Yeah, yeah – what we don’t know won’t hurt us.
Kinda like the ostrich with it’s head stuck in the sand.
If we can’t see it, it isn’t there.
Like NASA’s quarter-mile wide “Great Pumpkin” Halloween asteroid set to graze past Earth at 22 miles per second in a near miss of barely 300,000 miles on October 31st.
Don’t expect to see it without a radio telescope. Or hear a bang. Or anything.
It’s so far out of sight – and out of mind – it might as well not exist.
We recognise it as a threat though.
Someday, some monstrous piece of space junk will come hurtling through the atmosphere – and that will be us, gone the way of the dinosaurs. Like the WTF anomaly that’s supposed to wipe us out on this year’s third Friday 13th, next month in November.
The end of the world is nigh
But it’s not an asteroid that’s going to nix us. Something much more deadly is already here and active. Equally out of sight, and equally out of mind. And from the way we’re going, we’re not doing a damn thing to protect ourselves.
Funny that. In our security-obsessed ‘Elf & Safety world – seems we do nothing without some kind of protection.
Chefs wear oven gloves. Cyclists wear crash helmets. Kids wear goggles for conker fights. Just about everything we do has protective clothing or safety devices to stop us coming to harm.
Except from ourselves.
We safeguard ourselves from cold with central heating. Wear gas masks to protect us from carbon monoxide. But we are our own worst enemy and don’t even know it. Out of sight, in plain view, right there in the mirror.
OK, so we stare – some people are really self-obsessed with it. But nobody sees, ever.
They think they’re looking at the image of a human being.
Yeah, well. That’s only 10% true.
We’re all of us, aliens
The rest is 90% bacteria – trillions and trillions of individually invisible microbes that outnumber our human body cells by more than 10 to 1. Which makes that reflection in the mirror as alien as a slithering 20-tentacled extraterrestrial. Face it, we just don’t know ourselves.
What, bacteria? Shock, horror! We’re already doomed.
Uh huh. Unlax, Doc – as Bugs Bunny would say.
We actually need those bacteria – even live in partnership with them. About the biggest outsourcing arrangement of all time – on the go for millions of years. They help us digest food, produce proteins, keep our system in balance and even regulate our body defences for us.
Sure. Most of the time they see off enemy bugs by crowding them out. Otherwise they fight or eat them.
Because there’s deadly pathogens in our bodies all the time – harmful bacteria, dangerous viruses, fearsome fungi. As long as they’re passive and keep their heads down, nothing happens. But let our bodies get out of balance and they let rip. Infection, disease, or just plain feeling sick – all ready to go.
Yeah well, there’s not much we can do about the pathogens inside us, apart from keeping healthy, so long as they stay schtum.
Trouble is, it’s not just our bodies that are colonised with bacteria – it’s everywhere. Every object every surface, every living thing – inside and out – even the air itself is teeming. Billions and billions of microbes all looking for a place to live.
Colonised – full house
Inside our bodies if they could – but that’s already occupied.
So the next best thing is to invade where possible. Through a hole in our defences from mishap or injury. Or more often, breathed in from the air – or on something we eat.
Breathed in, yeah – we know about colds and flu and stuff. And the heavy-hitters, anthrax, chickenpox, measles and TB.
Most of the time OK – air spreads things out, disperses them more widely so they’re not all together – and one or two single germs can’t crack it by themselves – there have to be 10 or 20, depending on how potent they are. And how concentrated – which is why being in a smallpox ward without a facemask is not a good idea.
Ah, but eating stuff. What protection do we have?
For the average Tom, Dick and Harriet – absolutely zero. Because it’s a shocking fact of life that pretty well all of us – 95% of us – don’t ever wash our hands properly.
And our hands, like everything else are covered in germs. Unless we wash them off, those germs go down the hatch, straight into our digestive system. Too many bacteria of the wrong kind in the wrong place – certain disaster.
Which is when we usually run to the Doc for antibiotics – and why this blog is called Back Off, Bacteria!
The miracle that became a disaster
Whoops – antibiotics. A whole disaster story, right there.
Once upon a time, they were the fairy tale miracle drugs – the fix-all for everything. Farmers thought so too – especially in putting weight on animals for market. Beef, pork, poultry – you name it, antibiotics brought the profits rolling in.
Fifty years later, the world is drunk on antibiotics – obsessed and paying the price. 65,000 tons of them are used on farms every year. Totally overused and abused so that bugs are resistant to them – so that routine surgery is almost not possible any more. Even the smallest cut risks major infection.
Even worse, antibiotics have inundated the food-chain. There’s antibiotic traces in everything we eat – even in plants, from the recycling of animal waste.
Net result? We’re not as tough as we were fifty years ago. Not as resilient to bugs – with lower resistance, more susceptible diseases and infections. Our systems haven’t been exposed since infancy, our immune systems no longer learn or remember.
Paying the price
Remember norovirus? Never heard of it before 1968 – now it’s with us every year, the winter vomiting bug. Last week Barrow, this week Scarborough – with guest appearances on the cards up and down the country all through the season.
Forget to wash your hands – and you too can be one of the thousands to come down with it this year. Or e.coli, or salmonella, or campylobacter, or c.difficile – take your pick from the regular stomach upsets.
ALL OF THEM AVOIDABLE with the simplest of basic hygiene.
So here we are in the Twenty-First Century, a human catastrophe staring us in the face – and doing nothing about it.
We don’t wash our hands. We’re not even aware that each of us trails our own cloud of bacteria around with us like an aura. That in places where we gather together, we’re all exposed and vulnerable to each other. At work, at school, in restaurants – and of course, hospitals.
OK if we’re all of us in balance – but nearly every one of us has some underlying condition or weakness in our systems – the weak link to let bugs in and attack us.
Alright, so most of us are untouched – not immune, but able to handle things.
But some of us are vulnerable – and any infection, even from a papercut, can be fatal. Ever heard of sepsis? It’s the worst blood poisoning in the world, immune system in total meltdown – a common and potentially life-threatening infection.
Rescue in sight
But there is a defence. An effective fail-safe, even though our own hygiene standards are so lax. Because it’s not just our hands we forget to wash – when was the last time you wiped down your desk? Or disinfected the washing-up bowl and dishrack?
It’s called a Hypersteriliser and it sprays ultra-fine hydrogen peroxide everywhere in a room, destroying all germs in the air and on surfaces – oxidising them to nothing so the whole place is sterile.
So at last, you’re safe. Even if your system is down, nothing can get you.
Relax, you’ll live.