on diversion because of a demonstration, cops everywhere, nightmare gridlock.

No problem, New Covent Garden deliver before it happens. Nobody there, so the stuff sits on the pavement by the front door. No chance of getting nicked, nobody at work yet. All restaurants do it anyway.

Only this time the underside of the lettuce crate picks up some yuck. And it winds up on the stainless steel table in the veg prep area when all staff flood in at a rush, running late because of the traffic.

It’s just a little hiccup in the hygiene, mind – so the steel table maybe gets less of a wipedown than it should. The clock is ticking and lunch could be late. Not a careless fault, but not forgivable either.

That’s all it takes and norovirus is in, all set to zap anyone ordering a salad. Three days later, disaster strikes – and the phone rings off the hook from irate customers.

OK yeah, it happens. And the careless fault is nobody’s. Or is it?

One finger pointing, three fingers pointing back

But it could just as easily happen the other way – when Tom, Dick or Harriet paw over the menu with their unwashed hands. Norovirus isn’t choosy, anyone taking chances with basic hygiene is fair target.

So who’s careless fault is it? ALL of us for not being watchful. Clean hands are so easy to achieve, yet most of the time we never even think about them.

Worth trying to remember though. Anything to avoid those end-of-the-world cramps and the deadly upchucks. Not to mention the acid runs that dissolve your guts out.

After you with the soap.

Picture Copyright: ljupco / 123RF Stock Photo

Cramps, upchucks, squitters – the cost of being careless

5 girls with tummyache
You know that you wash YOUR hands – but what if other people don’t?

Careless? Not you.

You never take chances, always wash your hands thoroughly, make sure everything you touch is spic and span.

So if ever the misery of norovirus hits, you know it isn’t you.

Trouble is though, it’s not necessarily you that’s careless.

Other people can make you sick too. THEIR carelessness, not yours.

For instance, you always wash your hands – keep them clean at all times.

The things you touch

But you handle money, don’t you?

All of us do. You need coins for pay-and-display parking, the newsagent only accepts cash, and the till in the coffee shop doesn’t work on contactless.

And money NEVER GETS WASHED, does it?

Despite that,  80 PER CENT of people never wash their hands after handling it. And the average £1 coin has more germs on it than a toilet seat.

There are plenty of other high-touch things that never get washed too. Still thinking cash, how about the keypad of your nearest ATM? About the only time it might get cleaned is if it rains. Which is why, like the money you take out of it, it too is covered in germs like a toilet seat.

OK, now walk yourself through the average day. How many high-touch areas do you touch without even thinking, and maybe forget about your hands?

Sure, you’re disciplined about always before food and after the loo. But do you realise how many times we touch our faces in between? Believe it or not, two or three thousand times a day is about average.

Some things are never washed

Uh huh. So germs might get in, no matter how meticulous your are. Because of all the things you touch that you don’t realise never get cleaned.

Like any keypad. On your phone, on your computer, the cashpoint in any shop, lift buttons, security locks, you name it. And even if somebody did come along with a damp rag, the thing would probably stop working because water got in.

Then there’s supermarket trolleys. Never cleaned from one day to the next , the problem is such an issue that stores in the US have started deliberately offering sanitising wipes – or even putting trolleys through a machine that mists them with germ-killing peroxide.

Supermarket conveyers are another high-touch, out-of-mind source of germs we take for granted. So are the actual shelves of produce themselves. Watch next time you’re shopping, and see how people feel fruit and vegetables for ripeness and freshness. You’ve washed your hands, but have they?

Secondary touching

And it’s other people’s collective carelessness that could put you in danger, no matter how careful you are. On top of which, food poisoning nasties like norovirus take three or four days to assert themselves, so you have no idea what you might have touched or swallowed in that time.

It might even be from “secondary touching”. You pack your shopping into bags and take them out to the car. Getting your key is a fumble, so you put the bags on the ground to fish it out. Then you put your bags in the boot.

Uh huh, again. What might now be on the underside of those bags? Or lurking on the floor of the boot, transferred from the last time you did it? And when you unpack those bags on your kitchen countertop, do you always remember to wipe down with disinfectant as you do it?

Only this week a TV programme revealed how easy it is for fresh vegetables covered in germs to find their way into your fridge, simply by being packed loose in home delivery crates. And again, you’re meticulous about washing your hands, but who else is?

The answer is not very encouraging.

The “Ew” factor

All of which means you have to assume that everything is a germ hazard before you even touch it. But you can’t clean everything every moment of the day. You have a life – and who can afford to sacrifice that amount of time?

Ah, but what you can do is eliminate germs on ALL surfaces and throughout the air before anyone else gets to them. After the day is over and people are gone, a  nifty machine called a Hypersteriliser can mist up your workplace with ionised hydrogen peroxide, oxidising all bacteria and viruses down to zero.

Now if we can just persuade supermarkets, shops, restaurants, schools and other public places to do the same thing – at least all of us will be safe from high-touch surfaces, even if we are lax with washing our own hands.

(Sigh!) It’ll take a while though, before we get to that stage.

In the meantime, best to be as careful as we can and on our guard. It’s not just norovirus we have to look out for, there’s lethal nasties out there as well.

Already there are signs that the Ebola crisis could be ready to flare up again. Or some other world epidemic we’re nowhere near ready for.

Let’s be careful out there.

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Dead by your own hand, or rescued by soap and water?

Suicide girl
Goodbye cruel world – self-inflicted killer tummy cramps, from eating with unwashed hands

OK, OK, “dead” might be a little OTT.

But make no error, plenty of people die from contamination on their fingers.

Like the old tin miners in Cornwall, back in the Thirteenth Century. There was arsenic in the dust that they gouged out of those tiny, confined tunnels – which killed plenty of them before they discovered what it was.

Poison protection

Which is how come those savvy Cornish womenfolk developed the world famous pasty.  That thick crust around the edge was so the men could grab hold without touching the good stuff in the middle.

Oggy, oggy, oggy,” the women would cry down the top of the mineshaft. “Oy, oy, oy,” the men would yell back from deep underground. And the women would throw the pasties down – the tough crust keeping it from bursting when it hit the bottom.

We don’t have crusts on a lot of our favourites these days, so a lot of people go sick from the swallowing the crud that’s on their hands – the price for sloppy hygiene.

Which is how come as many as a third of all norovirus cases are self-inflicted.

People don’t wash their hands – but launch straight into finger-food. Burgers, pizza, chips, sandwiches, wraps – just about every kind of food-on-the-go you can think of.

Finger-lickin’ dangerous

Straight off their fingers, straight into their gut – whatever germs might have decided to linger on the things they touched before they sat down to scoff. A whole day’s worth of being out and about, if you think of it. On the tube, on the bus, out in the street, lurking on cash and credit cards, on keys and clothes, on door handles and light switch – and of course on the phone.

Ever looked at the screen of your phone after making a call? Yucky, greasy stuff, right? Skin grease and grime mixed in with germs picked up from the air – as many as 10 million bacteria and even more viruses. The most visible demonstration yet of the stuff you swallow, if you eat without washing your hands.

And yes, death is possible.

Norovirus or some kind of gastroenteritis upset is the most likely result of eating with unwashed hands. And in America – fast-food nirvana – around 800 people die from it every year. From the dehydration that sets in with severe diarrhoea and vomiting. Not a nice way to go.

When it gets serious, your blood pressure drops and your whole system starts going tits up. A heavy price to pay for some fast food when you’re hungry, hey? Especially if you’re in such a hurry to eat, you neglect to wash your hands.

Stupid really, and we should all know better.

Wash hands, or die

Not enough time? Rubbish!

Choosing to die by not taking five minutes to wash and scrub up. Blind suicide is what it is. Maybe it won’t happen this time, or not even next. But what you’re doing is taking a risk just as deadly as crossing the road without looking.

So soap and water is cissy stuff, yeah?Washroom poster

Never mind, there’s plenty of time to reflect on the wisdom of it once you’re dead.

And if you don’t die, maybe you’ll wish you will with the cramps and the upchucks and the burning runs that never seem to stop.

You want to play silly buggers? Norovirus is not a nice playmate. Neither are any of the other billions and billions of harmful pathogens you could swallow just from a moment’s carelessness.

Which means, do yourself a favour, if you don’t want to wind up dead.

Wash your hands whenever you think of it – especially before food and always after the loo.

Otherwise you might just as well blow your brains out, right now.

For finger food? You must be nuts.

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Should your boss penalise you if you bring a cold to work?

Sceptical lady
Good hygiene is good business – and shows on the balance sheet

Yes, penalise.

You’re not off from work, so you can’t claim sick leave.

But since you’ve dragged yourself in, what are the implications?

Never mind that you feel like grim death. You shouldn’t be showing yourself at all.

Sneezing all over the place, all round your desk littered with tissues – could be that penalising you is right.

Most obvious of course is, you’ll give your germs to everyone else.

So it’s not just you under-performing, it’s the whole office. Not good.

Especially on the boss’s calculator.

Do the math

Start with efficiency and productivity.

You might be at your desk, but is your job getting done? Your head’s like boiled knitting, so how good are the decisions you take? Are you really on the ball, or a blundering loose cannon –colleagues chasing after you for damage control?

All by yourself you could be costing a bomb.

For instance, if you get things wrong, they have to be done again – paying for the same thing twice.

And how about if they’re at the negotiation stage, or subject to a time crunch? Business lost altogether, more red ink on the balance sheet.

And when everybody else comes down with what you’ve got, what then? Two, three days at the wrong time and the place could go bankrupt.

At least if you stay away, the boss is only paying for your empty desk. And staff absences are probably already factored in – part of the cost of doing business, a staggering £29 billion a year for the whole country.

Which means you owe it to yourself and your work mates to steer clear of the place if you’re not well. Your work ethic is admirable, but more liability than asset.

Or if your conscience is troubling you, you’re probably in the wrong job anyway.

Where from the guilt-trip of having to work extra hours and weekends or when you’re feeling sick? If the work can’t be done in the proper time allowed, there’s something wrong with the management.

A business partnership

OK, there’s two sides to every relationship, including business ones.

So here’s a poser for you.

Shouldn’t the boss penalise you for allowing yourself to get sick in the first place?

Colds, flu, tummy bugs and a lot of others are all mostly self-caused.

Oh yes, they are. Just think about how they’re spread.

Mostly by contact, right? Either direct touching, or from fomites – common objects that all of us handle – light switches, door handles, keypads, documents, phones, money, keys.

Which makes hand washing the single most effective way to prevent the spread of your cold or flu, or whatever it is you’ve got – hopefully not norovirus, that’s the pits for everyone.

Yeah, so why don’t we do it?

Because if the boss made 1p from every time staff forgot to wash their hands, there’d be enough for everyone to do a company jaunt to Venice all expenses paid – flights, two nights in a hotel, dinner–dance, special concert and guided sight-seeing – at least once, or maybe twice a year.

Think we’re joking?

Get the picture? We are our own worst enemies at making ourselves sick.

So why shouldn’t the boss DEMAND that all staff wash their hands whenever appropriate – or be penalised?

Payback time

Yeah, well like we said, there’s two sides to every relationship, including business ones.

Because while the boss is jumping up and down, saying “wash your hands” – you’ve got the goods on her with how dirty the place is. Dirty and germ-laden.

So no sooner have you washed your hands than they’re contaminated again – from all the day-to-day filth and detritus gathered throughout the office and on everyone’s desk.

Despite an every day swamp out by cleaning teams, most office desks still harbour around 10 million pathogenic bacteria – in the dust bunnies under and behind keyboards – and the hard-to-reach places that never get touched.

That next attack of norovirus could come from no further away than the latest memo in your IN-tray.

Uh, huh.

So don’t staff and management owe it to each other to get this right?

Germs at work are unproductive, unprofitable and no good for anybody.

Which means staff owe it to themselves and everyone else to wash their hands regularly – always after the loo and always before food as the very minimum discipline.

To maintain momentum, management can also put hand-wipes or gel on every desk, every day, so there’s never a time anyone’s hands should stay contaminated.

At the same time, management owe it to staff and the balance sheet to eliminate germs in the workplace. Easily accomplished by a nightly mist-up with a Hypersteriliser – sterilising the whole place and destroying germs on and behind surfaces, in the air, everywhere – all in one go.

Nobody penalises anyone, everybody wins.

Easy to keep justifying the Venice trip too – check the profit figures and decreased downtimes.

See what we mean?

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How to give norovirus a great big NO!

Travel girl
Hooray for hand hygiene!
And a happy holiday

Not nice, norovirus. It stops you doing nice things too.

Holidays, celebrations, momentous occasions – the ultimate party pooper.

Trouble-free travel

So here’s a guide to help you avoid it. To side-step catching it in the first place, and protect yourself when other people around you come down with it.

You can be unlucky, of course. But nine times out of ten, these simple tips should help you stay out of trouble.

First off, know that norovirus is very, very virulent – an unpleasant illness on a hair trigger that is easily touched off. Other viruses and most bacteria need at least 20 or 30 cells to attack you with if they’re going to infect you.

Norovirus only needs half that, which makes it twice as dodgy. A nasty, horrible illness that’s super-contagious – spread mostly by touch, but also in the air. Get it on your fingers, your clothing or your skin and you have to be really careful.

It’s also pernicious, at home anywhere and able to survive on most surfaces  for over a month. And since it spreads so easily, anything touched by other people is a possible contact point – especially high-touch objects like door handles, grab rails, light switches, phones, keypads and cutlery you eat with.

How does it get into your body?

Usually through your mouth. You can breathe it in or swallow it, either on contaminated food or anything eaten with your fingers.

Which means everybody’s favourite fast foods – hot dogs, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, fish and chips, chicken drumsticks, wraps, crisps, biscuits, cake – all the easy fast foods.

Or if you’re on holiday – olives, pitta, humous, shawarmas, kebabs, falafel, Tex-Mex favourites like tacos, fajitas, tamales, burritos and tortillas – not to mention churros, pancakes, baklava or a good dripping cone of ice cream.

Yup, all the nice stuff when you’re having a nice time. Indulgent, spur-of-the-moment, soul-boosting street-food. Tasty, tactile, goodness oozing from your fingers – you know the score.

But note the common denominator – all finger food. Stuff you can scoff with your hands, right in the middle of doing something else. Or anything with a lot of handling by others around you – tear-and-share, buffets, smorgasbords, group curries.

All easily contaminated by just one person’s unclean fingers –including yours.

Finger-lickin’ good, maybe – fingers pointing at trouble more like.

Big tummy trouble.

Self-inflicted misery

And that’s the bummer.

Because most of the time we eat without thinking because our hands LOOK clean. Yet realistically our fingers could be loaded with all kinds of yuk too small to see – a single norovirus cell is just 2 microns across, about a 10,000th the width of a human hair.

It floats around easily in the air, lighter than cigarette smoke. And settles invisibly on your skin, scraping together easily with its brothers and sisters as you wipe your hand across – groups of 20, 500, 1,000 cells, all ready to go.

Which brings us to Reality Check One – most norovirus attacks are self-inflicted. The stuff is already on our skin and we don’t even know it. We let our hygiene lapse at the wrong moment – and four hours later it’s cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea like we don’t ever want to believe.

Yeah, OK.

Like the nagging granny in our heads keeps reminding us – WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS.

If only it was that easy.

Because when does anyone get the chance, on the go most of the time – especially on holiday?

But unfortunately, that’s not good enough if you want to skip the spoil-sport tummy-torture. All it needs is ONE slip up, one forgetful moment with unwashed paws, and you’ll be chundering through the next few days.

One in the eye

Uh huh. So here’s a memory jogger.

You’re on the beach, yeah? Slapping on the suntan lotion. You wipe your hands down, but somehow, you touch your face – and the stuff gets in your eye.

Yeow, itch, instant anguish. Your whole day scuppered till you get back to the hotel, rinse your eye out and sit there with a damp cloth to your face for an hour. But let that tell you something.

That’s how norovirus works.

It’s a fact of life that we touch our faces all the time – 2,000-3,000 times a day for some of us. And that’s norovirus’s easiest way into our bodies – through the soft tissue of our eyes and mouth.

Suntan lotion on your fingers just loses you a day. Norovirus on your fingers can screw your whole holiday – or your wedding, or your graduation, or anything else it’s the pits to lose out on.

Yeah, so you know the drill.

WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS. Particularly after going to the loo – and always before food.

From lo-giene to hygiene

Shocking revelation isn’t it, to sit down to this slap-up dinner after a wonderful day – and suddenly realise that with all the places you’ve been and things you’ve done, you haven’t washed your hands since breakfast?

So Reality Check Two – handling norovirus means hiking our personal hygiene to a whole different level. Day-to-day, what we’re living with most of the time is “low-giene”.

Yeah, yeah, dirty hands. But you see these reports all the time, lots of people all getting sick at the same – what about food poisoning? Don’t vendors and restaurants serve food that’s contaminated?

For sure. And we all know the cause. Either the food itself is off, or is touched in preparation by someone with dirty hands.

Not as common as you might think, because anywhere that sells food wants to be in business today AND tomorrow. They also have laws to follow, standards to observe,  codes of practice. So most of the time, they DO take care. A law suit could cost big money – and easily be the end of them.

So how can you tell if it’s self-inflicted or food poisoning?

Your fault or theirs?

Reality Check Three – the vomiting, the diarrhoea, they’re earth-shatteringly violent because that’s how norovirus spreads itself – as far and wide as possible, very quickly.

Even so, it takes time to assert itself – and from that, you can often tell how it started.

If an outbreak happens in ones and twos, it’s probably triggered by an individual – either from unwashed hands or by suspect food from an external source – something eaten before they arrived where you are. Unwashed hands most likely – suspect self-inflicted

If a whole crowd of people comes down together, that suggests they were exposed simultaneously – some kind of shared experience. That could be either from something they’ve eaten – they were all served the same dish at the same time. Unwashed hands most likely again – though this time in preparing a popular food dish – suspect staff hygiene lapse, or dodgy food source.

Norovirus also triggers by mishap, as happened in a Swiss hotel – bad luck for everyone in the place, who all came down with it at once. Flash flooding from a cloudburst overwhelmed the drains, forcing guests and staff to wade through water backed up from the toilets.

An outbreak was inevitable, however much everyone washed themselves and their clothes – furniture, fittings and all facilities were all heavily contaminated – instant infection until they were destroyed and the whole building sanitised.

Bad, bad boomerang

Which leads to Realty Check Four – the norovirus boomerang effect. The virus returns very easily to cause repeat outbreaks if it is not completely and utterly removed after the hit in the first place.

Cruise liners are really prone to this for two reasons. Lots of people close together in shared eating and living space, handling the same objects. Plus millions of nooks and crannies where the virus can hide during even the most rigorous scrub-downs.

The handling thing is a nightmare, as there are endless things that everybody touches that can pass on by contact. Called fomites, these germ-transfer items include glasses, knives and forks, deck chairs, gym equipment, poker chips, playing cards, courtesy bibles, whatever – all of which have to be individually sanitised to avoid repeats.

Repeat outbreaks happened recently with Fred Olsen Line’s Balmoral – struck down 6 times since 2009  – and a latest misfortune just last month that ruined an Old England to New England cruise for hundreds of passengers.

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

Get out of jail, free

Doom and gloom? Avoid holidays like the plague?

You can just as easily catch norovirus at home, just by forgetting to wash your hands.Hygiene tips

And that’s the key to a perfect holiday, even the stay-at-home kind. Always wash your hands before putting anything in your mouth. And keep your hands clean too. Your fingers might be safe, but the things you touch with them are almost certainly not – indoors or outdoors, germs are a reality we have to live with.

Recognising that, plan for when you can’t wash your hands too.

Always carry hand-wipes, even if they’re not antibacterial. Easy enough to use, right at the dinner table – and doing it properly will get rid norovirus and 99.9% of all other germs.

Handbag size antibacterial gel is good too – the alcohol base kills germs, though is not as effective as physically wiping them away.

Beyond that, be careful.

If somebody close to you comes down with norovirus, you don’t need to get it too. Obviously avoid accident areas of vomit or diarrhoea. Keep well clear, the yuk can spread several feet in all directions.

If you’re involved in a clean-up, wear gloves, cover your nose and mouth too. Wash all over thoroughly afterwards and discard your clothes for thorough washing too.

Clean beyond normal

Be aware though that normal disinfecting is unlikely to go far enough. The whole place needs a good going-over, especially every last nook and cranny if the virus is not to come back again.

Almost impossible with scrubbing and bleach, the easy way is with ionised hydrogen peroxide – misted up into the air by a Hypersteriliser and electrostatically charged so it disperses actively in all directions, killing airborne and surface germs deep into every crack and crevice.

All viruses and bacteria dead, no boomerang, no nothing.

Enjoy your holiday.

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