So what about the live lice? When I went into the US Public Health Service in 1957, it was to fulfill my draft obligation after student deferments. Recall that the Korean War was from 1950 to 1953. Also that during WW II, DDT dusting powder was widely used to kill lice, especially in conquered civilian populations, to prevent the spread of typhus. But by the Korean War some lice had sneer at DDT and so something else was needed. Enter Dr. Wayland J Hayes and yours truly. Dr Hayes arranged for prisoner volunteers at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, FL to be recruited to test the toxicity of malathion formulated as a dusting powder substitute for DDT. Malathion is an organophosphorus compound unrelated to DDT and was thought to have similar effectiveness and human toxicity.
Dr Hayes was the lead researcher and I was the lackey who did the cholinesterase analyses, etc. in the prison. (I have always enjoyed watching the expressions on people’s faces when I say I was in prison once.) The prisoners were told the possible adverse effects of the program and were given “good time” (reduced sentences) for participation. (After this one prisoner opted out but was later found to be consuming his own brew made with a smuggled, homemade still. Was that less toxic?)
The results were published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, (1960, vol 22, page 503-514) and on review I was impressed by one observation: “Although one of us (J.G.S.) had received, without injury, a 30-hour application of 10% malathion powder in preparation for the study of volunteers, . . . .” My small contribution to the advancement of science. Well, in retrospect I have to say that it was safer than dodging bullets in the Vietnam War, which was waging at that time.
Human infestation with lice is uncommon in this country and typhus is really rare. We have a lot to be thankful for in this country in spite of the vicissitudes of politics and the stock market. But there are still enough problems with antibiotic resistance and the lack of proper hand hygiene, etc. Maybe our watchwords should be Thankfulness, Vigilance, and Diligence. “May the Force be with you!”
What makes us get sick more often during the holiday season?
Many theories have been postulated and studied over the years and many factors are blamed for being virus enablers. Closer proximity of hosts (us) within closed spaces makes transmission easier due to the shared air we breathe while indoors and the common surfaces we touch as people share confined areas. Further, foods are presented and ingested in areas with higher germ populations due to the foregoing.
Other theories suggest that inactivity and depression generally increases with the cold and gloomy weather and this coupled with decreased exposure to the sun may tend to inhibit our immune systems.
We suspect that all of these factors and more contribute to the seasonal spike in illnesses. But, there are some commons sense actions that can help reduce your chances of being the next holiday (infection) host. The most effective way to reduce your risks of seasonal sickness is to wash your hands often, especially after shaking hands, touching surfaces in common areas such as handrails and countertops and especially before eating.
Hey, did you wash your hands recently? Well, you probably did it wrong. CNN pointed out a recent government study found that 97 percent of the time, people fail to properly wash their hands—a problem that can lead to all sorts of unnecessary illnesses being spread.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, people are falling short of meeting the standards for acceptable handwashing set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bar to make sure your hands are sufficiently clean requires you to wash and scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds.
The study looked at 363 people in six kitchen test facilities located in the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina and in the town of Smithfield, North Carolina. What it found was nearly every person working in the kitchens failed to reach the handwashing standard set by the CDC, which is probably not reassuring if you’re currently out to eat at a restaurant in Tar Heel State.
Searching for the cause of an E Coli outbreak can send investigators in many different directions. This is a reminder that good hand hygiene practices and proper food preparation are of utmost importance. E Coli can be found in contaminated soil or water but it can also be spread through infected people. Germs that make us sick are everywhere and while we cannot always control where or how our food is grown we can control how we prepare it and make sure our hands are clean when doing so. Check out these links to the latest news on the Romain lettuce E Coli outbreak and the CDC which both reference person-to-person contact and the importance of hand washing.
Phew! We made it through the worst of the cold and flu season! With summer around the corner though, there is more waiting for us than just sunshine and snow cones. Playgrounds, water parks and amusement parks are full of fun, but also full of germs. Make sure to use good hand hygiene to make the most of your summertime adventures without taking home the wrong kind of souvenir. Check out Brevis.com for fun and creative reminders you can share with family and friends about the importance of keeping their hands clean this summer. Read more about summertime germ precautions.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has included an easy strategy for hand hygiene improvement in the WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care (Advanced Draft). My 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene defines key moments when health care workers ought to be engaging in hand hygiene.
Using this model, health care workers are reminded to clean their hands at the following times:
Before touching a patient
Before clean/aseptic procedures
After body fluid exposure or risk
After touching a patient
After touching patient surroundings
Though the instruction may seem like a review of basic principles, it helps overcome misleading language and complicated descriptions. Easy to learn, logical, and widely applicable, My 5 Moments serves as a reminder of one of the most important things any health care worker can do to protect themselves and others from infection: practice proper hand hygiene.
Have you ever noticed someone exiting a restroom while shaking their wet hands? Is drying your hands important after you wash your hands? Maybe you’ve done it, too– you’ve taken the time to properly wash, but you’re in a hurry, and don’t want to take the extra time to get paper towels or stand near an air dryer.
Hand drying is an important part of hand hygiene, and shouldn’t be skipped. The reason is simple: germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands than dry hands.
Which method, then, should you choose? Should you dry your hands with towels (paper or otherwise), or use an air dryer? There isn’t conclusive research on this topic, as most studies compare residual microbes (not just germs) remaining on hands following different drying methods. Microbes are tiny living organisms which may or may not cause disease, and it has not been proven that removing microbes from hands is linked to better health.
What is clear, however, is the point that using a clean towel or air drying hands is the proper final step in effective hand-washing. So the next time you’re tempted to shake your hands dry or rub your hands on your clothes, pause and take the 60 seconds or so needed to face the world with clean, dry hands.