Archive for February, 2011

Ubiquitous Germ



Ruth Minshull

I read an article the other day about germs.

It seems they are everywhere and, no matter how wary we are, there’s no way we can avoid touching dozens of germ-laden objects as we bustle through the day.

Every doorknob, stair rail, elevator button, wall, chair, desk, TV remote, and ATM machine is covered with these tiny buggers waiting to attach themselves to us—where they’ll cling like starving car salesmen.

According to Dr. Phillip Tierno, author of The Secret Life of Germs, these little varmints may lurk in the form of feces, fecal flora, skin flora and respiratory secretions to name just a few.  (Yew!  Where are my gloves?)  They are transmitted by sneezing, coughing, hand-shaking, close proximity to a sick person and touching contaminated surfaces.

While there are some good bacteria, the bad ones are really horrid.  They can cause fever, sniffles, rashes, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, chicken pox, measles, flu, sore throats, ear infections and pneumonia.

The problem is they are so small they can be seen only under a microscope, but they’re out there.  And they await us on nearly every surface we encounter—especially in public places.  Among the serious hotbeds of contamination are taxis, buses, subways and planes.

A simple trip to the supermarket puts us in touch with germs on doors, carts, shelves, merchandise, produce, counters, touch screens and—don’t forget—cash (as in “dirty money” or “filthy lucre”).

Another major bug carrier is the restaurant bill of fare.  Think about it.  Have you ever been handed a freshly-laundered menu?

And what about doctors’ waiting rooms and all the unhealthy souls who have fidgeted in those chairs and fingered those ten-year-old magazines?

The major weapons we have against these tiny invaders are plain soap and water.  We should wash our hands frequently, especially when we are going to eat or prepare food, when we’ve been outside, shaking hands, shopping or using the bathroom.

I won’t even discuss public restrooms except to say that surveys tell us that less than 50% of the people wash their hands after using them.

Dr. Tierno insists that few of us wash our hands properly anyway.

Correct washing should include the tops of the hands, the knuckles and between the fingers.  Furthermore, we should spend some time at it.  A good guideline, he says, is to sing the Happy Birthday song through twice.

This whole germ situation is enough to make a person paranoid.

Anyway, from now on, I’m going to keep myself a lot cleaner and, no doubt, healthier.  That is, if I don’t end up in the loony bin for singing “Happy Birthday” to the mirror in the Walmart ladies’ room.

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© 2011 by Ruth Minshull

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