Thursday, May 19, 2011

Break the chain of infection

What do ties, going to Church and hand washing have in common? The simple answer is people!
I was reading in a national paper the other day about the very real threat in the community from a bug known as Community Acquired MRSA, or CA-MRSA as it’s known to the boffins. As you may gather from its name, this differs from the hospital based “super bugs” in so far as it’s “out there” in the community. Its one of the Golden Staph family of bugs that in the normal run of events, is a harmless commensal on our skin: often found living in the nose of all places! But due to the advent of antibiotics which have threatened their existence, these bugs have developed resistance to antibiotics to such an extent, that some are resistant to all but the most powerful of our pharmaceutical weaponry: and one or two, in fact, are resistant to them all! The nasty community acquired one mentioned in the newspaper article, produces a toxin which can be rapidly fatal even in people who were previously fit and well: this is not good news!
Today, in most hospitals, Doctors have stopped wearing ties as they are a real hazard for the spread of infections, as germs have been shown to take up residence on gents ties, and can then drop off onto patients as the doctor leans over to examine them. I would like to claim that for many years I wore a bow tie for that reason: and in fact I found that not wearing a “standard” tie was a great boon when doing minor procedures such as stitching people up, as bow ties are very well behaved staying nicely tucked under ones chin, whereas “standard” ties have the knack of swooping down in the direction of the wound whilst inserting sutures!

Over Easter I, along with thousands of others, attended Church services and, as is usual at this time of year, the Churches are packed to the rafters with the frail old, “amped up” infants and all the "in-betweens". At times of quiet solemnity, there are the coughs and sneezes which reminds me that not everyone who attends Church is necessarily in peak condition, and that if Easter was in the middle of the “Flu season” then it would be an ideal time for the Influenza virus to spread round a community of several hundred in a few minutes: and in some cases with fatal consequences. I mention the Church because that's where people congregate, but this could equally apply to the local derby footy match, or the winter sales at the big shopping centres, or on the train in the rush hour and very definitely at International Airports.

What it all boils down to is good personal hygiene for ourselves, and for our children who have yet to reach the age of reason. If we, or someone in our family, have a contagious illness, then it behooves us to practice good personal hygiene:
• Cover the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
• Sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow, as you will be using your hands to touch things and thereby can pass on infection with “dirty” hands.
• Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching your nose or face, as this is where infectious germs tend to hang out.
If you’re feeling unwell, just imagine what your infection may do to someone who has heart disease, is on drugs for cancer treatment, or has recently had a kidney transplant and is on powerful immuno-suppressants; because these people ARE at Church, are at shopping centers, are on the train and at footy matches and they don’t carry big signs saying “I’m vulnerable: stay away from me”!!

We, as individuals, live in community, but we must all understand that we have a huge community of germs living on and in our bodies, and by our actions we can pass these germs on to others. Thankfully, the vast majority of these germs are friendly, but sometimes they are not, and like the vulnerable, they don’t carry signs, so it’s impossible to know if they’re harmless or deadly.
What we need to do is practice good personal hygiene at all times, and then perhaps we can reduce the burden of disease by breaking the chains of infection
Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.

6 comments:

MaidInAustralia said...

Your lovely daughter shared your blog on FB.
I love it.
As a kid, I was always paranoid when they passed the communion cup around in church.
I hated it and kept thinking of 'backwash'.
Thank God, nowadays, you can get little individual glasses, but I notice a lot of the oldies still drink from the same cup.
Is this a way to get sick, or am I just being anal?

ClaireyH said...

When they finally make a scanner for creche that the kids have to walk through each day and those with infections get walked back out I am sure our household will be better off.

And I am feeling very thankful that my ob was always so casually dressed and never ever managed to put on a tie...especially while he was doing some stitching up.

Lisa said...

Found you through Sarah, yeh for us!
Thank you, you have explained the Dr & bow-tie phenomonon, it now makes complete sense!
I work in a hospital & am constantly gobsmacked at actually how sick some people are when they come to visit....it is so simple to stop the spread of infection, wish more people would listen!

duncan said...

One of the miracles of religion is the "water into wine" bit: at least wine contains alcohol which has a sterilizing effect!! In fact the transmission rate for infections from Communion Cups is surprisingly low and I don't think the "oldies" should worry; unless there is a serious flu pandemic: then they should stay home!
As for the creche viral scanner: let me know when it happens because I'm going to buy shares in that company!!
Thanks guys Stay happy and well
DJ

Tai Tai said...

Hi Dr Jefferson! I'm a follower of Sarah and so glad to be following you now too! I've got a health background (physio), so nice to be following a blog with a different focus to the usual! Looking forward to reading more. Bridget

Denwise aka Denyse Whelan said...

Thank you for that...kind Doctor...found you here courtesy of your darling daughter...see above.. I learned something then. I guess that's what you'd hope..about Doctors and Ties.
Simple when you think about it, but now I am better informed. And don't they say...eeek some doctors and nurses also don't wash after... :-(
I do wish you well here. Thank you and I too, am now part of your following.