Bathroom Hand Dryers Spew Bacteria Everywhere

In a report that shocks only scientists, (we all knew these things were probably spraying fecal matter everywhere, right?) a study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that hot hair hand dryers actively spread bacteria all over your hands. The study also showed thatspores could be dispersed throughout buildings.

The Washington Post notes that the authors of the study, “who found that the nozzle of the dryers had minimal bacterial levels, said that more evidence was needed to determine if the dryers were bacteria harbors themselves or just blew large amounts of contaminated air.”

The study recommends using HEPA filter dryers instead, which can reduce bacteria exposure by four times, which I guess is better than nothing. It’s worth noting that many people don’t properly wash their hands, and some people even seem to think rinsing them with water does something besides get them wet. Imagine all that leftover bacteria blowing in the hot wind of the hair dryer. Cool, right?

Beware the Flu, Part Five

According the most recent CDC update, the total number of pediatric flu deaths stands at 84. Just before that, the CDC confirmed that only 26% of kids who died from the flu received flu shots. Though the flu vaccine this year was found to be only 36% effective for the entire population, it’s effectiveness rose to 59% among children between the ages of six months and eight years. Hearing that the flu vaccine was so generally ineffective this year may have influenced some parents to not get shots for their children. In fact, promoting the nearly 60% effective statistic could have encouraged many more children to be vaccinated. Still, the prevailing headlines all focus on the “only 36%” effective statistic.  And according to TIME,

36% effectiveness may not seem very impressive, but the CDC emphasizes in the report that even small increases in immunity can have a large impact on public health. CDC data has shown that even in 2014-2015, a year when vaccine effectiveness didn’t even hit 20%, immunizations prevented as many as 144,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 4,000 deaths. Plus, people who get the shot, but who still end up getting sick, tend to have less severe illnesses than unvaccinated people.

It’s not clear if flu season has hits its peak yet, and could continue through March. This seems likely to me, based entirely on the number of people I see not washing their hands after using the bathroom.

 

Earlier:
Beware the Flu
Beware the Flu, Part Two
Beware the Flu, Part Three
Beware the Flu, Part Four

Beware the Flu, Part Four

Flu is still on the rise, according to the CDC. Alarming headlines like “The Flu is Killing Up to 4,000 Americans a Week” and stories of kidsteenagers, and young people dying are popping up all over. Another article tells the story of a woman who contracted two different strains of the flu at different times; the second flu ultimately leading to her death.

There are signs of a slowdown along the Canadian border and the West Coast but overall cases are expected to rise in the coming weeks, according to CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund. She adds that anytime H3N2 strains are dominant, “we tend to see more severe disease more hospitalizations, more deaths.” In addition, it’s possible we are seeing a second wave of Influenza B infections.

 

As a reminder, you can still get a flu shot! The flu shot can lessen the severity of flu symptoms. And please don’t “forget” to wash your hands. I am forever astounded by the number of people I see use the bathroom and not wash their hand with soap and water. Don’t be a blockhead, wash your hands.

Earlier:
Beware the Flu
Beware the Flu, Part Two
Beware the Flu, Part Three

New Winter Olympic Event: Vomit Relay

A norovirus outbreak has hit the Winter Olympics being held in PyeongChang, South Korea. Dozens of security guards have been overcome by “a sudden onset of vomiting and diarrhea.

In response, South Korea pulled 1,200 security guards from duty in case they had been exposed to the virus and replaced them with 900 military personnel. According to CNN, organizers have said that all accommodations and buses were being disinfected.

Norovirus is pretty gross, and we usually hear about it happening on cruise ships, and other crowded and enclosed areas. It’s extremely contagious and is spread via contact with contaminated surfaces or people who already have the virus. According to the CDC:

Norovirus can be found in your stool (feces) even before you start feeling sick. The virus can stay in your stool for 2 weeks or more after you feel better…You can become infected with norovirus by accidentally getting stool or vomit from infected people in your mouth. 

Sounds fun, right? As always, frequent and perhaps compulsive hand-washing is recommended, (though obviously not everyone is following this suggestion, because think of all those people going to the bathroom, not washing their hands, and then running their fecal covered hands over public surfaces) along with these other suggestions.