There are only a few entry points for the microbes to enter into our bodies; these being our mouth, nose, genital, urinary and intestinal (rectal)openings plus cuts and bruises we sustain during our day to day living. In addition, organisms also get onto our skin and mucous membranes and hair.
Many of these areas have their own resident organisms which actually are helpful to us as they prevent settling by organisms that come from outside. Generally the number of organisms coming from outside is also low which gives our resident flora an upper hand in fighting the invaders off.
You can also cultivate certain helpful and hygienic habits to ward organisms off and prevent them from settling. Such habits are:
1. Wash your hands fairly often but not obsessively for you want to keep your resident flora well established and healthily rooted onto their sites and niches..
2. Brush your teeth after eating but especially before going to bed. This last one is the most important preventive measure for the following reason:
Disease producing organisms specially those involved in intestinal infections such as E.coli and Salmonella which could be found, even though in very small numbers, in the food you eat could get stuck into your teeth and gums where they could grow to large numbers and when get swallowed could produce disease. In reality this does not happen as much in the day time as during the night.
In the day time, we swallow more often than in the night time and the few organisms that get through in each swallow get killed by the high acidity of the stomach without any ill affect.
In the night time, however, the story is quite different because in the night time we swallow less often, if at all, and the organisms get a chance to grow to large numbers in our mouths and when they get swallowed they are less likely to be killed by the stomach acidity not because of their large numbers but also because the stomach acidity is at its lowest point during the night.
SO YOU ARE BRUSHING YOUR TEETH NOT ONLY TO PREVENT CAVITIES, SAFEGUARD AGAINST BAD BREATH AND TO WHITEN YOUR TEETH BUT TO PREVENT INTESTINAL INFECTIONS MANY OF WHICH CAN ALSO GET INTO YOUR BLOOD STREAM VIA PASSAGE THROUGH THE INTESTINAL WALL.
Also do not ignore gum infections, specially bleeding gums, for they are the channels for infecting the blood stream. Such infections thus have the potential of infecting other parts of the body and many of them can also settle in the heart infecting heart valves which could produce endocarditis.
3. Blow your nose as often as possible using tissue but preferably running water. This is the best safeguard against upper respiratory tract infections such as flu and colds and pneumonia and also against seasonal allergies such as hay fever because frequent blowing of nose gets rid of the pollen and the germs etc that you inhaled. BUT DON'T FORGET TO WASH YOUR HANDS WITH SOAP AND WATER AFTER BLOWING YOUR NOSE!
To safeguard against spreading infections to others, discard the used tissue. DO NOT JUST CRUMPLE IT UP AND PUT IT BACK IN YOUR POCKET OR PURSE TO USE OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
NOT ONLY THE USED TISSUE HAS BUGS, THE BUGS ARE ALSO GROWING IN THE TISSUE ESPECIALLY BECAUSE THEY HAVE ENOUGH NUTRIENTS IN WHAT YOU BLEW OUT BUT ALSO BECAUSE WHEN YOU KEEP IT IN YOUR POCKET, YOU ARE PROVIDING ENOUGH WARMTH FOR THE BUGS TO KEEP GROWING.
4. Regarding preventing infections via skin, do not over indulge in skin peels. These are just asking for trouble because the skin after the peel is "naked" so to speak relatively free of its defending normal flora AND THE PROTECTIVE CELL COVERING where any organism can land and set up household.
In order to understand this better think of a scrapped knee which was healing and had developed a healthy scab but you fell down again and the scab came off. The exposed "raw" skin is now more vulnerable to getting infected. Same happens to the skin after the skin peel.
5. For genital health, especially in the female, safeguard the vaginal flora mostly (lactobacilli)and the resulting acidity. These are the Nature's way of maintaining vaginal health.
6. Rectal health. Practice gentle cleansing avoiding abrasions. Guard against constipation using high fiber foods specially fruits such as raw apples. Avoid harsh laxatives as they can tear the inner lining (mucous membrane) of the intestinal tract causing entry of intestinal organisms into the blood stream.
7. While working in garden, wear gloves, preferably puncture proof ones. Many disease producing fungi (molds) reside in the soil some of which grow well in air and need temperature around 25C which is less than the normal body temperature. Such temperature is available on the skin. Fungi producing systematic infections (diseases produced inside the body such as histoplasmosis and sporotrichosis (Rose bush disease) also reside in the soil. Once inside the body, some of them change into a yeast form. This is because a number of fungi are dimorphic meaning they grow as molds in air around 25C and as yeasts in the body around 37C.
8. Practice safe food handling. None of the foods you purchase from the market are sterile; they are only in a sanitized state meaning they have been so handled that the number of germs they contain in or on them are not enough to produce disease or even cause infection.
NOTE: Infection is the presence of germs in or on the body; disease is when their number increases beyond what our body can deal with. Our body thus becomes ill.
Another point about food handling, besides cooking it as soon it is purchased or soon thereafter, deals with thawing and refreezing meets. In the conventional way of thawing on the counter or even in the refrigerator, the organisms in and on the food keep growing and if you leave the food for two to three hours on the counter their number will skyrocket. If after this thawing, you now decide to refreeze the meat, you will now be starting with a much higher number and their number will increase even further during the second thawing and if these bugs are producing any toxins which they release in the food (called exotoxins) or if the cells of the bugs break up which happens during the freeze and thaw cycle, they will be leaving in the meet their internal toxins (called endotoxins) in addition to the bugs themselves. These endotoxins are capable of producing fever.
This problem caused by repeated thawing and refreezing can, however, is reduced if not totally eliminated if you do the thawing in the microwave oven. The short time needed for this mode of thawing is not enough to increase the number of organisms plus some of the organisms will also be getting killed in the microwave thus reducing instead of increasing their number. Such a thawed meet can then be refrozen if you do not have time to cook it right away.
Keeping the meet and even fresh cheese in the refrigerator for long periods of time is not recommended because there are some organisms, called psychrophiles, which grow preferentially in the refrigerator at 4C. Members of the genus Listeria are known to do this and produce diseases when such food is consumed.
Regarding dish towels, cutting boards, sponges, or dish racks there is only one rule: Keep them dry. Dish racks must have proper drainage so the water dripping from the utensils is able to flow out freely and not accumulate. Sponges should bee especially squeezed dry and then allowed to dry in a standing or a hanging position.
9. Regarding disease production: Every disease has an infecting dose and an incubation period. If only a small number of organisms gained access to your body even via the proper route, they will most likely die or can also be dealt with by your immune system.
Larger numbers getting in your body are more likely to get you ill. But if you practice hygiene, such as washing your hands, blowing your nose, and rinsing your mouth the likelihood is that you will not get the disease because by such washing and rinsing etc., you will be constantly reducing the number of organisms which could fall below the number needed to produce disease.
Often under such circumstances, the low number of organisms can act as vaccines alerting and preparing your immune system to get ready and put up a fight in case a large number of the same organisms get access to your body.
This ritual of cleaning is most effective during the incubation period of the disease; it not only saves you from getting ill, it also counteracts the spread of the organisms to other contacts because they, for sure, will be getting low levels of the organisms, not enough to produce disease but sufficient to function as vaccines.
There is a side affect of this situation though: Persons not getting full blown disease tend to become CARRIERS of the organisms. Such persons do not get ill but serve as reservoirs of the organisms and can spread to other contacts.
There is a well known case of women who worked in the kitchen and was later found out to be a carrier of the typhoid organisms spreading typhoid to others making many ill so much so that she became to be known as Typhoid Mary!
There is a solution to this though: KEEP PUBLIC IMMUNIZED. This way if small doses of the organisms come from the carriers they will be taken care of by the immune system kept in a state of readiness.
Education, especially awareness, not necessarily reading and writing also plays a key role in disease prevention especially by taking active part in vaccination and other preventive programs.
In a World Health Organization (WHO) study aimed at immunizing against typhoid and also testing the efficiency of the typhoid vaccine, the WHO announced for the people to get vaccinated against typhoid. There were a number of people who came voluntarily to get vaccinated. This group was divided into two sub groups; one receiving the real vaccine and the other a placebo. When the results came, there was found no significant difference between the two groups as far as contracting typhoid was concerned.
Subsequently WHO made another announcement but this time indicated that those who come out for vaccination will receive a transistor radio. A large number of people showed after this announcement. This group was also divided into two sub-groups; one receiving the real vaccine and the other the placebo. Results showed that vaccine had no affect on this group; those receiving the vaccine and those receiving the placebo had no significant difference in contracting typhoid.
WHO thus concluded that it was the awareness of the people not necessarily the vaccine which prevented the spread of typhoid, meaning education and awareness is more important than the vaccines in heavily contaminated populations.
This is where our program of increasing awareness via microscope comes in.
In understanding disease production, keep two things in mind: the dose and the incubation period. Larger dose can shorten the incubation period; smaller dose can lengthen the incubation period often giving your immune system a chance to get ready for defending the body. Thus smaller infecting doses are better than the larger ones.
10. Living in fear of the organisms is not going to keep you healthy; you may not contract the disease but your psychological state of being will make you unhappy even to the point you becoming a paranoid person and a hypochondriac at that. That is really no life.
Fear of flushing a toilet while you are still sitting on it, may give you a bit of the spray on your buttocks but that won't be enough to infect you for two reasons: One, the flush water is chlorinated and two, your own flora will be a deterrent to those trying to set up a household there.
The point of chlorinated water though applies to only those countries where the water is so treated. In developing countries where water is not chlorinated, the danger of infecting yourself is greater.
If you really want to worry, worry about the flimsy tissue paper, single or double ply does not matter, which lets everything bleed through onto your fingers plus worry about them killer nails you spend thousands prettying them which, unfortunately act as scoops for the fecal material carrying it to whatever they touch especially the food you may eat. There is more danger of infecting yourself and others from this source than from any other.
In certain countries where religious practices require that water be used to wash oneself after the bowl movement, THE FULL PRESCRIBED RELIGIOUS RITUAL OF THOROUGHLY WASHING YURSELF IS A MUST. This becomes increasingly important IN CHILD CARE SITUATIONS when mothers or other caretakers of the baby cleanse the baby with limited amount of water after the baby has a bowl movement and then after merely running some water on their hands proceed to cook in the kitchen especially when they have to knead the dough for bread making or cutting vegetables or mixing or preparing meat for cooking.
In addition to just the nails also worry about the jewelry you wear especially the rings on your finger and the bangles or bracelets on your arm. Such items are not only easy to get contaminated but they are also not washed or sanitized afterwards.
Also it is not worth worrying if you touched a door knob or a hand set of a phone handled by another person. Organisms do not live long enough on dry surfaces; they need moisture to grow and they also don't just grow exponentially right away, they need time to prepare to get growing. For instance, they need to make needed enzymes etc and gather nutrients so they could have their metabolic machinery functioning.
Bugs do all that preparation during the incubation period which is also called the lag phase of microbial growth. During this phase their number does not increase (it often even goes down as the old and sick ones die out) but they increase in size so they can start dividing and increasing in number. After that initial lag phase they grow exponentially, meaning 100 become 200, in most cases in a matter of just twenty minutes and then doubling in number every twenty minutes thus 100 organisms becoming 10,240,000 in just three hours! That is the chance you do not want to give them and the trick for that is to stay sanitary by cultivating proper hygiene habits.
Also you are probably doing more harm to you by frequently wiping your hands with sanitizing wipes and killing or reducing your own protective flora in the process. Also note that the sanitizing affect of such sanitizing agents lingers on and thereby keeps on diminishing your own flora. There is no substitute for a good hand wash as it gets rid of the organisms you picked up (called the transient flora) which may be disease producing without seriously disturbing your permanent protective flora.
11. Get rid of the myth that you are going to pick up venereal diseases from the toilet seats. Most of these bugs are fragile and are not capable of living outside of the body that they hardly survive outside the body. Both syphilis and gonorrhea bugs die out quickly so much so that we have to keep on transferring them in the lab almost on a daily basis. Syphilis bug we have not even succeeded in growing in the lab other than in rabbit testes and there too after injecting the bugs into the testes and not by merely implanting the bugs on the surface of the testes.
When it comes to using antibiotics to treat the infectious diseases, the word is out that we should not use them indiscriminately, i.e., without any rhyme or reason. THE EMPHASIS IS ON INDISCRIMINATE USE AND NOT ON NOT TO USE THEM at all. When need comes, they should be used thoroughly and religiously completing the entire course of the prescribed treatment.
Thus if the prescription is to take the prescribed dose three times a day for ten days, do so and not give up as you begin to feel better after two to three days. If you did the latter, there will be enough bugs left in you which could probably make you a carrier.
But that is not all the danger here. With the left over bugs, your immune system will be producing antibodies against the bugs which sounds desirable but there is a problem with those antibodies because in addition to attacking the bugs they also attack certain other tissues of your body because they have the ability to cross react with the bugs and those other tissues of your body as well such as the heart and the kidneys where they can produce rheumatic fever and glomerulonephritis.
Now who wants those kinds of chronic, debilitating diseases? They would not come about had we taken our full prescribed course of the antibiotics in the first place which would have eliminated the bugs completely and not let our immune system do its thing which in this case could be disastrous.
There are thus diseases situations such as the strep throat where you do not want give time to your immune system to act. In such situations you rather work to get rid of the bugs as fast as possible and as thoroughly as possible. This is proper, not indiscriminate use of the antibiotics.
One part of our body that we do not consider important in the spread of disease is the hair. This is highly erroneous.
Hair especially the scalp has its own flora. Unfortunately the dangerous staphylococcal germs (called Staphylococcal aureus) loves to live on the hair from where it falls into the food where this germ grows especially if the food has carbohydrates and fats such as in potato salads where as a result of this organisms' growth a potent toxin is produced which causes food poisoning producing diarrhea and vomiting.
The disease manifests soon upon eating because it is due to the toxin which was produced in the food.
The symptoms last only a few hours but the person feels awful. It is for this reason that people working in food establishments such as restaurants, especially the cooks and chefs are required to cover their hair with hair nets or the prestigious chef's hat!
There are other forms of food poisoning also but these are due to the organisms growing in our digestive system because we ate the food contaminated with such organisms. This type of food poisoning takes time to develop because the bugs have to grow to sufficient number to produce the symptoms.
Being bug induced, the organisms can also get into our blood stream via the intestinal wall producing a full blown disease with fever.
SOME DEFINITIONS AND SANITIZING AND STERILIZING PROCEDURES:
A sterile product has no organism in and on it. A sanitized product has organisms in or on it but their number is within the safe level not enough to produce disease.
Sterilizing requires that the product be exposed to steam heat under pressure. This is done in an autoclave or in a home pressure cooker where the pressure is brought to 15 lbs per square inch and the product is held there for 15 minutes after the pressure has reached to fifteen lbs. At that point the temperature in the autoclave or in the pressure cooker will be 121C. After the requred 15 minutes of exposure the autoclave or the pressure cooker is allowed to cool on its own and when the pressure has come down to zero, then the door of the autoclave or the lid of the pressure cooker is opened carefully. All objects so sterilized must be properly wrapped otherwise upon taking them out of the autoclave or the pressure cooker; they will be again exposed to the air and therefore will get contaminated again with the organisms found in the air.
Chemicals means of sterilizing are also used but they leave the chemical in or on the object being sterilized where the chemical could end up posing more danger. If this is the only means available, then the object is thoroughly rinsed with sterile water after sterilizing with the chemical.
Sterilizing can also be done via filtration using filters of very fine pore size such as 0.22 micron. These are useful for sterilizing heat sensitive liquids such as serum or other biological. Such substances, after filtration into a sterile flask become bacteria free but not necessarily virus free.
Filtration of liquids through such filters is a bit difficult as it will require forcing the liquid through the filter with pressure. Even then the filter is likely to get clogged up. One way to get around this is to centrifuge the liquid before filtering and decanting and filtering the liquid discarding the sediment. There are also prefilters which can be used before filtering the liquid through the 0.22 micron filters. Sometimes the prefilter and the 0.22 micron filters are used together; the prefilter being placed over the 0.22 micron filter and then filtering the liquid through both at the same time.
NOTE: When it comes to sterilizing or sanitizing, keep in mind two things: One, there are organisms which produce spores and there are those which do not produce spores. The non spore producers exist in only one state called the vegetative state. These get killed readily when exposed to a temperature of 60C for ten minutes.
The vegetative forms of the spore formers get killed the same way but the spore forms of the spore formers are hardy; these require heating in a pressure cooker (in the labs the large pressure cooker type vessels we use are called autoclaves) or in an autoclave for 15 minutes at 15 lbs of pressure at a temperature of 121C to be killed. If these are to be killed via chemicals, they will require at least one or more hours of exposure to certain strengths of the chemical.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Ordinary household Clorox is a good sanitizing agent for household and commercial use.
The strengths of Clorox used for different purposes are:
(1) One table spoon full of Clorox per gallon of water; LET’S CALL IT STRENGTH ONE.
(2) Three table spoonfuls of Clorox per gallon of water; LETS CAL IT STRENGTH TWO.
(3)A three-fourth cup of Clorox per gallon of water; LET’S CALL IT STRENGTH THREE.
(4) Undiluted Clorox WHICH IS STRENGTH FOUR.
The general procedure is to wash the surface or the object and then treat it for a prescribed length of time.
For sanitizing work surfaces use STRENGTH NUMBER ONE which is one table spoon per gallon of water, let solution act for two minutes then let surface air dry.
Use the same strength for sanitizing dishes, plastic cutting boards and baby bottles: Wash and rinse first then soak for at least two minutes in the NUMBER ONE STRENGTH Clorox solution then rinse and air dry.
For sanitizing wooden cutting boards: Wash with detergent and rinse with water. Apply NUMBER TWO STRENGTH of Chlorox solution made by adding three table spoons of of Chlorox to a gallon of water and let it act for two minutes. Then rinse with the NUMBER ONE STRENGTH of the Chlorox solution (made with one table spoon of Chlorox added to one gallon of water) and let it air dry. That will leave some Chlorox on the board for contours action.
.For bath room floors, shower walls, sinks, and bath tubs, use STRENGTH NUMBER THREE which is 3/4 cup Clorox added to one gallon of water; let it act for 5 minutes then rinse and air dry.
Use the same strength for dish cloths, towels and rags. Wash items first, then soak for at least 5 minutes in the Chlorox solution. Then rinse well and air dry.
Sanitizing toilet bowls: Flush the toilet bowl then add one cup of undiluted Chlorox, STRENGTH NUMBER FOUR, to the bowl and brush the bowl with this solution including the rim. Let stand 10 minutes then flush the bowl.
NOTE: Use tap water to make all solutions. No need to use expensive distilled water for this purpose.
CHLOROX CAN ALSO BE USED TO STERILIZE (DECONTAMINATE) USED PETRI PLATES AND TEST TUBES BEFORE DISPOSING SAME. Use number TWO SOLUTION (a solution made of three tablespoons of Chlorox added to one gallon of water; LET THEM SOAk FOR ATLEAST 30 MINUTES BEFORE HANDLING.
Contents of the Petri dishes and the test tubes can then be discarded as ordinary household kitchen waste.
CAUTION: MUST USE PROTECTIVE GLOVES WHILE WORKING WITH CLOROX, EVEN WHEN USING THE DILUTED STRENGTHS!
Do not soak anything, especially cloth towels and rags overnight. They will tend to disintegrate.
NEVER BUT NEVER MIX CHLOROX WITH ANY OTHER SUBSTANCE ESPECIALLY ACIDS AND AMMONIA. A TOXIC GAS CALLED CHLORAMINE WILL BE RELEASED WHICH IS VERY TOXIC AND IRRITANT IF INHALED.
GOOD NEWS: CHLOROX IN ITSELF IS NOT TOXIC ESPECIALLY IN LOW DOSES. THUS THE SMALL RESIDUAL AMOUNT LEFT ON OBJECTS IS NOT HARMFUL. NONETHELESS, TREAT IT AS A TOXIC SUBSTANCE KEEPING OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN. CALL A PHYSICIAN OR A POISON CONTROL CENTER IF SWALLOWED, ESPECIALLY BY CHILDREN.