Blog Archive - June 2007
June 29, 2007
I just returned late last night from the annual APIC conference in San Jose. More than 3000 infection control professionals (nurses, doctors, microbiologists and public health officials) attended from 38 countries. You may have heard about the convening of the conference and an announcement of the results of a big survey about the prevalence of MRSA in the USA that made the national news during the week. (Learn about MRSA in the nanobug menagerie on the home page of this website.) The APIC conference provided a great opportunity to unveil the nanobugs and nanobugs, inc. to this important group of health professionals. Kirk, the nanobugs artist/art director, went along with me to the conference. He drew quickie caricatures of attendees, showed-off our products and helped me pass out more than1200 nanobug tattoos . We received a hugely positive response to the nanobugs characters and to our mission!
Nanobugs, inc donated 3 baskets of products and 4 pieces of original nanobugs artwork to the APIC silent auction at the conference. The proceeds from that auction goes to the APIC Research Foundation to fund research related to prevention of HAI's (health care-associated infections). The nanobugs items were "a big hit" and the auction raised over 10,000 dollars. I am thankful to Kirk for his contribution to our success in San Jose this week in promoting the nanobugs. Go to "About Us " on this website to learn more about Kirk Kuenzi - the creator of the nanobugs images.
I was so "pumped and passionate" at the conference about nanobugs and also eager to learn all that I could (APIC conference is the best educational resource for IC professionals like me). But traveling home from California last night, I felt soooooooooo tired. I had a 4-hour lay-over in Minneapolis and I discovered this big massaging recliner in the airport called "first class seat". You put in 5 dollars and get 15 minutes of heavenly back massage - really good strong massage- not wimpy. I spent $11 there - for a total of 33 minutes (I tried it out first for a dollar for 3 minutes). Well, I might still be there if I'd had more five dollar bills - or if it would have taken a credit card!
June 21, 2007
Whew! It was a really hot and humid day in Nebraska today for the first day of summer and the national weather map looks like we were not alone. As I drove my "Nanobug" (a 2003 yellow VW Beetle) into the garage after running some errands this afternoon, I thought about the Nanobug-Aspergillus fumigatus. It's a fungus that looks like broccoli under the microscope.
Now you are probably wondering about me, huh? .....well, here's the connection: When you run the air-conditioner in your car in the summer, and then shut it off - you trap moist air in the car's ventilation ducts. Since bacteria and fungi grow best in warm dark moist places and since there are no filters on your car's ventilation system, when you turn the car and the A/C on next time you can be blowing a concentration of nanobugs right up your nose. (If you are like me, in the summer you have those vents pointed right at your face to cool ‘ya down ASAP!) Haven't you turned on the A/C in the car and smelled that musty odor? Sometimes you sneeze and feel irritation in your nose when you turn on the A/C. It is most likely Apergillus fumigatus & Friends in there stinkin' up the place! Now Aspergillus fumigatus is found everywhere in the environment and doesn't usually cause an infection in normal healthy people. However, it can cause a sinus infection in someone with a weakened immune system. Regardless, I want to keep those nanobugs out of my nose!
So here's how to spoil that nice habitat for Aspergillus and other molds and fungi in your car's air-conditioning system: When you get a few blocks from home, turn off the air-conditioner and let the fan run for a minute or two before shutting off the engine. In this way you will get rid of a lot of the moisture in the ducts and reduce the problem.
I think today is the longest day of the year -the summer solstice-with the most hours of sunlight. Guess I will take advantage of that maximum sun time and take a walk this evening - then maybe sit on the porch and watch my neighbors put new siding on their house.
June 20, 2007
Yesterday was my grandson, Alex's, first birthday. In the evening we had a little family gathering to celebrate with cake and presents. It was a fun time with Alex smearing cake and blue frosting all over his face and chest! There was a lot of laughter and some great photo "ops". My other grandchildren were enjoying the event and frolicking in the grass outside as we bathed the "blue-frosted baby".
After the family left, I sat down to write yesterday's blog about West Nile Virus infections. Today, as I reread my own advice to "keep children inside at dusk and the early evening when mosquitoes feed", I remembered how difficult it can be to comply with avoidance techniques to prevent infections. Parents have a big job teaching, training and insuring compliance with recommended behavioral changes. I also remember when I was the infection control coordinator in a local hospital, that achieving employee compliance with infection prevention and control procedures was one of the biggest challenges of that job. That is one of the reasons I created Nanobugs - to provide leverage for parents with changing behaviors and improving compliance with activities like handwashing. I have a dream that someday Nanobugs will be so much a part of our culture that people will refer to microbes by their scientific names and parents will reinforce the importance of avoidance techniques by referring to the Nanobugs. Maybe it will even be socially acceptable to confront someone leaving a public restroom without washing their hands with a comment like, "Remember the Nanobugs!"
June 19, 2007
This nanobug was first detected in the Western Hemisphere in 1999 and has spread rapidly across North America since then. Mosquitoes carry the West Nile Virus to humans from infected birds. So protecting yourself from mosquito bites if the best way to prevent this infection. Use 35% DEET insect repellant on your body and bring children inside at dawn, dusk and early evening when the mosquitoes have their peak feeding times.
Did you know, that only the females bite humans? They need our protein from our blood to produce eggs. (Males feed on nectar and don't need blood) A female mosquito can lay more than 1,000 eggs during her 3-4 week lifetime. Mosquitoes need water to lay their eggs - even as little as one drop. They breed in anything from flower pots to discarded car tires or lakes and swamps. This year most of the Midwest has received lots of rain and so standing water is easy for those mosquitoes to find. It is a good idea to assess your property and look for potential sources of standing water in which mosquitoes could breed. Eliminate the standing water.
Fortunately, only 1% of people who get infected with the West Nile nanobug develop serious illness. However, the elderly and the very young and people with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk. The symptoms of infection with the West Nile Virus nanobug are headache and flu-like symptoms. Report these symptoms to your doctor if they persist for more than a 48 hours.
And keep your eye out for dead birds. This is usually an indication that West Nile Virus nanobugs are causing trouble in your neighborhood. Report the dead birds to your local health department so they can be collected and tested.
June 12, 2007
Today reports of possible contamination of ground beef processed in April in California and sold in 11 western states. Most likely the product has been consumed by now but might still be frozen and available in someone's freezer for consumption. Of course, you should check the dates and numbers on any ground beef you have in your freezer and dispose of it if the numbers match. Actually, E. coli O157: H7 can be killed by cooking to temperatures of greater than 160˚F but why risk the infection with thawing and cooking? Recalls like this are also supposed to protect us from fast food restaurants using frozen ground beef patties that are later discovered to be contaminated, too.
Steaks, roasts or other cuts of beef aren't a problem with E. coli O157:H7. The news usually refers to this infection risk as: "caused by E. coli". When, in fact, it is a different Nanobug: E. coli O157:H7 is a dangerous brother of E. coli that is normally found in our "gut" and helps us digest our food, and is also normally found in the gut and feces of animals. It has been modified in cattle over time as they have been fed low doses of antibiotics in their food. I'm sure you can imagine how beef can become contaminated as the animal is slaughtered. Even if the surfaces of a solid piece of beef are contaminated, searing and cooking will kill the Nanobugs. However, the grinding of beef in processing can distribute the contamination throughout. Then if the burger is not heated throughout to 160˚F - the E. coli O157:H7 grows nicely in the center and causes a mild to severe G.I. illness in adults but can cause serious illness with kidney failure in children.
So what's a mother to do?
Cook beef patties to 160˚F throughout and fully cook loose ground beef. Be aware of recalls and identified outbreaks. Report symptoms that seem to be associated with eating ground beef 12-24 hours before. Order/ensure fully cooked burgers at restaurants.
Cattle feces is the same source of E. coli O157:H7 contamination of vegetables like spinach and lettuce. Contamination occurs in fields with run off of rain water from feed lots. When these vegetables are eaten raw - the Nanobugs are not exposed to the high temperatures needed to kill them. And even triple washing can't remove contamination from these leafy vegetables.
So what's a mother to do??
Certainly, don't stop serving your family fresh fruits and vegetables! Some experts warn that "washing" in a contaminated sink and/or with contaminated water might be counter-productive and serving the triple-washed, bagged lettuce/spinach right out of the bag is about as safe as you can get.