Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Is it catching?

Some of the funniest news stories this year have been around superbugs, especially MRSA. In April it was bullfrogs that were going to save us all from death by superbug. In May it was maggots. I suppose if neither worked we could have the fed the maggots to the bullfrogs. May also saw the news that "healing water" would get rid of bugs, but by July we were pinning our hopes on ultraviolet light and superheated steam. Then August and the silly season hit us and a hospital in Dorset banned flowers to avoid the spread of germs. Last month M&S started selling silver pyjamas to protect potential patients. As the winter season of bugs and germs is upon us several hospitals have banned Christmas decorations. Bah, humbug!

But despite the chuckles and chortles, infection control is serious: MRSA, c diff and other "superbugs" can kill.

Dirty hospitals are a convenient scapegoat, but we are all responsible every day for harbouring and spreading germs. Nearly a third of American adults fail to wash their hands after visiting the loo. As they themselves would say - how gross is that?

Bugs often seem to thrive where small children group together. The Mail recently reported on lethal "flesh-eating MRSA" that was attacking nursery tots. The article points out that small children play closely together and aren't too hot on hand washing either.

However, washing everything in sight isn't the answer either. The Food Standards Agency has warned that washing your turkey this Christmas could send harmful bacteria all round your kitchen.
Over the years a number of reports have suggested that exposure to dirt actually builds up the immune system and that fanatical swabbing and dousing of every surface with disinfectant is not helpful. Or, as Grandma would have said, you've got to eat a peck of dirt before you die.

The government is currently encouraging the public in hand and respiratory hygiene with the Catch It, Bin It, Kill It campaign, which sounds rather blood thirsty to me and not a patch on the wartime Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases.

Health Protection Scotland has simple guidance on how to wash hands effectively and a whole stack of other resources to spread the handwashing message.

What more can you do? Well- have a laugh and keep up with all the infection control stories through the library's Current Awareness web page.

(c) creative commons attributed, image 1, image 2, image 3,

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