Friday, August 30, 2013

How well do you wash your hands?

Back when I was working compared to the life of leisure I now have, a few of us would go to schools to educate about various aspects of science. My demonstrations were on chemistry: states of matter, simple reactions, etc. The kids would shout out That's Magic! when they saw color changes and I would explain why the color changes. There is always a reason for why things happen and just because we don't know it doesn't make it magic. Kids especially liked demos that showed reactions giving off light. I was a popular lady especially with fifth grade boys.

But the second most popular demos were from the microbiologists. They needed two visits because they would inoculate culture plates with stuff from the kids and the classroom and they needed a week to see what grew. Always something. They also did a hand washing demonstration. They'd let the kids coat their hands thoroughly with this seemingly invisible stuff and then split the kids into 2 groups: one was to wash their hands per usual and the others were told to do an especially good job. Even kids don't want to be accused of doing a substandard job, so the results were similar. The kids held their hands under a uv light and guess what? Lots of stuff remained on their hands so they glowed especially under the nails and in creases.

Steve has pointed out that this is a poor demonstration for the spread of bacteria and viruses because although the germs still might be on your skin, they might be dead now and thus harmless. We have a whole shelf of yellow Dial soap containing triclosan which he uses exclusively and I avoid completely. He goes through quite a bit of it a week especially in the shower. He has skin that is clearly irritated, I think from the triclosan but he won't stop because he wants to feel clean.

I do keep myself clean but as I grow older, I have much less oil glands (during chemo, they shut down completely so my skin was especially sensitive to drying agents). Soap itself dries out my skin too much so I have other cleansers.

There is much controversy about putting antibacterials in every day products because it leads to antibiotic resistance. I have a friend who is an infectious disease expert in a high place whose personal mission is to stop this as he foresees a bacteria resistant future for us and it won't be pretty. There are various levels of antibiotics that cover different spectrum of bacteria types. Physicians try to reserve some of them for last resort cases because if a given drug is overused, it will be useless due to resistance. But it doesn't do any good when feed lot operators use these same drugs as prophylactic measures. Some success to stop this has occurred but the feedlot operators still have the option to use the last resort antibiotic to treat and then they might just treat the whole mega-herd.

Both Steve and I were seemingly equally exposed to the noro virus. He keeps himself 'sterile' with his triclosan; I don't. I was sick and he wasn't so using an 'n' of one, you could assume he protects himself better than I do. ( I have to note that I get far fewer colds than he does despite me being with people and he avoiding them like the plague they apparently are).

What we need is an infectious vector camera. On an especially clever Bernie Mac episode, he showed cold viruses as a  bright colorful blanket spewing from people onto objects and then on to unsuspecting people who then spread this colorful mess to other objects which got on to other people. Soon everything was glowing with this color answering Bernie Mac's question. How did we all get so sick?

Back to the cruise ship. They try to avoid norovirus outbreaks. Step one: interview each passenger upon entering for the first time whether they had diarrhea or vomiting in the last 48 hours. Well as Dr. House puts it, everyone lies. There would be no upside for certain people to tell the truth. Step two: not let people reach in for their own food for the first 2 days in the buffet line. This also cuts down on greediness. Step three: in communal bathrooms have self flushing toilets and sinks that don't have communal handles. Special wipes are provided to open doors which can not be self opening. Step 4: routinely wash down anything the passenger could touch with bleach. I also assume the staff is on notice to report signs of vomiting and passengers who spend the whole day just laying in bed.

This week has been especially hot and humid, not fun to run in especially as I try to overcome the dehydration of my disease. It will be much cooler tomorrow. Josh has yet another chore for Steve today. I will bike there, 20 miles 10 of which is a nice trail that runs near Josh's house. But do I take the Road of Death to get to it or take a dirt road that could be especially pitted. Winds will be SSW today and I will be going NNE so a free ride there though I suspect it will be mainly uphill.


Teri Bernstein said...

Can you catch norovirus from blogs? I am in Florida and I have all of the symptoms...

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

Planes are a good way to catch it. Hopefully the step parents don't get it too. Cyber noro virus? Hmmm


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