Are you a germaphobe? (Tips to help combat the spread of Infectious Diseases)

February 23, 2020

Obviously there is angst and concern about the new coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading across the globe, but realize there are many infectious disease outbreaks that impact us each and every year that don’t get much coverage.

For example, here are some infectious disease numbers…

  • Tuberculosis caused over 500 deaths out of the 9,025 TB cases in the U.S. in 2018 per CDC … and globally there were 1.2 million TB deaths out of the 10 million new cases worldwide in 2018 per WHO.
  • COVID-19 has caused 33,106 deaths globally out of 693,282 cases per WHO as of 30-Mar-2020. (Out of the global stats, the U.S. reports 2,112 fatalities and 122,652 confirmed cases as of 30-Mar-2020.)
  • Staph caused an estimated 20,000 deaths in the U.S. out of 119,000 cases in 2017 per CDC with less than half the deaths linked to drug-resistant MRSA.
  • Clostridium difficile or C. diff sickens almost half a million Americans a year killing over 29,000 of them within 30 days of diagnosis per InfectionControlToday.com.
  • Seasonal flu killed between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans annually over the past decade according to CDC … and WHO estimates there are between 290,000 to 650,000 flu deaths worldwide annually.

Bottom line, these are just some examples of infectious diseases that can affect people year-round, and other diseases are being introduced (and re-introduced) into countries through air travel, border crossers, contaminated surfaces and more.

How infectious diseases spread…

Most infectious diseases are spread by close person-to-person contact primarily by touching people or things contaminated with bodily fluids (like pee, poop, sweat, droplets from sneezing, etc) — then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Other diseases (like MRSA) can be spread by sharing personal items like towels or razors or by medical staff using contaminated items like stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, clipboards or charts, and pens. Keep in mind some bacteria or viruses can survive on objects for days, weeks or months.

Immunocompromised = germaphobe

Many of you may remember Bill has been battling major health issues for well over a decade (including leukemia, T-cell disease, etc.) and, whenever a family member is immunocompromised, you become a major germaphobe.

Before we list the typical things people can do to reduce infectious diseases, we wanted to mention some things I / we do constantly to keep germs at bay with links to some of our blog posts.

  • Carry disinfecting wipes in your vehicles and backpacks, and put some in a baggie before you go out in public to wipe down surfaces of things you have to touch and/or to wipe your hands. (Keep in mind most wipes use ammonia, but there are some industrial wipes that use bleach instead. But never, ever mix ammonia and bleach!)
  • Wipe down everything that comes into your home with disinfecting wipes (or a rag dipped in water and bleach solution) including groceries or items you bought at the store or something that is delivered to your door via ground or postal service. And if you are concerned about household chemicals, we’ve posted some safety tips and links on making non-toxic cleaners on our blog.
  • Leave your shoes at the door when you get home so you don’t track pollen, pesticides and other crap onto floors and carpets.
leave your shoes at the door
  • Before you set your purse, backpack or briefcase on your kitchen table or countertop …think about all the places you put those things during the day! Either have a special place for these items or be meticulous about wiping them down before putting them on furniture, counters, carpet, etc.
  • Did you know cellphones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats..?! Think about all the places you use and place your phone every day. Then remember … germs thrive in warm environments and smartphones generate heat — plus your hands, face, mouth and body heat (if you carry your phone in a pocket) all add to the cootie cocktail so learn how to clean your phone.
  • Consider getting a UV disinfectant wand because its light rays kill up to 99.9% of germs and comes in handy for all types of handheld devices, ear buds, keyboards, remotes and many other gadgets and household items where cooties can thrive.
  • Keep a box of cheap plastic disposable gloves in your vehicles so you can put on a pair when pumping gas.
  • Fist bump rather than shaking hands — or just tell people you don’t shake hands. And if you do shake someone’s hand don’t touch your face (esp. eyes or mouth) before you are able to wash your hands.

What to do to reduce the spread of infectious diseases…

  • Wash hands often using soap and water or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol in it) to reduce the spread of germs. But keep in mind sanitizers don’t work against some bugs so it’s best to wash up. Also people with celiac disease (like Bill) can’t do alcohol sanitizers so find other options like disinfecting wipes or gluten-free sanitizers.
  • The following hand washing chart and tips appeared in a custom book we printed for LaSalle County Emergency Management Agency’s Medical Reserve Corps and, although most of this is common sense, we wanted to share their tips and remind people to hum “Happy Birthday” in your head twice while scrubbing. Another tip when using a public washroom is… use the paper towels you dried your hands with to turn off water and to open the door when leaving.
handwashing tips
  • When should you wash your hands?
    • Before, during, and after preparing food
    • Before eating food
    • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
    • Before and after treating a cut or wound
    • After using the toilet
    • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • After touching an animal or animal waste
    • After handling pet food or pet treats
    • After touching garbage
  • Tell healthcare workers and visitors to wash their hands before they touch you or your stuff — don’t be timid!
  • If you have a fever, stay home! And wait 24 hours after fever breaks before you return to work or school.
  • Use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. Consider boosting your immune system to help fight infections.
  • Sick people should cover mouth and nose with tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, wash hands often, and wear a face mask around others (if very ill).
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered until healed.
  • Clean counters, doorknobs, fixtures, phones, remotes, nurse call buttons, linens, phones, etc. often with a bleach solution ~ esp. if in a nursing home or hospital room.
  • Disinfect things many people at work and school use like microwave buttons, spigots on water coolers, keyboards, calculators, phones, pens, staplers, etc. with a UV wand or bleach solution often or at least carry around some disinfecting wipes so you can clean items before use.
  • Don’t share silverware, razors, clothing, towels, or bedding and wash objects with soap and hot water.
  • Follow doctor’s instructions and limit activities outside home until fever and symptoms have gone away.

For more information about infectious diseases, visit…

Center for Disease Control

Flu.gov

National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases

WHO Infectious Diseases


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